Why university course choices no longer matter

By - Aug 31st 2023

Is it not strange that the latest trends in picking university courses continue to surprise us? As if it even means a thing anymore.

On one hand, there are the worriers, who are concerned that from their choices, the upcoming crop of university students are not really interested in areas of study that are supposedly critical to the development of our nation.

On the other are the nit-pickers, magnifying glass in hand, loudly wondering about the viability of some of the courses on offer for the learners. In between these, are the usual banterers of social media.

Be as it may, the latest development appears more like a beauty pageant for university courses. The derision that has met the least popular courses is almost stigmatising for the few who picked them.

As if it says something about the prospects of the graduates who went ahead to pursue these courses.

Unfortunately, what one studies in university and the career they eventually pursue is often mutually exclusive. One does not necessarily lead to the other and neither are they related, sometimes.

There was a time when the biggest question on the lips of everyone making choices of careers to pursue in university was a course’s marketability. Everyone and their parents and guardians just wanted a degree that one would not spend years tarmacking and looking for opportunities with. It was supposed to deliver a good job after studying hard.

Times have changed. Unemployment rates are biting. There are many individuals chasing few opportunities, in literally any field. There is likely no sure bet.

Slowly, what one studies is no longer the determining factor of their prospects. Today, irrespective of how marketable a course is perceived to be, it also needs interest and passion to increase the chances of looking for a job or creating one. It is a stiffly competitive world out here.

Rather than seeing how the university courses fit in the next phase of our country’s development, or how they are designed we should be counselling the campus hopefuls.

Tell the young people getting into university to look beyond the cool names of courses or even a few people who seem to be doing well with it. The key is to pick what they can manage and to do a good job with it – peppered with a positive attitude.

Unlike in the past, the learners of today have some leverage in choosing what to study on campus with the option to pick and revise transparently. Years gone, the choice was largely a government body’s picking from options that were, to be fair, selected by the candidates even before the exam, high on generous doses of optimism. That every candidate was expecting the best, was reflected in their picks - medicine and engineering, and so on, which had stiff competition from the cream.

When results were out and hopes of the dream courses dashed, there was no option but to work with whatever one was given - especially if the student was relying on the cheaper government-sponsored track.

 That is how many found themselves studying courses they had never heard of, since the beginning of time. The few lucky ones that managed to change had few options to play with, save for the odd teaching course that was generally considered a safer bet, in terms of opportunities.

Those who could not, had no choice but to stick with what had been given to them. The secret then was to trudge on and get decent grades. The aim here was to first be a graduate then figure out passions later.

It did not help that there was not much information on possible opportunities with the internet still in its earlier days. Some eventually stumbled on their interests along the way yet others were stuck in unhappy careers forever.

Thus, whatever the choice of the prospective university students, may it be inspired and in their best interests.


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