7 Steps To Choose A Right Undergraduate Course After High School

This time of the year, when they make the important decision of which course to choose in college, many high school students and parents are in a very unclear state.  There are hundreds of choices and possibilities. It is really difficult to select one that best suits you in all aspects. As a career coach I am often asked “Sir, which course should I study?”, “What do you think will be better in future?”, “Will this course be easy or tough?”, “Should I take Engineering or Science?”, “Will I get a job after completing this degree?”  etc.


I decided to put down my thoughts on “Choosing a right undergraduate course after high school” and it is here.

1. Be happy and relaxed:

Now after completing close to 2 years of hectic work , pressure from parents, teachers and peers it’s time to relax and enjoy life. Clearly understand you’ve already done whatever you could do from your end. You’ll never be able to change what you’ve written in your exam papers. Just kill all those apprehensions and stop thinking that “I could have answered that one question in Maths, oops why did I miss it? Will it affect my overall marks or will it not be a problem at all?”. All these thoughts will be truly of no use. It will only increase your anxiety and do no good to you. Just feel happy and appreciate yourself for what you’ve done.

It’s perfectly fine to have that curiosity about the marks you would get and I am sure that will only increase as the day of results come closer. However learn to accept what comes on the D day and don’t loose hope on yourself. Try to find someone who says, “what I am today is only because of my 12th standard marks”. I am sure you’ll find none. So, this is just an another phase of life.

2. Know yourself better:

This is the time when you’ve to take that very important, life changing, momentous decision. (Ha ha ha…..I am just kidding, don’t worry, there are plenty of people who studied something and build their career in something else. It is an important factor, but it’s not life sentence. So, just this one decision alone cannot decide your future and life. I moved from Engineering to HR to become an Entrepreneur and the degree I had never played any big role in all my crazy career moves).

Knowing yourself better, understanding your areas of interest, your strengths and abilities will only make your decision making process easier and better. More you know yourself, levels of clarity will be higher. That will greatly help you in choosing a right undergraduate course. Read my earlier article “6 Meaningful Things To Do If You Are Between 18-23” and do minimum of 3 of them. May be the chances of knowing yourself is much higher there.

3. Think long term:

Never think of short term pointers like, will the course be easy to study?, will I get more leisure time? is the college close to my home? do I get a comfortable hostel and tasty food in the canteen? do they provide air conditioned bus and classrooms?. None of these trivial questions have any meaning in deciding a course or a college. Learn to ask more important and relevant questions. Ask questions like, will I learn better?, do they have a highly respected professors, will this add value to my life and career?, do they give me real world experience and exposure? do they have a good and well connected alumni network? what are the available learning facilities? Many students, their parents and even some so called career experts think that the ultimate purpose of the college degree is to get a high paying job.

Understand that the college degree is not the end of everything in life. It is just a starting point for a longer life and career. Your undergraduate degree should not prepare you for your first job, it should prepare you for rest of your life. Your college education should prepare you for life beyond just getting a first job. It should give you knowledge, skills and abilities not just to gain entry into workforce, but more than that to confidently face the world for ever.

4. Interest and passion is key:

Never ever keep job prospectives and placement possibilities as the primary deciding factor. Do not select a course and a college just because someone is saying so. After all it’s your life and future. You should have a very strong say in what you are choosing. (Every day I meet a number of unhappy young students who says, “Sir, it’s never my wish. May parents pushed me into this degree and I am literally suffocating here”). Even if you get to select a best course and college, done without interest towards it will never make you cherish that. Imagine, what will happen to you if you are made to sit in the 1st row of a carnatic music concert for 3 hours, without you having even a slightest interest and inclination towards it. That’s exactly will happen if you end up choosing a course or a college without your interest and passion just for the sake of some career consultant or uncle or dad’s office colleague or an educated neighbour.

Your interest and passion is very important in choosing a course. You will be spending lots of time studying, learning and working on whatever subject you choose. So, your interest towards that subject is very important. If you study what you’re loving (or love what you’re studying), you’re more likely to enjoy and fully engage with your subjects, professors, classmates and college, and that can mean better grades and great possibilities in future.

5. Future prospects are desirable:

Yes, all said and done it is also important to consider the future earnings, job and career potential of the subject you are choosing. But it has to be considered second only to your interest and passion. College is a big investment in-terms of time, efforts, money and your most precious youthful years. If the course you are choosing is close to your heart and if it also come with good future opportunities then that is the best thing that can happen to anyone. But, most of the time that does not happen. In all these cases, always go back to previous point. I am sure there will be people around you who will insist upon the earning prospects, but if you don’t even have that slightest inclinations towards that subject, what earning prospect are they talking about.

So do consider future earnings prospects, but keep that as a secondary factor while choosing your undergraduate course. If you are confused and really don’t know your interest, then it is better to go with the crowd. Choosing a most popular and highly lucrative college major could be good starting point. But also remember that by choosing popular courses you will end up in facing huge competition for getting good colleges and also good jobs in future.

6. Do some serious homework:

Many students and their parents are greatly misled by admission agents, career consultants, advertisements by colleges etc. This primarily because you don’t really spend quality time in doing some serious and sincere homework. Just don’t blindly believe someone, it’s better for you to study, understand, analyse about various courses, colleges, future possibilities etc. Fortunately you’ve everything available to you just with the touch of a button or a mouse.

All you need is to invest that meaningful time thinking about your own future, learning about courses and colleges, talk to your school seniors, read reviews from present graduate students, visit the colleges, talk to professors and HoDs. Do gather information from all possible sources and then make an informed choice about the course you want to pursue in college.

7. Relish your choice:

Once decided, start relishing your choice. Start learning how to make that smooth and quick transition from high school to college learning environment. It does not stop with just selecting a course, college and enrolling to it. It really needs much more efforts and commitment to be successful in college. Start preparing immediately and don’t wait for the course and college to start. Once the final decision is made, be greatly confident in your choice.

Accept that the choice you’ve made is just a one single route towards your life and career goals. There are many number of means and ways in which you could reach your target. Invest yourself sincerely in whatever choice you’ve made as though you passionately mean it. Try to remain open for learning new things, have a good faith in you, enjoy the company of your new friends, build meaningful relationships and surely things will be in your favour. Relish and enjoy your college life.

The best possible suggestion could be, “find a suitable way to align your choice of course in college with your career and life goals, beyond the goal of getting a degree”. Your college degree should only be a stepping stone towards achieving your career goals and it should not be the stopping gate. Aligning your college degree with your choice of long term career and life will give you best possible learning experience and it will give a best college experience. Wish you all the best.

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About Sivakumar Palaniappan