“So, what exactly is that degree going to get you?”
While it may be a completely well-meaning and fair question to ask, it never fails to make my eyes roll, my patience wear ever so slightly thinner, and – on a bad day – my fists clench in what can only be described as a fit of pure and utter frustration. As an Arts student, and a student of English Literature, it’s a question that gets thrown at me quite a lot. My course naturally lacks the sense of security and direction that comes with a more career-focused degree such as Chemical Engineering or Medicine. However, I would argue that worrying about career prospects and developing an impressive CV should not be top priorities in your hunt for the right college course. Instead of opting for a course that might bring you some reward in the future, you should be focusing on finding a course that you will enjoy in the present. It’s not an easy process, but it certainly can be done. So, whether you’re a prospective UCC student who’s reading this online, or a current student who’s having some second thoughts about your course, I hope that the tips outlined below can be of some help.
Tip #1 – Decide for Yourself.
Coming from someone who always had the desire to study English in college, this is a topic that I know all too much about. Whenever I revealed that I wanted to study English at Third Level, and ultimately advance to a career in writing, almost every teacher and guidance counsellor had the same advice for me: that I would be better off setting my sights on a degree with a more stable career path. Initially, this advice – and, arguably, scaremongering – led me to set my sights on a course in Applied Psychology. The course seemed vaguely interesting to me, and I figured that my love for writing would surely be satisfied to some degree in the form of writing Psychology papers and essays.
As the deadline for course applications drew nearer, however, the sense of uneasiness in my gut grew larger. Then, on the final night before applications were due to close, I rushed to my computer and made what has turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life: I changed my first-choice college course, allowing me to do what I always knew I wanted to do: study English Literature in college. I chose to not bow to the pressures imposed upon me by those who wished to dictate my career path, and went with my gut feeling. Fast-forward two years, and it’s clear that the decision I made that night was the correct one. I am succeeding academically, purely because I love the course that I am doing. Had I stuck with the “safe” option, I am certain that things would not currently be going as well as they are. So, make sure that your decision is entirely your own. Trust in yourself and go for the course that you believe you will enjoy the most. Your enjoyment will lead to achievement, and your passion will turn to success.
Tip #2 – Stop focusing on the future, careers, and employment.
For the secondary-level student who has yet to make the transition to third-level education, it seems that the word “college” is always far too synonymous with “careers”. Of course, thinking about your possible career paths is important, but what they don’t tell you in secondary school is that college is about far more than simply earning a diploma, tossing a cap in the air, and heading off into the merry land of jobs. A large part of college is personal development – finding out who you are, making connections with people, and advancing your skills outside of the classroom.
For example, my choice of course has allowed me to become surrounded by people who have the exact same goals and passions as me. Getting to know these people has also led me to making another great decision in my life: getting myself involved with student media (extra-curricular activities are abundant in College, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to make the most of them). Thanks to my involvement in Student Media, I am currently holding an Editorial position with the fine newspaper you are currently reading, the University Express, and am already in the process of building a CV that brings me closer to my dream of a career in writing every single day.
Tip #3 – Relax, like.
This may not seem like useful advice, but, believe me – if you can really get it through your head – it’s probably the best advice you’re going to get. Nobody – especially those in their late teens and early twenties – knows the exact career path that they are going to take. Nobody knows where they are going to end up in thirty, twenty, or even ten years from now. Neither do you, and that’s okay. When people ask me: “What exactly is that degree going to get you?”, I still tell them that I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m happier now than I ever could have been had I not followed my gut and changed my college course application that night. I am loving every single second of college. I am making friends who are in the exact same boat as me, and I am building my skills towards a career in writing every single day. When people ask me: “So, what is that career going to get you?” I still tell them that I. Do. Not. Know; and honestly, I have come to take pride in that answer. I may not know what my degree is going to get me, but I have loved every second of what it’s gotten me so far, and that’s good enough for now.