The pressure, particularly for strong students, to pursue a traditional degree at a traditional institution is very strong.
This is according to education expert Dr Felicity Coughlan, director of The Independent Institute of Education (IIE).
"High-performing students –– who are often the ones who have the most choices –– still find themselves doing something they do not actually want to do, or being somewhere that does not match their personal needs," she has observed.
In Coughlan's experience, it's often the case that:
- learners opt to study a particular course because of pressure and expectations from parents, teachers or friends;
- they opt for a standard 3-year degree without knowing much about what it entails;
- they apply for the same qualifications or at the same institutions as their friends.
Coughlan believes this may be a recipe for disaster.
High-performing students – who are often the ones who have the most choices – still find themselves doing something they do not actually want to do.
"SA's first-year dropout rate is significant, but at an individual level, this costly outcome could in many instances have been avoided, if prospective students took more time to ensure they investigated all offerings in terms of institutions and qualifications," she said.
Choices about tertiary education must be based on a thorough assessment of the fit between personal aspiration, circumstances, and the institutional choices available. And if a prospective student is already having second thoughts, the time to reassess is now, while there is still time, she believes.
This advice also holds true for matriculants who may have been pleasantly surprised with their results, achieving a Bachelor's pass when they didn't expect it, or achieving top scores when they expected more modest ones.
"If you haven't yet made study plans, and you did better than you thought you would, or you were too late and now do not have a place, it makes sense to use the month that you have now to be sure about what you are doing."