As young adolescents, making a decision that will determine the course of your future is no easy task.
On one hand, you have an infinite list of factors and options to ponder. On the other, you also need to please your parents, leaving you sandwiched between the two.
What’s more, you can easily get lost in the sea of advice that only seems to get more confusing with each new bit of information. Then there’s also the never-ending conflict between choosing what interests you and what provides you the most financial satisfaction.
All this may push you into making a hasty decision if you’re not careful. Here are 7 of the top mistakes students typically make before deciding a course.
#1. Choosing based on what makes you the most money
While there is no denying the importance of money (no one can live on fresh air and sunshine), how much dough you’ll make shouldn’t be your main guideline when deciding what to study.
Research indicates that having a high salary doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be more satisfied with your job. In a study of over 15,000 individuals, employees earning in the top half of the salary range reported similar levels of job satisfaction as those earning in the bottom half. This was the same across the globe, from U.S. and Australia to India and Taiwan.
Clearly, money was not the answer.
Rather, studies show that you’re more likely to be happy with your job if you focused on intrinsic goals, such as learning, personal challenge and curiosity.
Remember that money is secondary – focusing on being the best at what you do is more important.
#2. Rushing to choose a course
Another major mistake you can make is rushing to make a decision on what to study. This can backfire horribly, especially if the course you choose is something you’re greatly uninterested in.
Remember, you’re investing your time and money and pouring a lot of sweat into something that you’ll spend years studying in exchange for knowledge and skills that will ultimately be the nucleus of your future profession.
Take the time to think it through instead of making a panicked and impulsive decision. Be it a few extra days, weeks or even months, that extra time taken is better than making a grave mistake and paying the price by having to go through years of ordeal.
#3. Going along with your parents’ decision
Remember the kid who can’t make simple decisions like what to eat or what to wear? Well, that kid is no longer you.
What you’ll be studying is something that you will go through.
You’ll be the one who will sit through all the papers and tests, spend sleepless nights finalising reports and blow people’s mind with fantastic ideas for your group assignments. And at the end of the day, it will be your hands that wrap around the certificate.
Sure, it’s not uncommon to hear things like “You should take Accounting. I read that it’s one of the most sought after professions and it guarantees a steady income!” from your parents, but don’t just blindly take their words into account (pun unintended) without pausing to digest.
Your parents are there to give you advice and to guide you. But the ultimate decision rests on your lap. So choose wisely!
#4. Choosing what your friends are studying
Without a doubt, your friends play an instrumental part in your life but that doesn’t mean that you should stick to them like glue.
Your goals and aspirations may not necessarily align well with your comrades as everyone has different motivations and interests driving them. Your friend may be more interested in helping the sick, but you aspire to be a journalist working for National Geographic and writing inspirational stories.
Remember too that education can be quite expensive. Courses like Medicine can cost you up to RM500,000 for a degree in Malaysia and you’ll be wasting a lot of money if you decide to call it quits midway through just because you followed a friend.
It’s crucial to decide for yourself what works best for you and not succumb to peer pressure. Otherwise, you may struggle for the entirety of your course or worse, have no way out.
#5. Having false projections
Inspiration plays a pivotal part in deciding what you want to study.
Perhaps it was something personal that happened in your childhood that inspired you to be a psychologist so you can help people with mental disorders. Maybe The Naked Chef inspired to pursue your culinary dream, or it was all the cool tech in Iron Man that made you want to take up Mechanical Engineering.
But there’s a fine line between reality and perception. More often than not, the reality is not as cool as what you imagined it to be.
For instance, if you’re going to take Law, don’t expect it to be like the romanticised portrayal in Law & Order with constant courtroom dramas. Instead, be prepared to face endless amounts of reading, research and gruelling paperwork.
The truth is that the reality can be mundane. You may be required to do things that you simply have no interest in or work on tasks that you may find boring and tedious. So it’s important to ask yourself whether you’re willing to face the demands of the career.
#6. Not doing thorough research
Failing to plan is planning to fail, so it’s important that you do your homework and accumulate as much information and detail that you need before making your final decision.
Start with your academic results, as they can give you an idea of what you should pursue. Do they meet the minimum requirements of your course? Do they tell you where your strengths and weaknesses lie?
As you go further down the inverted pyramid, other factors like understanding the course structure, your tuition fees and intake dates also come into play. All these information are vital for you because the last thing you want to happen is not fully understanding the bolts and nuts of it before making your journey.
But if things still remain enigmatic to you after all that, you can always look for our super-friendly counsellors for guidance!
#7. Being discouraged by others
You’ve probably come across this scenario more than you hoped.
“Oh, you shouldn’t study Graphic Design because look at your cousin, he took Graphic Design. It didn’t work out for him and now he’s working as a salesman.”
“I just don’t want to see you struggle.”
Granted, your parents, relatives and seniors are all figures that can offer you their experience and advice, but don’t be discouraged by their scepticism.
Just because it didn’t work out for your cousin doesn’t make Graphic Design a terrible course. Maybe it wasn’t his interest, maybe he didn’t work as hard as you will, maybe he lacked the necessary perseverance before switching his line of work.
Simply put, it wasn’t his forte. But that doesn’t mean it’s not yours.
You can be left hanging when deciding what you want to study, which may force you to commit a rushed and ultimately, costly decision. But now that you know what pitfalls to avoid, you will hopefully get an idea of what to avoid before shooting yourself in the foot!