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Pangs of uncertainty

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It’s not the end of the road if you’ve made a wrong choice. A college education is just a gateway to endless possibilities.

As Sonia looked at her CGPA, she felt as if her world had collapsed around her. She had completed three years of engineering and was just realising that her GPA would not take her abroad for higher studies. And she had never wanted to take a job locally after her engineering degree. But that is what she would now have to do.

Aashiq, on the other hand, completed aeronautical engineering and found immediate placement in an IT company. But that didn’t make him happy because everyone asked him what an aeronautical engineer was going to do in an IT company.

Self doubts

Many third and fourth year college students experience pangs of uncertainty and panic attacks. The first two years of college are almost like a dream — some settling down pain, and lots of fun and experimentation. Credits, exams, career and the future suddenly pop up on the students’ mental horizon only in the third year. They suddenly become more significant than ever before. And then the self doubts begin to eat into the students’ peace of mind.

Would I like to go through life as a bio-engineer? Where will my B.Sc. Physics take me and is that what I want to do? What kind of a job will my chemical engineering degree fetch me?

These questions are natural and inevitable. After Plus Two, most students thankfully take whatever course comes their way. Sheeba, for example, is studying chemical engineering but doesn’t yet know what she wants to do with the qualification. Others ask for and get what they want, or think they want. But it takes three or four semesters of study before students can hope to know if they have made the right choice. That’s when the panic attacks begin.

But they needn’t. Freshers can — as early as in the first year — anticipate and prevent at least some of the panic they are likely to face later. All it takes is some time and effort.

You will need a two-pronged strategy: one that will explore your subject beyond the Powerpoint slides projected on your lecture room screens, and a second strategy that will help you figure out what you want to do in your life. The first strategy — exploration — will help you understand the outside world and the second — introspection and reflection — will help you understand yourself.

Background research

Exploration and background research will open the windows to the future. There are many things to find out — the different components of your course and what they contain, how they branch out into career options, growth prospects in these areas, opportunities in these areas in India and abroad, the criteria for getting there...

The Internet has brought the world to your doorstep, and all of you are well wired. Use the Internet wisely. At first, you may not understand much of what you read, but if you plod on with determination, you will gradually get a grip on things.

You could also talk to your seniors, friendly faculty, family and others to learn from their experiences. It is important to be positive and objective and store away both the positive and negative data without getting excited or dejected. Always remember, what you hear or read is often just one more perspective, shaped by somebody’s experience.

Understand yourself

You could also make an effort to understand yourself. What do you want for yourself — success, money, happiness, a comfortable family environment, a roaring career, or an average career but with good family time? And are you cut out for what you want? Are you ambitious and restless and energetic, or laidback, lazy, fun-loving? What kind of changes do you have to bring to equip yourself for the kind of life you want? Are you ready to make those changes?

When you match your strengths and weaknesses against the options open to you, you will make wise choices. You will also find motivation to work towards goals and make course corrections.

Every student entering college thinks this is his last and final step in the education system. But it isn’t. Rakshit was disillusioned with the course of study he had chosen. But it was only awhile before he realised that he could move from the core subject to a periphery that consisted of management studies, administrative services and other areas. He settled for entrepreneurship and put his domain expertise to good use.

College is a step in a series of steps. There is enough scope for building on a college education, and also for change and course correction. Remember, when you are at college, you have neither arrived nor completely doomed. There is always a next step. You just need to feel your way forward.

Email: sumathi.sudhakar@gmail.com


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