How to Choose the Best College Course, According to People Who’ve Been There

"Strike a balance between passion and practicality."
by Bianca Custodio   |  Oct 9, 2021
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“College will be some of the best years of your life.” I’ve always heard this phrase growing up, and as someone who’s successfully made it alive to senior year, I *think* I can finally attest to it! College hasn’t been particularly easy, no, but between all the crazy new adventures I’ve been on and all the incredible people I’ve met, I can definitely say that I’ll be walking out of these four years with some of the best memories, friendships, and lessons I’ll ever have in this lifetime. And one of the things that’s made it incredibly fulfilling is actually studying in a course I believe is best suited for me. 

I’d say that choosing a course that fits you best is already winning half the battle. Some people may figure out their dream course at a young age, while others only discover theirs after a few months (or even years) in university. And guess what? Both are completely normal! We all live according to our own timelines, and only we can decide what truly is the "best" for us at the end of the day. Still, whether you’ve been dead set on a particular degree for years or you’re still trying to decipher what it is you *really* want to pursue as an adult, it’s also never a bad idea to seek guidance from those who’ve been in your shoes once upon a time. 

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So if you’re stuck and don’t know where to go or you just need a little affirmation to know that you’re setting yourself on the right track, then you’ve come to the right place! We asked three undergraduate students and three graduated professionals to give us their best pieces of advice on choosing the best college course for you.

Here are six meaningful tips to keep in mind when choosing your college course, according to people who’ve been there:

“Know your priorities.” 

Jhannah Capistrano is a graduating student taking up BA Broadcast Communication at UP Diliman—a course she only shifted into after spending her first two years as a BA Political Science major. “I chose my first course because it sounded fancy,” she tells us. (LOL, who else can relate?) Jhannah shares that while she is interested in politics, she wasn’t sure if she was willing to learn about it for the next four years of her life. 

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“There’s really no formula,” she says, “Based on experience, knowing my personal priorities helped me decide. What do you prioritize? Your passion? Your calling? Your family’s dreams for you? A fun time in college? A fancy-sounding degree? I think only you can answer that.” 

It’s easy to base our college decisions off of what we’ve been told or what we’ve seen has brought other people to success, but at the end of the day, we need to be able to listen to ourselves. We all have different priorities. Sorting through these is a good first step in deciphering what college course would be suitable for you and for your future goals.

“Don't limit your college options.” 

Patty Custodio is one of the few that decided to take a leap and transfer out of the prestigious UP Diliman. “I felt completely lost in UP,” she shares. “I felt very useless and was in a very dark place at the time.” 

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Patty shares that while she was always passionate about music, she was advised to take up BS Business Administration for the sake of practicality. But after failing a class and being cut off from the program, it didn’t take long for her to realize she wasn’t meant to be there. After two long years of being a floating student, she found out about the BS Music Business Management (MBM) program in Meridian International College (otherwise known as MINT). The course was both a mixture of business and music—which was *exactly* what she wanted to study. 

Despite the many voices telling her it was sayang to leave UP, Patty decided to take the leap anyway and even received a 70-percent scholarship! It was a scary process, but now in her third year, she’s experienced many opportunities that she would’ve missed out on had it not been for that leap of faith. “Now, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be,” she shares.

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When choosing a college course, it’s easy to limit ourselves to the big universities we’ve grown up hearing about. And while aiming for them isn’t necessarily bad, when we decide to magnify the university more than our desired course or field of study, we may be robbing ourselves of the chance to learn what we’re truly interested in. Each university offers an array of courses that may only be specific to them, so make sure to do your research and don’t be afraid to step out of your current roster of universities!

“Strike a balance between passion and practicality.” 

As an undergraduate student in the University of the Philippines Los Baños, MJ Bernal shares that she considered both her interests and the career paths she wanted to take in the future when she chose to pursue a degree in BA Communication Arts. 

“If you can,” MJ shares, “choose a course that will lead you to the career path you see yourself being devoted to. [...] Try to strike a balance between passion and practicality. It’s good to enjoy what you study, but it’s also important to envision how this course will shape your future.”

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College is all about finding yourself, what you’re truly passionate about, and what you’re good at. But it is also a time to prepare for the future ahead of you. Do ample research not only on the university you plan to go to and the program you’re planning to take, but also on the career opportunities that will open for graduates of the said course. It can also be a good time to ask yourself what kind of career you want to venture into after you graduate.

“Seek advice from your trusted friends and family.”

A really underrated piece of advice, if you ask me! Brijette Esteva is a BS Nursing graduate from the University of Santo Tomas. As someone who didn’t initially go to college for Nursing, one thing Brijette learned along the way was that, when you’re feeling lost, it’s important to have people around you to remind you of your potential and even your own dreams. Like many university students, Brijette was planning to shift to her dream course, Psychology, after a year of taking up the course she was accepted into. But when the opportunity to shift to her dream course closed, she had absolutely no idea where to go. That is, until she was reminded and affirmed by her loved ones of her childhood dream to become a nurse. An unplanned venture to which she said, why not

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“Don’t pressure yourself too much,” Brijette advises. “I know that's easier said than done, but when there is too much pressure, we don't get to think clearly.” 

And the best way to relieve yourself of all the pressure is to lean on those you trust! When deciding on your college course, don’t go through it alone! Grab a friend or a close family member and process your thoughts, plans, or doubts with them. Who knows? They might point out a dream of yours that you may have forgotten yourself.

“Choose a field of study you will be motivated to finish.”

Four years may seem like a short amount of time on paper, but, boy, it really isn't. And chances are, it’ll feel even *longer* when your motivation for your chosen course isn’t enough to carry you through to the finish line. This is one advice that filmmaker and photographer Maqui Castello hopes to share to those who are in the midst of deciding on their college course.

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“If you enjoy your course, then learning won’t be a drag and you’d find enjoyment in it even when it’s hard,” Maqui shares. “Your college course isn’t a make or break for your future. But it would be nice if it would help you in some way to prepare you for the future you want.”

“Choose what you love to do.” 

Chelo Gemina is the artistic director of her own successful ballet company called ACTS Manila and is known to be an inspiring mentor to many young dancers in the Philippines. She graduated from UP Diliman with an AB Degree in English. And while her course isn’t directly related to her current line of work today nor her ballet career at the time, Ms. Chelo shares that she absolutely *loved* her course and still considers it to be useful to her today. Which is why, when asked if there are factors one should consider when picking their college course, she cites only one: choose what you love to do

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“We pass this life once,” Ms Chelo states. “We are young only for a season. Make it count. Learn all you can (not only in college) about what you are passionate about and ignite it so that the career sniffs you even before graduation. Such is the path of champions.”

In the midst of big decisions like this, it’s easy to be so caught up in all our plans that we forget we live such a short life. While there are priorities to consider, options to weigh, and a future to envision and prep for, it’s also equally or even more important to take the plunge and go after what you desire. “Go for the stars! Diamonds will follow.”

READ MORE:

I Regretted Shifting Courses, So Here's How I Coped

Students Share the Advantages of Taking Up an 'Unpopular' Course

It's Normal to Love Your Course Even if You're Not Good at It

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'I Felt Lost in My Dream Course, but College Organizations Helped Keep Me Grounded'

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Bianca Custodio
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