Helicopter parents’ push majors

Christina Chaey

Weinberg freshman Matt Zeitlin’s parents prefer that he pursue a major that can be described in one word.

“English, econ, a science – they’re all one word,” said the English and philosophy major. “An exception would be political science.”

Zeitlin is one of many Northwestern students whose parents take a more involved approach to their children’s major selection process. These parents fall under what University Registrar Patrick Martin said he has heard called the “helicopter” parent.

“They hover over the students,” Martin said. “I’m sure those parents have the best of intentions, but it can perhaps be overbearing or overpowering for some students.”

Even if Zeitlin decided he wanted to pursue a major in communications, which would fall under the category of one-word majors, he said his parents would probably not approve, since “it’s only been around for 30 years.”

“If I told them I was a Comm Studies major, they probably wouldn’t pay for me to go here,” he said.

For some parents, it’s not just about what their kids choose to study, but also about how much it will cost.

Communication freshman Alex Rehberg, a theatre major, recently decided to pursue a dual degree in engineering after he joined the NU Formula Racing Team and realized he was the only member who was not an engineer. His parents, however, were concerned that pursuing two majors would mean an additional year of school.

“Although my parents will say, ‘How are we going to get the money for this?’ it is their belief that I should be able to do whatever I want and the education that I want,” he said.

Rehberg added that he and his parents also discussed what his career options would be if he only pursued a degree in theatre.

“It was a lot of talking and laying out the options and talking about whether I would have a secure future when I first decided to do theatre,” he said. “As far as my future, it was a relief to them when I said I wanted to do engineering.”

Communication freshman Danielle Siegel, a dance major, said that although she wanted to pursue dance professionally, her parents wanted her to study another subject.

“The one condition they gave me was that I had to double major in something else,” said Siegel, who is looking into anthropology. “I always thought that sounded reasonable. If I go to college, I may as well learn something else.”

For many like Martin, however, over-involved parents might hinder another type of learning.

“What are students doing at college if not learning, and learning how to be independent?” he said.

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