Preparing for a major decision
Published: May 06, 2013 05:33 PM


Illustration: Chen Xia/GT
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT


In April, Shanghai's education authority issued a warning about 15 degree courses, just as 60,000 senior high school graduates were preparing to choose a major for their four-year university life starting this September. The "blacklisted" majors include Japanese, industrial and commercial administration, information management and systems, and marketing.


The basic reason for this announcement is the oversupply of these courses at many universities, and the resultant low employment rate of graduates in these majors. This year Shanghai alone has more than 170,000 college graduates.


The public naturally feels sympathy for students of these majors, worrying about their future and fate.


While many would criticize the authorities for allowing the over proliferation of certain majors across the country, I would point out that students ultimately need to take responsibility for their own education and career decisions.


When a student is considering a major, he or she shouldn't blindly follow the advice of teachers, parents or so-called experts.


Most Chinese students are 18 or 19 years old when they graduate from senior high school after 12 years of education. At this age, a student should be able to make their own considered judgments and decisions.


And every student needs to be objective and candid when it comes to analyzing their own strengths and weaknesses. They need to thoroughly evaluate themselves alongside their peers, and to note what advantages and disadvantages they may have in respect to others. They should be aware of their personal interests and of the influence and support they may be able to call on from their family network. In fact, this last consideration may be the most important factor of all when it comes to making academic plans.


Ideally, by doing some online research and through communicating with teachers and family members, a student should be smart enough to estimate a certain career's employment prospects, and supply and demand situation at the end of their four-year course.


Some may argue this is beyond the abilities of the most farsighted student but, regardless, I would add that independent thinking and analytical skills are necessary weapons for any student who wants to stand out after university finishes. Opportunities will only favor those who are prepared.


Students born in the 1990s face a very tough employment landscape at the moment. While many recent graduates struggle to find a job, their predicament is compounded by the fact that older workers are being encouraged to delay their retirement by five years.


So, now we have ever more young people chasing fewer and fewer vacancies. Even if you have graduated in a "good" major as a top student, you will still need a certain amount of luck in finding the most ordinary of jobs. So making preparations for this situation four years in advance, I would say, is the least that concerned students should be doing.


And this ability to prepare and to plan for the future does not only apply to the job market; these skills should also be applied to a wide range of life decisions including romance, marriage and family.


We all need to coolly assess our situation in life, and to be honest with ourselves about what we can realistically achieve.

Choosing the right major is just one test of such foresightedness. And in a highly competitive society I believe this is the only way to develop and survive.