How parents can help their kids find the right course
Parents want the best for their children. So it is rather unsurprising that when it comes to education, an increasing number of parents are keen to make sure that their children make the right choices. But how can parents help in choosing suitable courses for their children in a supportive and enabling manner? And how can they help them avoid the high emotional and financial cost of making the wrong choice?
I have been an academic for two decades. During this time, I have seen more and more students leaving high school unsure of what course to do at the university. Back in the era most young students leaving school had a clear idea of what they wanted to do. Mostly, the conflict arose when they wanted to do a degree in, say, art or history, while their parents thought that they should do more vocational course such as medicine, accounting, law or engineering. Now, however, the situation is different. Many young people struggle to define or know what university courses they are passionate about.
But instead of criticising young people today, we should realise it is because of the abundance of choices they have that makes the decision tough. This results in scores of academically able young people leaving school without a strong preference for any specific course, which in turn leaves them open to the influence of their parents and friends.
Benefitting from the wisdom, experience and good will of parents is not necessarily a bad idea. However, it remains the case that the best courses to select are those that we are passionate about, and which bring meaning to our lives. Having a sense of purpose associated with what young people are studying will ensure that they will stay motivated when things get tough. It will also improve their resilience, and increase the chances of their future professional success.
Before trying to nudge the children in a “preferred” direction, parents should help them cultivate a sense of meaning, and help then align their strengths with the dreams they want to achieve. We can help our youth by encouraging them to:
Impact they want to have on the world. This is not an easy question to answer, but there exists a number of programmes that will help them answer it. Knowing what impact they want to have on the world or what challenge they want to solve, will provide a much needed clarity.
Perform research. Compare the different courses and universities based on track record and reputation, employability potential and if there are any opportunities to spend time studying overseas. When choosing a university, it is also necessary to look at how successful the alumni network is. This will eventually be your own social capital.
Visit university’s open days. It is important to visit open days and talk to experts about the academic requirements of the courses you are considering. An open day is also an opportunity to check out the university facilities such as labs and accommodation.
Do a work attachment. There is nothing that beats trying out the kind of environment in which people
Parents need to recognise that a child may still choose the wrong course. In such case, they need to remain positive and engaged.
who completed the course you are considering work. It might be slightly challenging to get work placement for young people but it is worth trying.
Volunteer for a cause. This will help young people identify their passion and purpose, and help them become sure of what they want to do with their life.
Despite their best effort, parents need to recognise that a child may still choose the wrong course. In such case, they need to remain positive, engaged and provide emotional support. It takes courage because becoming who we really are requires that we ask difficult questions about who we are and what is our purpose in life and what impact we want to have. Our youth are the true wealth of our society and they deserve that we invest in them and support them while making this leap. —