Many factors influence the teenagers’ choice of study field. The university, the city, the significant others, as well as factor related to the teenagers’ personality, experiences and skills.
The “city or university” dilemma
When teenagers are about to make their final decisions in relation to their field of study, i.e., when they are filling in their application form for admission to higher education, or when they are applying to a university abroad or to a private, technical or vocational school, etc., a number of things play an important part:
- The reputation of the educational institute.
- The city where the university is located.
It is quite common for students to choose their study field based on the quality of life at the university city, rather than the courses offered by the university or the formal qualifications they will obtain upon graduating. If the choice of study field is based on the university city, students may be limited or misguided in their choices, and consequently may fail to choose their ideal study field. In this case, students may lose track of their actual interests.
Example: Anna lives in Argos and dreams about studying in Athens and becoming a lawyer. Even though her exam scores allow her to register at the Law School in Komotini, because she hates living in a small town, she will choose to register at the Faculty of Communication and Media in Athens, where she can experience the university life she always dreamt of.
Another factor influencing students’ choices is the financial burden that falls on the family if the students have to study in a different city or country. Because of this, teenagers may need to change their original choices. For example, one teenager did not register at the Psychology Department in Thessaloniki because his family could support him financially. Therefore, he decided to study Literature or Pedagogy, since he can attend these schools in Athens, where his family lives.
The significant others
The significant others who determine or influence teenagers’ career choices are:
- Parents – They may narrow the teenagers’ choices, forcing their own professions onto them.
- Siblings – They may serve as role models or cautionary tales, depending on the relationship between them.
- Teachers – They may influence the teenagers’ choices as they evaluate their learning progress, potentially outlining their future path (e.g. “You will go to Med School because you are an excellent student”). Sometimes they serve as role models, inspiring students, and other times they have a negative influence, turning students off the school subject they teach and the professions or fields of study related to it.
- Stars/Celebrities – Stars and social media celebrities who are successful in what they do may influence students’ career choices.
- Friends – They may influence many decisions teenagers make, such as their choice of senior high school subjects or university.
There are certain basic and fundamental factors playing a decisive role in the teenagers’ ultimate career choices. These factors are:
- Ability to make quick decisions – The amount of time an individual needs to make a decision, once all relevant information is available to them, may significantly affect the quality of their ultimate choice.
- Emotional maturity – The ability of an individual to think maturely, to be conscious of their own feelings and to respect the feelings of others around them, while also being aware of their weaknesses and emotional limitations, and factoring them into their decisions.
- Development mentality – The ability of an individual to think with an external or internal locus of control. In other words, whether the individual believes their path depends on external factors or feel they are primarily responsible for the choices and consequences of their actions.
- Need to take advice from others.
- Ability to listen, understand and accept different views.
- Dependencies that may limit personal autonomy and self-determination – For example, having a desire to please others and avoid the responsibility of making decisions, waiting for others to do it for you.
- Ability to collect information – Information about anything that concerns them and helps them make rational judgements about the facts that lie before them.
- Random life-changing events – Events that have influenced profoundly the individual, altering their way of thinking, values and priorities (e.g. sickness, death of a loved one, war, natural disasters, relocations, etc.).
The tips were compiled by Vicki Pavlidi, Special Educator (MA), Educational Psychologist (MSc, HCPC/UK) and Career Counsellor (MA).