Tough questions you need to ask if you don’t agree with your child’s study choice

Choosing which career they want to pursue and making a study choice is a tough decision. But we should listen to our kids and do our research before saying no because it's not what we would've chosen for them.
Choosing which career they want to pursue and making a study choice is a tough decision. But we should listen to our kids and do our research before saying no because it's not what we would've chosen for them.

It’s that time of year again when, as matric students study for mocks and finals, they’re receiving their acceptance letters to university, while Grade 11s start preparing for the year to come and consider their study options. But not only is this a big decision for students to make, sometimes, it’s not the easiest either, especially when parents don’t agree with their teen's choice of study.

In 2018, you can become anything from a professional gamer to a social media influencer, because as we’ve written before, things are a lot different now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Michael Price, an entrepreneur and author of What Next? The Millennial’s Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World, explains:

“Prior to Generation X you could get and maintain a well-paying job and stay there for 20-40 years. Those days are long gone. As we move from one generation to the next, parents pass along life advice to their children hoping to inspire them to achieve what they did and more. That was the model for parenting and it worked up until now. The problem is the world moves much faster nowadays… Thirty years ago a parent would love for nothing more than for their child to grow up and pursue a career as a lawyer or a doctor. Thirty years ago those careers were hot. They were well paying and prestigious. This isn’t necessarily the case anymore.”

So don’t we owe it to our kids to, at the very least, listen to why they want to pursue a degree and career that strays from the traditional BCom or LLB?

Nola Payne, head of Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, suggests that, while it may be difficult for you and the young adult to see eye to eye, you listen to the young adults and understand their motivation for wanting to go into a particular field. She also recommends doing the research necessary to determine if it’s a viable option.

So here are the tough questions you need to ask to go about the application process, together:

1. Is your teen passionate about it? Can they make a career out of it?

Begin by listening to what they want to do, assessing the options and figuring out if they can make a good career out of it – and be happy doing it. It may be a case of either you, or them, facing reality.

The world of work today offers numerous new and emerging careers, such as brand management, big data analysis, app development and digital design, to name a few. The traditional, generic three-year degree is no longer a golden ticket to landing a job. 

That being said, Payne advises, students would do well to pursue a career-focused qualification that fits well with their talents and interests, and which will prepare them to step into the workplace with confidence. So passion and love for what they do is extremely important and shouldn’t simply be dismissed.

Career-focused qualifications will often also include work-integrated learning, which allows students to build a portfolio of work throughout their time at varsity. This puts them in a much stronger position after graduation when applying for a position.

2. Where can they study it? 

There are many study options today than in the past. The range of qualifications on offer has grown exponentially, while the institutions offering them have also multiplied.

All registered and accredited higher education institutions – whether they be public universities or private – are registered by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). They are only registered if they have been accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and registered by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). So looking up a qualification on the NQF is as easy as going to the SAQA website and typing in a few words.

An institution should also be able to give you the SAQA identity number immediately. This means that prospective students and their parents can be confident about the bona fides of any qualification they want to pursue, provided that the institution is recognised by DHET and the programme is listed on the NQF which can be found on the SAQA website.

3. What can they do with their qualification after graduation?

This is an important question to ask before committing to a programme, because it’s important to know and determine the demand for a qualification and your future earning potential. You can do this by looking at career sites and job ads, to see how much demand there is in the marketplace.

Speaking to an advisor at a higher education institution’s career centre can also go a long way to clarifying your prospects post-graduation.

4. What will the degree entail? Are they motivated enough to follow through? Or will they be happier doing something they’re passionate about?

Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but the truth is, pursuing a degree requires a substantial investment of time, effort and money. Probably three or four years of it, to be more exact. And handling the demands of higher education and young adulthood is not a walk in the park. The dropout rate among first years is very high, in part because the reason for heading to university wasn’t sound. 
So if the motivation for further study is for the sake of status rather than to lay the foundations for a specific and successful career, or if a student is only studying to fulfill the wishes of their parents, it would be better to wait, further investigate all the options, and only apply when they have found something that gets them really, truly excited about their future.

Did your child pursue a career path you didn't agree with? Did it work out better than you initially thought it would? Tell us by emailing and we may publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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