I'm currently a junior/senior in High School, currently looking for colleges. My father has taken it upon himself to help me find a college that would best suit what he believes to be my ambitions: a 4-year bachelors degree in computer science, computational linguistics, or other related fields. And while I do have plenty of interest in those areas, it isn't what I want to do. I'm interested in pursuing a path to a doctorate in Latin or Classical Languages, and eventually, ending up teaching and researching at a university level.

The problem regarding my father arises here: he seems (to the best of my perception) to have ingrained the idea that his son (myself), who has been programming since a young-ish age and has followed in his father's footsteps thus far and will continue to do so, into his very being. I fear that if I approach from the wrong angle and make it known to him that I'm not following the path he thinks I am that it will inflict a great deal of emotional harm.

Is there a way that I can tactfully reveal to him my true ambitions, so that come application time, I don't have to ad-lib an explanation concerning why I am applying for schools with a strong classics and classical language focus, and ignoring the computer science aspect?

  • 1
    Have you openly expressed an interest in classical languages (as a hobby for example) before thoughts on university came along? Would it come as a real surprise to him?
    – user8671
    Jul 6, 2018 at 9:03

3 Answers 3


Being worried about revealing your true ambitions to your parents is very normal. When someone thinks that the truth about themselves will damage their loved one's opinions of them it can be difficult to open up. In this context, if your goal is to reduce emotional harm, everything is overshadowed by just saying it. Unless you plan on hiding your career from your parents you will have to tell them eventually and no matter how you tell them, it is what you tell them that's important and in the end it's up to your father to decide what he thinks about that.

As someone who has had this conversation with his parents and then 1 year later said "wait nevermind that actually sounds pretty good" I do still have in the moment advice for you though.

Own it. If you try too hard to dance around what you mean, it encourages debate about your choice. You are revealing your ambitions, so reveal your ambitions! Be direct about it, leaving no room for misunderstanding. Keep in mind, there is a difference between telling someone what you are thinking and demanding that this is black and that is white. You could very well be like me and change your mind later on, so don't burn any bridges.

Pick a good time. As you already mentioned, leaving it to the last possible minute can leave you flustered, catch them off guard and, especially if people are around, can make the conversation far worse than it needs to be. Tell them early, at a time when they have a spare minute to listen to you without worrying about social pressures of what other people think. Let them know that you want to discuss something, this gives them a little minute to mentally prepare for a serious conversation and get in the right headspace.

Explain why, and focus on yourself. I know I said that just telling them is all that's really important, but it's a lovely bonus if you can give them even more insight and understanding as to why. I statements will help a great deal with this. They are a very useful tool to allow you to explain without arousing the defences of your parents. If you can get them to understand how you feel, they will empathise with you rather than feel at ends with you, and that can only help.


I am speaking to you as a father, who has a son in university.

My son Ben started out with the ambition of studying Chemistry - He was excited by all things chemical, and confident of a high grade. He had offers from all of the major universities, including St Andrews.

He was convinced and committed. But when his results came they were lower than he planned for. This was a complete shock to him, and because of that he withdrew for one year which he spent largely in his own room on his own, his friends had gone on to their universities.

He then applied for Computing. This subject has always been his core strength. As well as this he recognised that he was a home bird and ended up in his own town university. He has a first for his first year.

I am saying that as a father, I have chosen to stand back and let my son make his own decisions. I have not tried to drive his future because this is in my opinion a fruitless exercise. If you allow your dad to think that he can place you into your future you could easily end up with wasted years, and a wasted career as well as future difficulties with your father.

This is in your hands because it is your life. You must take control of it. It may be a difficult experience just saying no to your dad, but he will respect you for it in the future and you will be happy instead of anguished as you now are.

Go to him with your well rehearsed plan of your future education. Involve him, tell him why you wish to choose yourself and get his very good organisational ability to help you get what you really want.

Make his choice for you your back-up plan -Should you wish to jump ship then that will be there for you.

My son and I have a great relationship at the moment and he tells me everything about his successes and or failures. You and your Dad should be able to do the same but if you do not own up to your feelings you are being unfair to him and to yourself.


Very difficult to answer because you don't give a lot of information about the relationship between you and your dad, or anything of note about your father's character (except that he is clearly interested in your education). "Emotional harm" is a very strong term, and there must be some more back-story to you thinking this even as a possibility.

However, I believe that there could be a distinct lack of communication both ways leading to your quandary.

It occurs to me that your father may not even know that you have an alternative career path in mind. Have you ever talked to him about these interests before? If you have he may not be as shocked as you describe; but if you haven't then it is possible his action in arranging the course for you may be because he doesn't think you have done anything about it.

Do you know for a fact that he will be displeased with your choice of career? See, if you have been holding back from talking to him about it out of fear, he may see your lack of conversation about your education as disinterest on your part. So rather than his involvement being due to him wanting to control your career path, it may be just because he is doing what he thinks you haven't done.

So talk to him about it now before this gets any worse. The longer you leave it, the more of his time is being wasted researching and arranging your college place. And, as has been suggested in another answer, do some proper research into what you want to do first so that your discussion shows you have put some thought into it and this isn't just a random whim.

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