Who decides what course should I pursue in college?

Alok Saklani

Apeejay School of Management
As most of us would agree, the broad purpose of primary education is to help us understand better and more logically, about the world around us, as also, how we should conduct ourselves in the society. Higher education may surely, enable us to further deepen our learning as also, prepare us to play a specific role in society.

But what kind of role ought i to play? this is a question which bothers nearly everyone until s/he finds a foothold in a career; at times, even after that. Surely, we are all exploring ourselves all the time; children would get surprised if some of them learn that their parents have realised only decades later, that their ‘calling’ was somewhere else; not in the career they were currently pursuing.

So who helps us understand this better? Perhaps, teachers, parents, relatives, and family friends, besides, of course, the modern ‘counsellors’. Among these, parents seem to exert a greater influence on most young people, at least in the indian sub-continent, as well as in some other cultures in the orient.

And what do they tell us? Some parents are bold enough to ask their children to find out for themselves about what they want to do in life. Some others, while meaning well, tend to push their kids towards what they themselves feel is a good thing to do; perhaps something they could not achieve themselves, though they aspired to and did not succeed in.

its a good start, for the child now knows what to aim for. but the question is- is it what s/he wanted to do, or is good at, or would find fulfilment in? more often than not, the answer, sadly, is, No.

i know of a boy who went to Germany to do a graduation course in engineering since thats what his parents felt he should do, even while he wanted to enter into theatre; where he had already found some recognition and happiness.

four years later when he completed his engineering, he handed over his degree to his parents on the day of Graduation (Convocation), saying that this is what ‘they’ wanted and hence they should keep it. he refused the campus placement in europe and instead headed to Hollywood, where he completed a post graduate course in film making and is currently happy, though still struggling to become a film ‘producer’.

then there was this daughter of a friend who wanted to get into literature but parents felt she should pursue science. unfortunately, even though the girl got her degree with good scores, and later went on to take a post graduate course in psychology, she is still looking around for something satisfying and meaningful.

yet again, there was this child who wanted to get into performing arts while his parents suggested he get into medicine, instead. half way through the program the young boy dropped out and got into making music. i understand he is now doing well, there.

being a teacher for more than three decades, i have come across scores of such examples, as some of those i know, have dropped in for a discussion about their child’s ‘future’ at some stage or the other.

the small message for all of us here is that while we may suggest many possible careers to children we could do better by leaving them to ultimately, decide what they want to pursue in future. We are sure, as parents, we mean well, and based on our experience and exposure, know the work-place fairly well, but it would be good to remember that perhaps, we do not understand our children’s competencies and dreams well enough, much as, possibly, some of them, still do not.

engineering is good as a career, so is medicine, just as is theatre, music, or writing. but not all of us would be good or happy in all of them, as a career. someone may be inclined towards performing arts, some in science, some others in writing, or even business, etc etc. Every child possesses unique abilities and the best that a parent can do is to help her/ him find that. is it a straight, simple road? i guess no. We must explore.

Khalil Gibran, the well known mystic- philosopher, in the best seller of all times, ‘The Prophet’ said something to the tune- that even as our children “come through us, they do not come from us”.
“For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams”. so lets not force our dreams unto them, as they carry their own dreams, in their hearts, whose seeds have been sown by Life, itself.