It is exam season. Teenagers are trying to perform as best as they can in order to secure a place at the university of their choice. At the same time, graduate unemployment has hit record-high and tuition fees have increased significantly.
Many youngsters who aspire to higher education tell me that I paint a rather bleak picture in my post "Five Harsh Realities About Higher Education". Possibly, I do.
It is not that I don't believe in Higher Education. On the contrary, I am a huge advocate of education and life-long learning. In fact, I have studied a lot myself; on top of my bachelor's degree, I did two masters degrees in the UK and an MBA in the US.
I paint a bleak picture because the idea that those with university degrees will be better off than those without them is so entrenched in our psyche that we accept it without objection. It seems indisputable.
There are two words missing from the above statement in order to be correct. It should read: those with university degrees will be on average better off than those without them. To put it simply, the majority of graduates will be better off but some will not.
Who are the ones who will be better off?
The ones who:
• Are passionate about what they study,
• Choose a subject that plays with their strengths,
• Select a university that is academically rigorous and offers good value for their money,
• Use their time at university to become experts in the field they chose,
• Are prepared to be out of their comfort zone (most of the time),
• Develop a significant social network (classmates, professors, mentors, etc) that will support them along the way, and
• Dream big and have clear plan on how to make it happen - I call it: Plan the Dream!
It is not just about getting a university degree. It is about getting the right degree.
Most teenagers - being good at a variety of subjects - are contemplating between quite diverse career paths e.g. engineering, humanities or law. The ultimate choice will have a profound impact on their lives. It will set them off to a direction that will be difficult to change later on, in case they realise they are not passionate about the field they chose.
Finding what career path they want to follow is not a function of age; it is a function of the time and effort they invest. It is crucial that young people get the general direction right before they apply to university. In this way, they will be able to take advantage of the unique resources that a university offers to excel at the path of their choice. Remember: they will be competing with the world's best.
The only reason I paint a bleak picture about higher education is because I want young people to take control of their future early, and to improve their chances for a successful career and a meaningful life.
By getting a better grasp of reality - both challenges and opportunities - teenagers will be motivated to explore more options, and take the risk to pursue their passions.
Encourage them to dream big and have a clear plan on how to make it happen.
Ask them to plan the dream!