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Passion or Pay: 4 Tips for Choosing Your Course of Study

Passion or Pay: 4 Tips for Choosing Your Course of Study main image

With the cost of higher education not getting any cheaper, many future students may be facing (not so) subtle nudges from their parents to select a course of study which will pay dividends upon graduation. In other words, one that is going to “get you a job”.

In tough economic times, it’s hard to argue parents’ concerns as illegitimate, especially if they’ll be funding your degree and course of study. But what about what you want? Besides from the life experience, isn’t going to university about pursuing or discovering your passion?

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If your passion is something that is actually going to pay you well, then congratulations! You’ve got the best of both worlds. But what if your heart cries for a  degree in comedy writing or puppetry whilst your bank account is sensibly suggesting ‘anything that pays off the student loan’ ?  Here are four ways to help you decide.

1) How passionate is your passion?

Take the degree in puppetry for example. Did you grow up dreaming about how you’re destined to be the next star of Avenue Q, singing about what to do with your BA in English? If so, I’d say that is true passion. Pursue! (and save me a front row seat please!). However, if the sudden discovery of your ‘passion’ came around the same time as The Muppets movie was released, then I’d say you probably need to dig a little deeper.

2) Discover your motivation.

Do you feel so strongly for a specific course of study because you can’t imagine doing anything else, or is it something else?  Do you secretly think your parents have a good point about a degree in accounting and finance but you’d rather chew off your arm than admit it to them?  Perhaps you’re going through a late teenage rebellion and feel that you should be able to do what you want, just to prove a point. Just remember, you’re going to have to spend at least 3-4 years and quite a significant amount of money to prove this point, so it better be a good one.

3) Think longer term about your course of study.

Is this first degree going to be your last? Many people choose a degree knowing that they would want to do a master’s degree after it, no matter what. Your dream graduate degree might be a perfect combination of your passion and vocation, therefore, problem solved. Now your first degree option can be somewhat dependent on the pre-requisites of your second. Eg. If you want to attend Harvard’s Kennedy School to study public policy (and one day become the US president), you might need to think about a degree that allows you to have studied economics rather than turfgrass management.

4) Flip a coin (it’s not as simple as that)

Now you may be thinking, “Are you kidding me? I’m not going to let a coin-toss decide my future!”… but hold your horses, I have a point. First of all,  I must declare that this should only be used as a last resort.  If you’re absolutely torn and you have no idea which course of study to choose, shortlist it down to two options. Then as you commit yourself to stick to the outcome of the toss, no matter what, flick your thumb and propel the coin into the air. Most people will know what they truly want as the coin starts to land. Go with that decision, it’s what your gut wants.

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Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Vickie C.
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