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Ask Todd Parker - Aug. 22, 2012

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Dear Todd Parker,

I'm going to be a senior in high school this year and I'm starting to look at colleges. I play a couple of sports and have a bunch of extracurricular activities and make the honor roll almost every quarter. Everyone tells me I'm going to have an easy time getting into whatever school I want to go to. I'm really lucky because my parents are pretty well-off financially. I'm not going to have to worry too much about going into debt to pay for school.

My problem is that I want to go to art school. I've been thinking about it for a long time and I finally decided this summer. When I told my parents, they freaked out. I got all these speeches about how majoring in art was useless and how I should study something that would help me get a job when I graduated. My dad even threatened to not help me pay for school, but I think my mom talked him down.

I don't know what to do. I love art. It's all I want to do. But my parents got so upset about it that I'm starting to question my decision. Should I stand my ground or should I do what my parents want and study something 'useful'?

Aspiring Artist in Orono

Dear Artist,

First of all, congratulations. Congratulations for having passion and ambition. Also congratulations for sharing a town with one of the Princeton Review's Top 20 Party Schools for 2012. Fill the steins to dear old Maine!

As to your problem...it's a bit of a sticky wicket to be sure. On the one hand, college should be the time when you figure out what really matters to you stuff like Ultimate Frisbee, keg stands and rudimentary bong manufacture. If art is what matters to you, then pursuing it is important.

On the other hand, I can see where your parents are coming from. It doesn't sound like they doubt your artistic capabilities; they're just worrying that their child might wind up living in a refrigerator box. Their concern about your future is probably well-meant. Try to keep that in mind.

Personally, I think choosing your field of study based on future employability, while certainly pragmatic, is ultimately a fool's game. But your parents do have a legitimate concern.

So what do you do? Ultimately, you should probably try to find some middle ground. Maybe you double major in art and education. Maybe you enroll in an engineering program and take some art classes. Maybe you take the art major and enhance it with a business minor. Sure, it might not be an ideal solution for any of you, but I'll bet you can find one that's at least palatable for all involved.

Also, you need to bear in mind that you're still just a kid. You have no idea what previously unknown passions you'll discover when you're on a college campus. You might discover that what you really love is computer science or psychology or forestry. Your passions are still growing along with you. Leave the door open for change, because you just never know.

Go to school. Make some mistakes. Learn from them. You'll figure it out eventually; that's a Todd Parker promise.

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