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Confused about what stream to opt for in college?

Last updated on: May 24, 2011 14:38 IST

Confused about what stream to opt for in college?

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Simki Dutta

The much talked about board exams are finally over and so are your post-board exam celebrations, so lets get down to some serious work, shall we? The end of the board exams mark the beginning of college and the most important (read: scary) part is deciding what you're going to do next.

Choosing a stream involves some serious decision making and a lot of things need to be kept in mind before opting for one. However, it is not as daunting a task as you think it to be.

Here, we bring you a few dos and don'ts that you must keep in mind, along with some valuable inputs from our career counselling experts: Pervin Malhotra, Sidharth Balakrishna and Swati Salunke.


Photographs: Rediff Archives
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Know your interests

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Ask yourself what you are interested in. Everything else can wait. Understand your interests and see if you're ready to take it up as a career.

Sure you might like photography but are you passionate enough to become a photographer? You have your way with computers but do you see yourself as a software engineer?

There's a big difference in having something as a hobby and taking it up as a career. You don't want to be in for a big shock later!

Expert speak: "Everybody has a unique set of interests. Students give a lot of entrance exams but these exams don't indicate aptitude. Just because you cleared an exam doesn't mean you have the aptitude for it necessarily" says career counsellor Pervin Malhotra, the director of Career Guidance India (CARING) and a columnist.


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Parental pressure

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How involved are your parents? That's the question. Parents always want the best for us but when it comes to making some of these crucial decisions, you should have the final say.

You're not here to carry on the legacy of doctors or chartered accountants in your family and nor are you here to fulfil your parents' unfulfilled dream.

Don't fall into parental pressure and do something you absolutely hate.

Living someone else's dream is just going to make you all the more unhappy.

So, if your parents are the "pushy" type, take control of the situation and try and explain to them where your interests lie. Yes, there is bound to be friction initially but it's better than going against your dreams.

Expert speak: When asked what her advice would be to all those parents, Pervin Malhotra says, "Don't look at your children as extensions of you. Look at them as individuals with their own personality and interests. It's their life after all and the best you can do is support them."


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Choice of course

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The course you opt for must lead to the career you will ultimately pursue. It's always good to have a broad career goal and keep your options open at the undergraduate level.

If you're choosing a particular course now, you must know what your next step will be. Just majoring in History and not knowing what you're going to do with that degree in future is certainly not the idea.

Knowing the career path to what you want to eventually do is important.

Expert speak: "There's no place for short term thinking here. One must study the long term career options of the particular course. Usually, it's advised to choose a broad course at the undergraduate level in order to keep maximum options open" suggests Sidharth Balakrishna, an author, an MBA preparation expert and a career counselling expert with Hindustan Times.


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Herd mentality

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Your best friend is studying biotechnology and after being together for 10 years, you cannot imagine life without her so you decide to take it up too without even knowing what it is about!

This plan just spells DISASTER. Do not opt for streams just because your friend is doing it or because 'everyone' else is doing it. It is okay to be confused and assess yourself rather than jumping to things.

"I was so confused about what I wanted to do after class 12 and seeing everyone give a series of entrance exams for engineering, even I plunged in. Now, I'm stuck here in some engineering college, hating every bit of it because it just made me realise that I'm not cut out for it," says Mohit who is desperately waiting for his final year to get over before he could go ahead and do something he's interested in.

Expert speak: "I've seen students who've got low scores or who are confused, take any stream up thinking it is a safe bet and that they're finally out of the confusion. There is absolutely no thought given to it. It shouldn't be this way because they end up suffering later for making such hasty decisions," says Swati Salunkhe, director of Growth Centre and a career consultant.


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Confused? Don't worry

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Everyone around you is busy working on their career plan and there you are left totally baffled. Before you press the panic button, you must know that it is absolutely fine to be confused.

Turn to career consultants and aptitude tests for advice in such cases. They will guide you in the right direction. Once that's done, you will surely have a clearer idea of what should be done.

Expert speak: "When we talk about aptitude tests, we don't mean the ones directly out of Google. The genuine ones are those that are administered by a qualified career counsellor like those with an MA in psychology. After which, there should be one to one counselling sessions in recognized centres," says Swati Salunkhe.



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Research

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Once you have chosen the course, the next step is to do ample research on it.

Read up on it, ask seniors who are doing the same course, look out for colleges that offer that course, attend career seminars and see its future prospects.

Thanks to the internet, everything is just at a click away. Don't let all this information go waste, make proper use of it.

Expert speak: "There are a lot of options to choose from today and students must become aware of them. Doing research and getting to know about the course structure from before is advised. They should know that they will pursue the stream they choose now, as a career for the rest of their life," adds Sidharth Balakrishna.



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