The choice of a university program for pursuing higher education is an overwhelming decision and a very serious one. It is challenging to make such an important decision with real consequences at a young age, especially in cultures where teenagers are not allowed to choose much for themselves.
As a University instructor, I saw many students struggle and seek advice about what to study and do in life in terms of a career choice. Here are a few points that I wish someone had told me when I set off to make serious life choices. I figured this out by experience and reading about work, life, and family. If this helps one young person find an answer to what to study or do in life in terms of a career, my job is done.
What do you want to be? What kind of a person do you realistically aspire to be? This is important to answer as the courses you study and the work that you eventually pursue will leave a mark on the kind of a person that you evolve into.
The competition is tough out there and its the survival of the fittest. The skills required at work are different from studies but your passion for something is the one thing that will drive you to excel at both studies and work.
Marriage is an important thing to consider especially in conservative cultures. Do you have a say in this decision and its timing? It is important to be realistic in this matter as the timing of your marriage and the person that you choose to marry are some of the most important career decisions you will make other than study and work options. If marriage is not an important consideration for you at this point in time and the foreseeable future then go for what resonates with you in terms of studies and give it your best. All jobs are tough to manage, more so with the responsibility of a family, but your desire to do well will make things easy when pressures kick in full force which they do as soon as you grow up.
Where do you want to live your life? Do you want to become a creative global worker who seeks new opportunities or someone who is a leader in a small place/ community with limited competition and opportunity. If you choose to be the former, then life is a journey and you just need to start out with a strong degree at a reasonably good university. If you choose the latter then it is important to consider what will work in the small place where you want to spend your life in. Exotic degrees are often more beneficial in societies that value them. There is hardly any point in being an astronaut if you want to return to a small city in Bangladesh. Perhaps a business or engineering degree will be more beneficial in this case.
We are living in an era where education and learning becomes a lifelong pursuit rather than something you get done with early in life. If you stop learning at any stage in life, it marks the end of your growth and you will only know what you have learnt till that point in time. Pursuing just ivy league universities or being very focused on a particular country because it sounds like a fantastic or fashionable choice might seem to be an obvious choice for ambitious people. Yet firstly you should focus on the skills that you want to acquire and then focus on degree programs worldwide that will help you achieve that skill set. If you want to learn about design and you find a superb program in Italy, why not? You will get to learn another language which is an opportunity. Also gain appreciation for Italian food and culture. However, if you are fixated on a country for some reason make sure that your love for that country is not blinding your choices in terms of what you really want to study.
Make a choice about how willing you are to push yourself to succeed and get what you want. If you think money is a problem, it is not. There is plenty of opportunity for part time jobs for young people that help you grow up in ways you cannot fathom before and make your resume look different too. You could start a little online business while you are studying or take a casual job like babysitting, being a waiter, or a random office job. All jobs and experiences teach us something and in that they become extremely valuable.
When you feel you are so talented that you could do everything you put your mind to, just take a deep breath, relax and re-focus. Get off your high horse and I know its a good feeling to be on top of it. But get off it and anchor yourself – make mental pictures, draw flow diagrams, brainstorm with a person who questions you and provides honest feedback. Contemplate and figure out what it is that has interested you since a while, something that intrigues you and keeps you awake at night because it’s so fascinating and interesting for you – that might be what you want to do and can be good at doing. Listen to your gut. It often doesn’t lie to you. In fact your gut can help you silence out all the noise made by distractions, daydreams, fantasies and unnecessary advice. Work life is like being in the grinder sometimes. You want to do something that you love, something that you are passionate about, something that is you. You would not want to fake it for the rest of your life. Fakers limit themselves through the effort they put in acting out. If you bring your real self to your business or job, you will bring more to the table and you will be able to carve out a niche for work that only you can do in the way that you do it.