People no longer ask what you want to be when you ‘grow up’ and smile indulgently when you say ‘Doctor’ or ‘Astronaut’ or ‘Actor.’ Now, you ARE grown up and the questions are more serious, such as “what stream are you going to take up?” or “have you applied to colleges yet?” or “are you sitting for any competitive exams?’ and your answers are met with serious consideration, decisive nodding and thoughtful expressions. When everyone around you is serious about your aspirations, maybe it’s time for you to be serious too!
That’s why we’ve put together this checklist for high-school students who are evaluating their undergraduate options in India.
Choose your course well
In India, this is a decision that has to be made in the tenth grade itself, which is the last year when you will be studying all the subjects. The following year, your classmates and you will take up different paths or streams (Science, Commerce or Humanities) based on your long-term interests and preferences. Sadly, given the lack of flexibility in most standard Indian colleges, what you pursue in grades 11 and 12 will pretty much set the tone for later – for instance, if you choose to take up Humanities in grade 11, dropping maths and the sciences, it is almost impossible to take up engineering or pure sciences later in college. If you’re uncertain or torn between options, take up the Science stream as you can always switch to Humanities later; it is difficult to do the reverse if you change your mind.
Seek professional help
This is understandably a time of uncertainty and an educational counsellor can be of great help in analysing your inclinations and aptitude, and helping you make a choice. Mrs. Annapurna Murthy, an educational counsellor based in Bangalore, summarises what she does for high-school students – “First and foremost, I assess the students by having them take Aptitude, Intelligence, Personality and Interest tests. These tests allow them to explore their potential, assess their verbal, language, spatial and numerical abilities, as well as analyse their interests. The results can guide them in making the right choice. Of course, while helping her draw up a shortlist, I also keep in mind the student’s academic background, financial status, and strengths and weaknesses. All this will be consolidated into a Career Plan, which sets short- and long-term goals.” You can also talk to college students who are pursuing the course that you are interested in to get a feel for what it involves – this can help you decide if it is really what you want to do. Also try meeting with experts in your chosen field to ask them about their profession and decide if it is for you.