In which first-year Dan D’Addario explains the art of the apologia for one’s indulgence in the decadent humanities:

For those of us who grew up with a relatively strict upbringing, as I did, freshman year is a time of discovery. Students who, in high school, went to bed nightly at 11 to be well-rested for their 7:20 AM class are now resetting their Circadian rhythms and discovering the wonder of classes that start at 2 PM and JJ’s runs at 3:30 AM. Those who never touched alcohol until arriving on campus are now drinking four beers on a Tuesday night. And those who always were told that they ought to find a “productive” or useful field of study are now rebelling by taking courses in esoteric disciplines that will get us closer to behind the counter at Starbucks than to the corner office. Or, at least, I am.

I was never directly told what I ought to do with my life. However, throughout high school, I was gently advised by my parents, relatives, and teachers to consider law school – and the means to that end were majors like political science, history, or the holy grail of useful academics, international relations. “You could be a diplomat!” declared my mom fervently; when my dad saw me reading Entertainment Weekly, he suggested entertainment law. Instead, I’m thinking about majoring in film studies.

Surely I’m not alone. So, for all those like me in the freshman class, I have a couple of suggestions for how to make the parents realize that your personality is more Comp. Lit. than Comp. Sci in as frictionless a manner as possible…

First, take at least one “real” course in a non-artsy discipline. The Core requirements make the task easier – after I registered for courses, I pointed out the amount of classic literature I’d be consuming in Lit Hum as well as the contemporary relevance of my Middle Eastern Civ course before broaching the topic of Intro to Film.

Also, talk about how great your professor is in a way that does not make her sound eccentric. My professor has had her short film screened at film festivals; all my parents need to know is that she “knows a lot about film.”

A corollary to this rule is that you don’t need to discuss what you’re doing in class outside one easily accessible example. Today in Film we watched avant-garde French and American cinema from the 1940s – but all those people paying my tuition need to know is that I wrote a paper about American Beauty. “Remember? We watched it that one time. The one with Annette Bening?” The parents feel as if they know about my academic career, and I’ve averted the “We’re paying that much for you to watch a woman stab a mirror with a butter knife in slow motion?”

Some of my classmates in film won’t be able to convince their parents that a humanities major is worthwhile (I, thus far, have been successful). They’ll end up in a major like economics, and more power to them. I might just start serving the econ majors lattes now, to get ready for the career my bachelor’s degree in film will provide me. Do you want tall, grande, or venti?