Graduating A-Level and IB students are about to face the ever-popular, important, and pressing life-question of “What is next?” It is a decision we cannot escape, no matter how unsure we may feel. The options are endless, but while having choices is a good thing, it does not make it easier to decide.
Plus, a career is not always discovered as easily as how it is portrayed in the variety of “feel-good” films out there. It is not something you wake up one day and decide. Often it takes careful planning and introspection to find what fits.
To guide you in choosing a suitable course of study, we have compiled five crucial factors for you to consider when evaluating your course options for higher education.
Find Your Passion and Proficiency
Pursuing your line of passion will make it easier for you to breeze through schoolwork because you genuinely enjoy what you are learning. Life is too short to be bogged down by large portions of information you couldn’t care less about. Researchers have found that the power of interest drives learning. In fact, it has proven that passionate interests can aid people in overcoming academic difficulties or perceived learning disabilities. According to a KQUED article, strong interest in a task makes individuals more determined to work hard and they are more likely to possess self-regulatory skills. The article goes on to state that being passionate about certain projects allows one to “employ more effective learning strategies, such as engaging in critical thinking, making connections between old and new knowledge, and attending to the deep structure instead of surface features”.
Do not be alarmed if you find yourself jumping from passion to passion. It is quite a natural process of development as you grow to learn about yourself and navigate through the options you are presented in life. A passion can be a future career or simply something you are presently curious about – believe it or not, that is enough to get you through the current study. Another way to pick a course you will not regret, is to follow your strengths. Locate an area you are proficient in. It is highly likely that your area of proficiency matches your skillset. This is a sure way to land you in the perfect spot, be it in school or work. If you are unsure about what you are proficient in, simply look at your grades and recognise your top-scoring subjects. If that is art, you are most likely to excel in a study relating to Fine Arts.
Sometimes, we are quick to discount or devalue our strengths. Do not be disheartened if you come up empty when looking at your grades and fishing around for a passion. You can always ask trusted family and friends for their opinion on your strong suit or take a plethora of online personality quizzes to find out which area you are leaning towards.
If after all of this, you are still sitting on the fence about what to study, the safest bet is to choose a broad field before finally narrowing it down as a major in your final year of study. For instance, if you are proficient in English, you could choose to pursue “Mass Communications”, which leaves room for a plethora of career opportunities ranging from written work such as journalism to creative work including advertising, events, and video production.
So, start finding your niche today and put your goal planning into perspective.
Research Is King
Information is key. Staying up to date with the latest trends and news on the job market is helpful. Research on how long it takes to complete the study and if you are willing to commit the time, finances, and brainwork to see it through. Some courses come with an eye-watering price tag. You have to be mindful of any student loans and debts which may be incurred in the process. Find an estimate on the projected income level and decide if you are satisfied with it. Next, do a quick search on the demand out there. It is important to know if your chosen career has a future and can safeguard viable job prospects.
Finally, assess if you are eligible. Read up on the course and decide if you fit the criteria, both professionally and personally.
Earn the Experience
Make use of opportunities such as internships, seminars, volunteering and part-time jobs to experience the reality of your study. People who gather more experience are more grounded in the reality of their study. Sometimes our perception of the career formed by movies, marketing and books can be very off from the real deal. Gaining experience can either reinforce the passion or become a wake-up call to reality.
For example, if you like children, you can consider volunteering at a nearby nursery or children’s program to gauge how well you fare with children and help you decide if you are willing to jump through hoops to learn how to get better at it. Experience reveals weaknesses we are otherwise “blind” to. This allows us to make informed decisions when applying for the preferred study.
Furthermore, experience gives you a competitive advantage to your peers. It serves more than simply sprucing up a bare resume. It prepares you for the competition, whether it is brainstorming for an A-star presentation in lecture or getting your foot in the interview door when landing a high-profile job. You are also better able to process the curriculum having learnt the concepts outside the classroom, having applied it in the actual work environment. Moreover, it is proof that you have a real interest in the subject. Immersing yourself in a professional culture will also groom you in areas of soft skills such as networking, socialising and communication. By interacting with experts in the field, you are acquiring first-hand knowledge of your chosen course of study and future career.
It certainly does not hurt if your experience is rewarded with a side income. This will make the experience valuable in every sense of the word. Experience is very advantageous.
Block Out the Noise
Do not follow the crowd; just because it works for them, does not guarantee it will work for you. “Safety in numbers” does not apply in this case. It is important to not be swayed by the popularity of a study. Everyone learns and works differently. At the end of the day, you are accountable for your success in that study. Also be mindful of a false prestige mentality. If you are choosing a course because it sounds nice and cool, drop it, and reevaluate your decision. Every course has its perks. If you are choosing a job to feel important or superior, it might not bode well for you in the long run. False impressions of the course of study can be detrimental to your decision-making process. Choosing your study based on superficial impressions will not provide you with the grit to carry you through the challenges (and there will definitely be some) of your school life.
In summary, as with all important life-concerning decisions, weigh the pros and cons and evaluate your options before investing your time, money, and energy into the study. Do not be hasty and rush into making decisions just to make the cut for an application deadline. Know that your dream job does not have to stay a dream. With the right passion, research, and experience, you can be someone who genuinely enjoys and excels in both your academic and work life.