The Weekly Read

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Should you stick with a college course you don’t like?

The latest of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with Campus.ie

WE all have second thoughts. But should you continue studying a course you don't like or just pack it in, writes Emily Bodkin

There is a lot to be said for seeing things through.

Encouraging people to stick with something they despise isn’t exactly a great selling point right?

It’s a tough task for anyone, no matter how charismatic they are. Usually the advice we give our friends and family when they aren’t enjoying something is to give it up and gracefully walk away.

But as we know, that’s not always the case: particularly when it comes to college courses.  With the rising fees levels, dropping out and doing another course is not a feasible option for most students, leaving them stuck in limbo. No one really wants to study a subject they aren’t passionate about; that’s what the Leaving Cert was for.

But before you throw away €2,500, and bare the wrath of angry parents, consider another possibility: how about sticking it out? Obviously this doesn’t apply to those who are genuinely miserable - get out while you can.  But for those who may only have a few lingering doubts or aren’t sure if they want a career in their chosen field, there is a lot to be said for bucking up and getting through their degree.

You are never going to like all of your modules; that’s a fact.  Some are bearable while others will have you pulling your hair out. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it; no matter how long you spending researching your course beforehand, you can never predict what modules you will or won’t enjoy.  It’s risky business this university lark. But too many students let this bring them down. A few weeks into the course and a difficult module or an unexciting assignment deters them and they drop out without even seeing out the semester. Are we really that easy to discourage?

Forgetting those who really want out of their course, there are things that can help to turn a bad situation into a good one. From personal experience I know what is like to be filled with doubt over wavering emotions towards your course. Before starting college, journalism was something I was certain I wanted to do. It was the only course I considered, despite filling out my entire CAO with other courses because the teachers told us to. When I started in college I was swept up with the new surroundings and new friends, the course was rather secondary in my mind. After a few months of settling in, certain doubts began to appear.

Was I cut out to be a journalist? Did I have what it takes to make it in the world of media?  For a good while, I didn’t believe so. I was sitting through classes and thinking to myself, ‘yeah I’m not able for this’. By the end of first year I was considering leaving the program; I wasn’t happy and I honestly didn’t think I’d had a future with journalism. The only problem was that I hadn’t a clue what else I could do. I’m dreadful at anything mathematical or scientific and I had made some good friends in my class.

The thought of picking up and uprooting my life didn’t seem like fun, plus I could have ended up in a course that made me even more miserable. Was it really worth the risk? I weighed up my options and decided to stick it out for another two years. By the time second year rolled around I was ready to accept that a degree is better than no degree and was preparedto suffer in silence. But then there were one or two modules I started to enjoy and soon……. BAM! The passion was suddenly reignited and I wanted to give journalism another shot. That’s all it took: an interesting module that allowed me to show my skills and reaffirm my love for the topic. Had I dropped out, I would never have gotten that chance. God knows where I would have been.

It can be a lesson to some people: don’t give up when things get tough. That is life after all. Nothing is going to work out perfectly, especially not the career. Maybe doing a course that you aren’t sure about toughens you up a little bit. The next time you decide to apply for a job or start a new project you will have the knowledge that it might not be all it’s cracked up to be because you have gone through disappointments before. It won’t hit you as hard if things do turn pear-shaped.

Not only will you learn new skills in the course but more importantly, you will learn what you are not good at. If you don’t like that module on law, well then you know not to become a barrister or a solicitor. If you know what you don’t like, then through a process of elimination the rest will fall into place. You’re bound to stumble upon something you are really good at.

That said, you aren’t going to find your place in life if you sit on your behind. If the course isn’t challenging you, join a club or society. Debating or getting involved with student politics may have a bigger impact then you think. Speaking in front of people and putting yourself out there can be a massive boost of confidence and open a career path that you never considered. The invaluable experience of doing a course is not to be underestimated, even if it’s not what you imagined and hoped it would be. It’s important to make the most out of your time in college. No regrets.

If you need still to vent your frustrations, do so with classmates. If you are not enjoying the course, there is a good chance some of them aren’t either. Solidarity is the way to go in the bad times. As Winston Churchill once said, “If you're going through hell, keep going.”

 

Emily Bodkin is a Journalism student at DCU

If you’re a student who can write concise, topical stories and is deeply engaged in student life, join the Contributors’ Competition and your stories could be published on Ireland’s most popular news website, Independent.ie, this semester.

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