Deciding my subjects, what do I do?

The struggles that are part and parcel of attaining education shall come as no surprise to students not just across Pakistan, but globally. Amongst the litany of these struggles, one pinnacle milestone to the summit is the selection of subjects that one is to pursue when transitioning to higher stages of education.

Being the moment, which initiates the future path in a student's life, is the epitome of one of the most difficult and important decisions that all are forced to undertake.

From a broader perspective, students, when setting on this journey, have to decide been 3-4 major disciplines, which then help them venture into specified particular avenues down the line. These range from Pure Sciences (Biology, Physics, and Chemistry), Pre-Engineering (Physics, Maths, and CS/ICT), Business (Accounting, Business Studies, and Economics), and Humanities (Psychology, Sociology, Art, etc.).

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An eerily relatable concept for a major bunch of students is the role of parental and societal pressures, which can heavily impact this decision for students, as hardly a child in Pakistan and even globally would have grown up without listening to the aspirations of their parents to either become doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc.

Now, although parental opinions are important, however treating them as the sole decider can be a slippery slope in the long-run, given the student is not inclined or passionate about those particular fields. But this raises another pertinent question, how does one go about making an educated decision about this integral decision?

  1. Looking at the bigger picture

Acknowledging the pretense and importance of subject selection, it is important to realize that the majority of fields remain open as one climbs the ladder of higher education, allowing one to shift around due to the rise of an interest in a different field. Simply put, except for 2 broad categories of medicine and engineering, which require a student to study the subjects for from the get-go, one can change fields quite easily, so one needs not to make this initial decision a do or die state of mind, as evolution and change are part of life and is not unique to one person, but is more common than one may imagine.

Thus, the main focus shall revolve around introspection, determining what one is interested in. Having studied until the ages of 15-17, one is exposed to many disciplines and subjects, which act as key indicators. If a certain subject interests you, it is important to consider if that is something you would wish to dedicate your life towards and which streams will complement the learning and execution of the subjects you wish to continue studying. Penning an example, a love for mathematics can be deeply explored in engineering and business fields, to begin with, and later can also transform to one attaining higher level degrees in the subject. Hence, if one or multiple subjects pique your interest, you should try to identify which streams will help you continue studying those subjects, assisting you in delving deeper in the future.

  1. Online Exploration

Our normal school curriculums are rather mundane in terms of making such important decisions as selecting their key subjects. In most cases, students are unable to identify their core interests, either due to a lack of breadth in what is taught in schools or some cases, it is not being taught at all. Luckily, students now have some key resources at their disposal to help them explore. Online modules and courses are an excellent resource for self-reflection, as they aid in one learning about the countless possibilities they can pursue, and learn in greater depth about the subjects that interest them.

Here it is important to notice that one should not restrict themselves purely to the subjects and streams they would be exposed to in their schooling environments, but rather experiment with what excites them, even if they seemingly deviate from the conventional streams. If writing is something that you enjoy and are interested in, you should look for modules and courses which help you learn more about the opportunities and possibilities in that discipline.

Many students are unaware of their true passions due to a lack of opportunities in their regular schooling. These platforms serve as gateways for them to stumble across what makes them happy, making efforts for self-introspection and these online platforms an absolute necessity.

  1. Staying cautious of the “Bandwagon Approach.”

As stated above, the key determinant for many students is their parents or societal perceptions. There are countless examples of students who had been forced to select a stream they had no interest or inclination toward due to the supposed security and respect the discipline boasts on. Moreover, a term you repeatedly hear, so much so that it becomes an automatic litmus test in your brain, is “scope.” Students tend to weigh the supposed chances of success and opportunities in a certain field as the decider when making their decision, which is a very risky and unwarranted practice. There is no shortage of students who are in a certain discipline purely due to it being perceived as a “safe” option.

Now, although weighing in the possible opportunities is advised, it definitely should not be the sole decider in such situations. One can find countless accounts of people who later regret basing their decisions on such intangible means, even if they seemingly have achieved success, because happiness is something that neither can be taught nor can be forced. It derives from satisfaction, which subsequently is a derivative of you working or pursuing something you enjoy.

Chasing success is not wrong, but it is important to understand that success is subjective and varies from person to person, so chasing something and putting your interests on the backburner can have long-term negative impacts.

Moreover, as you are open to changing disciplines down the line, you are equally open to changing occupations as well. The world is no longer black and white, and the subject you attain a degree in does not define the occupation you may have 10-20 years later, as practical knowledge heavily differentiates from what we learn in schools and universities. You can look in your families, and you will surely find people who studied a certain discipline but work in a completely different discipline altogether.

Hence, it is extremely important to leave some things to fate and take your life one day at a time. Have faith in what you decide is best for you, and let life unfold accordingly. This is one of the first difficult decisions that await you in life and its advised to treat this decision in proportion to its importance, as although it may seem like the most important decision you may make in life, its impact diminishes as you evolve and progress, thus instincts and interests need to be put first, with a firm belief in fate, with the acknowledgment that everything turns out for the best.

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