30 April 2013

How to Choose a College Degree Program

It’s that time of the year again when young people fresh out of high school, if they haven’t done so already, really should be making their minds up about what degree programs to enrol in for college. Strange as it may sound, because schools do have their batteries of career guidance examinations and career development programs, but it is not unusual for young people already due to enrol in college to still remain clueless about the careers that they wish to carve for themselves.

This is not always the case, granted; and, indeed, there are those who make their minds up even when they are still in elementary school. That said, just as many don’t; and not that there is anything extraordinatry about this. In fact, neither is it uncommon for students already midway through college to change their minds about the programs that they are enrolled in.

I worked in a school for almost three decades and invariably came across many young people who found it a right proper dilemma trying to make their minds up about what college programs to pursue. My advice has always been remarkably simple:


Everything you read here may have sounded like no-brainers; but you will all be surprised how many young people eventually end up enrolled in programs that they not only do not care for but have no ability to prosper in.
  1. Choose a program that you are good at; and/or
  2. Choose a program that you are passionately interested in.
The first item is really quite obvious. For instance, generally it is not a good idea to go into an Engineering program if one was not particularly proficient in Mathematics whilst still in high school. I say ‘generally’ because there are the rare few who actually discover an aptitude for numbers when already in college; and the skilfulness of professors often has a lot to do about this.

In the same breath, it is also generally not a good idea to go into a Communications program if one did not exhibit proficiency in languages while still in the secondary level of education. As with the Math-Engineering correlation in the previous paragraph, naturally there are exceptions to this rule as well.

Funny as it may sound, but I have come across youngsters who did not even know what they were good at. Needless to say, these students rather tended to be either those who got middle-of-the road grades across-the-board or those whose grades were the sort that one hid from one’s parents.

When the report card fails to give a convincing picture of what one student is good at, then it is time for the student to pay the Guidance Office a visit. Counselors administer various survey instruments that help students determine their aptitudes, even when these are not immediately apparent from a student’s grades.

Ideally, a student should choose a program that he not only knows he will be good at but also one that he is passonately interested in. Aptitude and interest, one may argue, go hand-in-hand. While this is true in some cases, it is also just as wont to be untrue in others.

For instance, there may be those who are interested into going into the Fine Arts but have neither the ability to conceptualise forms nor the hand coordination necessary for drawing and painting. There are also those who are interested in becoming lawyers but are poor in logic and communication.

What is important is for a high school graduate to choose a program that, if he is not necessarily good at it, then he is at least interested in. Particularly if the interest is of the passionate type, then it will ensure that the student will strive harder to compensate for the lack of natural aptitude.

It goes without saying that the worst decision that a young person can make is to choose a program that he is neither good at nor interested in. Believe me, there are those who do. Sometimes, the parents are instrumental in how these bad decisions are made.

The argument that the parents have the right to make the choice because they will be paying the tuition and fees does not hold water. Sending kids to school is just part of the cycle of parenthood; and needless to say, the parents were in most probability sent to school by their own parents.

At the end of the day, it is the child and not the parents who will be going to school.

That said, there is nothing wrong whatsoever in parents choosing the degree programs for their children if they cannot ascertain what they are good at or interested in. At the very least, a starting point is provided.

If the child later decides that the program is not for him, well, that is why universities have program shifting policies.

Everything you read here may have sounded like no-brainers; but you will all be surprised how many young people eventually end up enrolled in programs that they not only do not care for but have no ability to prosper in.











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