Student pressure in career choices

The Careers Department

The Careers Department

Apr 17, 2019 — 4 mins read
Student pressure in career choices.

Student pressure in career choices.

The drop out rate for first year university students is at its highest: why are so many students getting it wrong?

Parents like to give advice. Footnote: That could be the understatement of the year, right there.

Sometimes it’s spot-on. Mum, you’re right - I shouldn’t have left this packing to the last minute. Dad, you’re right – turns out, nothing on Facebook is really private. But other times we just roll our eyes and mumble a perfunctory, ‘thank you.’ But when it comes to career choices 89% of current year 12 students look to Mum and Dad as their first source of information, which scarily – has greater implications than last minute packing. Career advice can direct students to their dream job or a dead end.

Things have changed a lot since our ‘number one influencers’ finished high school. Industries that didn’t even exist when they left school are now some of the fastest growing in the world – take data analytics or UX design, for example, while the once prestigious courses like law are being labeled the ‘Arts degree of our generation.’

Another notable influencer for the 2400 students surveyed was ‘television and movies,’ which scored fourth place (out of seven) in terms of influence, while notable sources like university websites and even the ‘school career advisor’ sat back in sixth and seventh.

What this tells us it that student decisions are clearly clouded by dated stereotypes (often perpetuated by parents) and the unrealistic media perceptions of particular industries. Take forensic psychology, for example. Not only is psychology the third highest preferred profession listed by The Footnotes student users, forensic psychology was searched on the site 234 times last month alone. Students are imagining a career that emulates a scene from CSI Miami. Rather than the tedious statistic-based lab job that it actually is. Nor how small the forensic psychology industry even is in Australia!

So, it’s not hard to understand the connection between misinformation and today’s drop out rate for first year students. In fact, the drop out rate is the highest it has even been with one in five students dropping out of a course within the first 12 months of enrolment. Students are picking courses with little insight. In fact, a recent The Footnotes survey revealed that students are even picking where they will study before they pick what they study.

What’s difficult to understand - is how to fix the problem. How to curb the drop out rate.

Do we continue to tell students to research career information thoroughly? - <eye roll> – ‘Yes, but I already say this,’ says every career advisor reading this.

Do we tell students that an ATAR entry score isn’t an indication of the prestige of a course, rather an indication of popularity? - <eye roll’> - ‘Yes, but I already say this,’ says every career advisor reading this.

Do we remind students that in Australia we’re lucky enough to have an extraordinary range of high-quality universities in just about every city, and that in fact, many are in the top one per cent of universities world-wide? This means that you don’t need to try and discriminate between universities based on their ‘prestige’. Just pick a course you like; <eye roll> – ‘Yes, but I already say this,’ says every career advisor reading this.

We need to start sharing this message in a new way, because right now these golden pieces of career advice are getting lost.

The Careers Department is a tool designed to solve this problem.

When people say they don’t know what they want to ‘be’ when they grow up, that’s because they don’t know how to ask the right questions. The Careers Department puts career information in a format that asks the right questions.

‘We [The Careers Department] tell students time after time that your Mum can’t really tell you what to do. Your favourite teacher, or whomever you’ve decided is a mentor to you — your best friend, your heroes - a celebrity! They can help guide you. They can ask all the smart questions, but the answers can only come from them,’ Warmoll explains.

The tool aims to curb the ‘where do I even start’ problem that so many students experience and it helps unlock industries that students may have not even considered in a format they want to engage in.

Career advisors face so many barriers in their role, from lack of face-to-face time, to the students themselves not investing enough time voluntarily in their careers decisions. This tool aims to better connect students, advisors and the wealth of information available to them.

For some students, the careers coconut will fall on their head fairly early on in life while for others, it’s going to take a few twists and turns. Our job is open up careers conversations earlier via innovative platforms to disrupt the ‘noise’ that exists in the careers advice space.

As ironic as it is, I’ll finish off with some advice that Mum gave me, and that is, “there are some things in this world you cannot rush”, and I must agree, because finding the pathway to the right course out of school is one of them.



students career advice parents careers education
Read this next

Four pieces of university advice that parents need to stop giving their children

There are many traps you can fall into as a parent, and giving career advice, this has incredible potential to either propel or to limit the...

You might enjoy

Current university students share advice on what they would do differently when choosing a course

We spoke to students on campus at the University of Sydney and asked them what they would tell a high school student who doesn’t know where...