The volume of courses available today is unparalleled. The world is your oyster, education changes rapidly and new careers exist every day so no, your fear of missing the mark when choosing your course is not unwarranted.
Options are never a bad thing. Knowing that you have options is something that may feel overwhelming but what it is, is incredibly lucky. In the same breath, choosing a course because you want to create options you haven’t had before is the reality for a majority of young South Africans and because of that, making the right decision comes with a significant amount of pressure.
The thing is, learners choose different courses (educational and otherwise) for innumerable reasons and there isn’t a rulebook we can follow when it comes to big decisions. What we can say is that when we want to access answers about the direction of our lives, it is helpful to possess the following:
- A small glimmer of self-awareness (at the very least)
- The initiative to research and assess what options are feasible or even suitable.
To come to an intentional, well-considered decision (and preferably one that gets your blood pumping), you need to ask the right questions.
Questions to ask yourself
Why do you want to study?
Before plunging into what you want to study, let’s take it all the way back. For learners out of school, this may be the first decision you have made regarding your education, and it’s a big step.
Knowing the reason behind wanting to further your education is going to help cut away anything that isn’t applicable and shed some light on what course will best meet the reasoning behind your final choice
We are all affected by external influences, and it takes a significant amount of personal reflection and unlearning to know what our most unaffected choices would be. Try though, when you are asking questions of yourself, to step back and objectively wonder, why? Is it because you are expected to study? Is it because you know you need to study to reach your goals? Or is it because you don’t know what other options are available to you?
Getting to the most honest answer will give you direction towards a course that will be a stepping stone towards a fulfilling and purpose-driven career.
How do you want to make money?
Now we know this sounds crass but knowing how you want to pay your way in the world is something you need to clarify for yourself.
Asking yourself how you want to make money one day isn’t the same as asking yourself how you’re going to become dirty rich. Knowing how you want to make money means knowing what you would value and enjoy doing to make a living.
Sitting with this question will focus you towards which course will best support leveraging your passions and skills into the most relevant field or industry.
What do you bring to the table?
This is one that has the potential to hit some tender spots but don’t waste this reflection on self-doubt and negative imaginings because it just isn’t productive.
Everybody has something to offer. Nobody is born without a knack for this or an eye for that and it’s just a matter of finding out what your strengths are and where they are needed. What comes naturally to you? What can you work at for hours without looking up at the clock? When was a time where you felt that, without your skill, a certain outcome couldn’t have been achieved?
Questions to ask other people
Choosing a course is a decision a lot of people can’t afford to take lightly, which is why you need to combine your self-reflection with thorough research. Too many students find themselves sticking out (or failing) a course they have no desire to complete because they went in without having proper conversations about what they would be spending their time and money on.
What’s the damage?
Education, whether we like it or not, is expensive. To get a realistic gauge of what options are financially available, you need to speak with your financial guardians first (if your family have offered to help finance your education).
For a large percentage of young South Africans, tertiary education is either financially out of the question or can only be made possible through financial aid, scholarships or bursaries. If money is tight you don’t need to be immediately discouraged, you just need to be prepared to put in a little extra time and effort to find out about student loans and any financial plans you could consider.
If this is your primary concern surrounding your studies then head over to our write up about learnerships in South Africa – you may find exactly what you’ve been looking for.
How long will I study for?
Taking the duration of the course into account is going to make or break your decision. Some learners may have the financial security to fund four years of studying and for some, a short course or diploma is the most economic path. If time is a concern, the blog we linked above for learnerships may also prove beneficial.
Whilst finding out about the duration of the course, any credible institution should be able to offer you a detailed overview of what is covered and achieved in that time frame. If the course scheme interests you, this is an indicator of the right course for you.
What post-graduate career opportunities are out there?
When we base our decisions on what we think something will be like instead of what it really is, we are putting a lot of faith in the opinions of somebody who has little to no experience to judge off of. Conduct research into the industry you are pursuing – is it thriving or under threat? Will this industry still be relevant when you complete your studies? University guidance counsellors and lecturers should be able to outline what their course equips you for and how you will utilize it in the working world.
Advice and answers from The Knowledge Trust
When you’re looking for answers about education, post-graduation job opportunities, planning your career trajectory or exploring how to get the ball rolling on bursaries, scholarships and discounted courses, we just so happen to have a team ready for you to fire away.
Our mission is to make more career opportunities more accessible to more first-time job seekers more often and constructive conversations with curious learners is a part of how we make that happen.
The Knowledge Trust