Know thy self, know thy program

The unpleasant situation of switching from one program to another can be avoided if students know more about themselves and what they are getting into, says Robert C. Boncore from the Counseling and Development department at Concordia University.
According to Boncore, students should have “the necessary adequate information on available programs and have a great sense of who they are.”
Most students in university who eventually change their major may not have the necessary information on all programs and careers such programs would lead them to. They may also not have an understanding of themselves before making their decision, Boncore said.
A person with a decent level of self-awareness is able to compare their strengths and abilities against the kind of career they may have after graduation, Boncore said.
“An informed decision can only be made through this awareness,” Boncore added.
To help students make the right program choice, a career and educational planning model has been designed by Boncore’s department, where individuals are tested in an attempt to assess certain traits about themselves.
Individuals are taken through two types of tests: the personality test and the vocational interest test. The model is aimed at helping students make a comprehensive personal assessment – get sufficient information regarding available programs and the external realities related to the job market, he said.
After having been taken through this assessment and other informational sessions, students entering Concordia from cegep or other institutions get all the needed information. “(This allows students to be) more focused with a clearer idea of themselves and their career goals that they score high in and can subsequently make a good decision,” Boncore said.
For students who have already made a decision regarding their program of study, the department’s career resource centre is the place to learn about job opportunities in the world of work in relation to their careers, Boncore added.
Sheelah O’Neill, an academic advisor in the Communication Studies department, said course descriptions in the academic calendar give students a good sense of a particular course. However, they are also generic because various courses will be adopted by the professor teaching individual courses to “suit his specialty or interest, unless a course has a specific mission to accomplish.” This is the case of multi-sectional courses.
She advises students to visit the various departments and talk to the right people to learn more about course content before choosing them. This would save students the trouble of hopping from one course to another every time they later discover that a particular course is not what they had expected, O’Neill said.
Both Boncore and O’Neill said students who are influenced by their parents tend to choose programs in engineering, communication studies and the sciences, partly due to a perception that job opportunities will be guaranteed upon graduation.
The students only realize afterwards that they were in the wrong program all along.
As much as parents should influence their children’s decisions on what to study in university, both emphasize that a student’s decisions should be respected. Children should not be forced into programs against their will where they cannot be successful in their education. According to O’Neill, it is of great essence that cegep advisers encourage students preparing to enter university to visit the schools and departments of their choice to become acquainted better with their future.
Most students interviewed said they usually drop a course for another if the course load is more than they can bear or if they don’t like the nature of a course.


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