One of the biggest mistakes prospective students can make is to enrol for a qualification based not on a realistic assessment of their personal strengths and interests, but on outdated ideas of what was historically considered the best or most prestigious course of action, an education expert has said.

Felicity Coughlan, a director at The Independent Institute of Education, one of South Africa’s largest private higher education providers, said: “Deciding what you want to study and where, must be based on a thorough analysis of what the job market looks for in employees, which skills will be in high demand in coming years and how they translate into the qualifications and curriculums offered by respected institutions.”

She noted that the time and money students are going to invest in their studies will be substantial, so it should be logical that they investigate their options properly before they decide.

“Yet so many prospective students set themselves up for disappointment and failure because they sign up for something based on perceptions of prestige, rather than prospects of success,” Coughlan said.

“While it might feel good for a while to tell people you are studying to become X at university Y, the reality is that you may come down to earth really quickly if your expectations do not match reality, particularly upon graduation when you may find that employers are searching for work-ready graduates rather than ones only well versed in theory or that there are few job opportunities in your chosen field.”

She said career options have evolved dramatically and substantially over the past decade. She advised that students and their parents should keep that in mind when investigating what to study and where.

“New career paths are opening up, which were not even considered five years ago – for instance digital and social media marketing, game design and development, mobile app development, digital media law as a specialisation, climate change specialisation and so forth.

“Ongoing automation and online platforms continue to change the career options for young people, so both parents and future students should consider this when choosing an institution and qualification.

“It is natural for a learner who performed academically to want to consider entering a field considered a match for their mental prowess, but if that career choice is not a good fit in terms of a person’s passion, personality the potential career opportunities in coming years, we would highly advise a reconsideration of their approach.

Coughlan said parents and guardians must help their children with this important decision with a clear mind, because too often there is still pressure to make the obvious choice, rather than the smart one.

“At the end of the day, you don’t want your child to sit at home with a prestigious qualification but no job. While certain qualifications are somewhat anachronistically still considered elite qualifications, the ones that really boost one’s chances of career success are the ones that develop transferable and travellable skills.”

It is also important to note that the offering at various institutions differ substantially, whether it be at a public or private university.
“All accredited degrees, regardless of whether the institution is public or private, are put through the same accreditation process and are, therefore, equivalent. So, prospective students are really spoilt for choice when the time comes to find the right qualification match. However, instead of just going for what their friends are doing or what they think will confer the most status, they should look for future-facing, work focused-qualifications that will give them the edge and the best chance of success when entering the job market.

“While this may require a mindset change for many, doing the work now to find the best fit for an individual at an institution with the best track record for work-integrated learning and industry alignment is small investment that will ultimately come with big returns.”

Supplied by Meropa Communications

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