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3 things to remember when choosing your college course

25 Nov 2020

To mark College Awareness Week 2020, here are three key lessons to keep in mind during this pivotal time in your budding career.

It’s College Awareness Week in Ireland at the moment. To celebrate, we put together some of the things we’ve learned from graduates over the years, giving you some inside knowledge on what to expect from university life and beyond. So, if you’re currently choosing your college course and considering what career route to take after school, these tips might help.

1. Don’t be scared of rejection

Unfortunately, rejection is a normal part of working life. When you’re hoping to get into a specific course, however, it can feel as though rejection will set a precedent for the rest of your career. That’s simply not true. One of the biggest skills today’s employers need – and one of the hardest to learn – is a growth mindset.

As Hays’ Chris Dottie explains, adopting a growth mindset means trying to see the opportunities around you even when it feels like everything is going wrong. If you don’t get your first choice – or even your second or third – it’s natural to feel low about that. But try to remember that whatever route you do take will lead to opportunities you couldn’t have imagined.

And besides, one of the working world’s best kept secrets is the flexibility that exists within it. More and more, companies are hiring people with diverse skillsets and investing in on-the-job training. So, even if you don’t get the exact course you wanted, there will still be plenty of chances for you to work in the area or industry you’re ultimately trying to get to.

You won’t be tied down by your degree, but rather the opposite. Iva Simon Bubalo is a great example of this, having moved from philosophy into AI. And so is the editorial team at Siliconrepublic.com; our backgrounds range from communications and neuroscience to maths and music.

So, take some advice from a recent graduate working at Johnson & Johnson, Leah O’Keeffe: “I truly believe you have to be in it to win it. If you apply for something, you may or may not get it but if you don’t apply, you definitely won’t.

“Rejection is not something to be feared because I believe that our choices will steer us in the right direction. Rejection is also a character-building process, which helps us to increase our resilience to adversity in the future.”

2. Figure out what you’re passionate about

The old adage ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ is a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true that passion is an important ingredient for a fulfilling career.

If you know what you’re passionate about and chose your college applications based on that, that’s great. But it’s sometimes hard to know what exactly interests and motivates you when you haven’t gotten the chance to truly explore subjects outside of school.

Many of the college graduates we hear from at Siliconrepublic.com love their work because it’s important to them. Edel Browne, for example, is working as a business analyst at Accenture despite studying biotechnology at college. She’s been enjoying bridging her interests in both sectors through working for pharmaceutical clients and other kinds of life sciences companies.

Though Aisling Ryan is already in the final year of her PhD, she’s another good example here. She followed her passion for chemistry and it led her to a career she enjoys and in which she feels she can make an impact – cancer research.

What Browne, Ryan and many others have in common is curiosity. If you find yourself naturally wanting to know more about a particular field and how you can contribute to it, then it’s worth thinking about pursuing a college course or career in that area.

3. Take the plunge as a mature student

These tips aren’t just for those fresh out of school. If you’re on the fence about going to college as a mature student, Dr Sabina Brennan is a great inspiration.

Brennan started studying psychology in her forties. While it wasn’t without its challenges, she told us about the positive experiences she had: “Initially, I didn’t have a plan. I went to university, almost by accident, as a mature student and loved that so much that I was completely immersed in the moment with no concrete plans for a career.”

Her advice? It comes back to passion, but also self-belief: “Don’t underestimate the value of the experience and wisdom that comes with age. I was worried about keeping up with the bright young things, fresh out of school with a gazillion points, but actually there was no need.

“I was 42 and had already dealt with far more challenging things than completing an undergraduate degree.”

And if you’re starting college at a later stage in life, that might mean you’ve already spent some time in the workforce. That certainly won’t go to waste, according to Brennan: “In academia the focus is very narrow, and only degrees and publications have currency.

“I think that’s wrong. I believe my prior work experience in business and my creativity and my experience working in film and television, are integral to my success and deserve to be taken into consideration.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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