If you are reading this, probably you have a sibling, son, daughter, relative, a friend or anyone in your circle who asked or will ask some of these simple yet extremely significant questions.
What course should I take?
Which university should I apply to?
What should I do at the campus?
The inspiration to write this article came from my own experience after talking to different people about their career journey and other related topics. These questions are common and in many cases, those who ask, tend to have high expectations from the respondents.
I remember asking the same questions to my friends and relatives who went to university before me and I was offered support. With this, I have been doing the same for those who reached out. I used to have straight forward responses i.e. Study this, Go to this Uni and Do this. Over the years, I see how my responses evolved. I will no longer have a straight answer and started removing myself from answering questions to asking important questions that allow discussions and provide insight to those who ask.
By doing this, I learnt the three things that I stopped doing, hence I felt the need to share with those who might be in the same situation. These are three things you should not do when advising someone who is about to join university;
1. Do not paint a picture of how the University life should look like
Yes, going to university is a huge change to many. It means living in a new place (city, region or country for some), meeting new people, making new friends, learning new habits, taking new courses, and experiencing new things and events. Not everyone welcomes change easily.
Do not try to use your previous experience as a benchmark. Allow everyone else to have that “brand new” experience, same as you! Ask them how they will want their life to look like and tell them what skills they will need to navigate difficult circumstance if they may arise.
2. Do not impose fear nor false hopes about their career choices
Usisome kozi x, haina soko! Serikali inaajiri sana watu wa kozi x….etc! Straight up, there is no single degree course that provides a maximum guaranteed for a safe future or so-called employment. There is more from the university journey than just a degree, considering this journey is meant for learning about oneself, growing, and discovering what they are good at, what they will love to do and hope for them to find out their why.
Make them aware of how the world is changing so fast, show them what is relevant and how to adapt to these changes, expose them to experiences and initiatives that will prepare them for a career that they want. Yes, their credentials will matter when it comes to job applications, but so does other wider set of skills, things like the ability to work as part of a team, communication skills or showing initiative. Choosing a course is a major choice, but there are many, many pathways and options afterwards. You don't get locked into anything, it's not like the old days
3. Do not steal their opportunity to make mistakes
I am a fan of mistakes, making as many mistakes as you can, but always learn. You will only make mistakes if you do something. One will urge, why should I let them repeat the same mistakes? See, what you need to do is to tell them the hard truth about the university life and consequences of their decisions.
The core of university life today should be to enable someone to flourish in a challenging world. Move from being protective to encouragement, remind them of their capability to decide and transcend i.e. as difficult as things are, they are up for the challenge.
For them to develop the competences and skills that will allow them to thrive in their personal lives, in civic society, and the workplace they have to be willing to expose themselves to accepted risks that will offer an opportunity to learn.
Start asking right questions that will stimulate curiosity and critical thinking during challenges. By doing this will enable anyone to have the best university life, flourish in whatever he/she does and help him/her to realise full potential during and after university. All the best.
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