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Flip-flopping your way through College or Varsity

My first University experience was too focused on picking a major offered by the University instead of picking a major based upon motivating my focus. This, I later discovered was a catastrophic mistake. After a couple of years of blood, sweat and tears, I realised that I would never use this major to demonstrate or apply my talents, so I changed it.

Six years down the line, I was still in varsity while my peers were earning their way through life and I felt really horrid. But who do I blame this on? My reluctance to seek out advice and help (given my age at the time) was also counter to what I know now.

This is a mistake that many young people make up until today. Changing a course/degree will not be totally painless, and switching back if you decide it was a mistake could be even tougher, so it is extremely important to be certain of what you want to do before you do it.

I have come across many young people who start off their varsity journey with a bang – only to have a change of mind several times along the way; resulting in mostly negative consequences. How far through your course you are when you decide to change will have a big effect on what it means for you. Some universities might only allow you to change at the very start of your course; which is not such a bad thing as you might have very little catching up to do.

However, if you are half way through a year already, you might have to start your new course at the beginning of the next academic year. This means that you have lost some valuable time and it might also affect your finances. This could then result in you not finishing the newly selected course as well – depending on your financial situation.

You might think that your current course does not matter, but keep working on it and see it through. Letting it slip will give a bad impression to the people who decide whether you make the ideal employee later in life. Yes, it may not seem like it at this stage but what you choose to do now will always have a reflection on you later in life. Not following things through may make you look like a “flip-flopper” and that might turn any prospective employer off. Employers are most likely view your decision negatively, unless you can explain to them how your decision is a positive step towards achieving your goals.

Therefore, thinking carefully about your current course is extremely important. Surely there might be other ways to tackle the problems you are facing. For example, if you are not doing as well as you expected, improving your study skills might be better than jumping ship. Many students find taking a gap year is a worthwhile option. It allows them to weigh logical alternatives or even gain valuable work experience while considering their options.

It is time for some self-reflection. At the end of the day, the main objective is to have attained a qualification that will serve as a bridge to your desired career.

So start by determining the level of challenge, attention and stretch that a major will have on you.  If you are confident you know your area of interest, then skip ahead.  If not, you should utilize the Self-Assessment Centres made available (free of charge) by most tertiary institutions. Bottom line, we should all want to be successful and learn more about ourselves, what we like  or do not like. By doing so, you will find what captures and keeps your attention.

Consider this, if you only have a semester or two of study left, what are the implications of finishing what you started? Firstly, finishing demonstrates you have what it takes to complete the task. Secondly, finishing demonstrates you can overcome distractions, self-interests and unforeseen challenges. Finishing what you start, even if you do not like it has a positive outcome.

When it comes to job opportunities, demonstrating you have what it takes to finish difficult tasks is a key attribute that differentiates one person from another. What is most important is showing how you have what it takes to master any subject or task and therefore you can tackle any job with that approach. Completing your degree is an achievement and I hope you consider keeping that in perspective.

Remember, you can always ask for help and seek good advice. There are a lot of smart people at colleges and varsities. Do not assume but rather ask questions. Do not make the mistake I made, thinking College or University will be like high school because it is not.

These places are much more independent and you have to advocate for what you want to be seen as later in life. In the words of Wendell Mayes, “Indecision is a virus that can run through an army and destroy its will to win or even to survive.” A successful follow-through requires some up front prep, including understanding what your true goal is.

Get to the heart of what it is that you really want and embrace it. When you are honest about what you are truly seeking, you will be more motivated to do what it takes to get there. Just remember though, every act takes away time or effort that could be committed to doing something else.

by Marcella Mpanza [Youth Alive Organisation]

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