There are very few people who can give young people precise, practical and inspirational advice. Dr Amrita Dass is one of them. She is the Founder-Director of the Institute for Career Studies, (ICS International), Lucknow, India.
I recently watched her in a 2.5 minute TV interview where she gave some profound advice to youngsters who are completing their final school exams and getting ready to enter college/university.
In an attempt to get answers to some of the top-of-mind questions that youth have on this topic, I interviewed her. Here are some excerpts of the interview:
1. How can one make the best of his/her university life?
Dr Amrita Dass: Students need to bring together capability, copability and responsibility. Capability is enhanced if the undergraduate courses they have chosen resonate with their aptitudes and interests. Self-discipline, effective time management wherein students prioritise the ‘musts, shoulds and coulds’, maintaining good relations, leisure activities, a nutritious diet and a positive attitude are the essential building blocks of copability. Responsibility encompasses meeting all your commitments to the best of your ability, being dependable and accountable for your actions.
Moreover, during under grad studies, students should explore possibilities of internships as this will give them valuable insights into the world of work and develop the essential employability skills. The Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (AIESEC) is a global organisation with a strong presence in colleges and universities that provides such opportunities.
2. If you don’t like the course you get the admission in, what can you do?
Dr Amrita Dass: There could be many reasons for not liking the course you have got into. You may find that the teaching is not up to the mark, or the classes are not held regularly or the overall environment is not conducive and you are finding it difficult to adjust or you are in a city, far away from home and homesick.
Remember that you are not the only one facing such problems which I would describe as “teething problems” and therefore temporary. Become an intrinsically motivated learner by reading reference books, researching and doing project work. Make new friends, participate in extra-curricular activities by joining a society/club in your college and seek avenues that will tap your potential to the fullest. I believe that “when the road gets tough, the tough get going”!
However, if the course is one that you had not really explored and you discover that it does not gel with you, then the earlier you opt out in favour of the right course at the right campus, the better!
3. If one does not get admission in the desired course, is it OK to take a gap year? If yes, how to make the best of the gap year?
Dr Amrita Dass: Please avoid taking up any course that you are offered randomly as this will not tap your potential to the fullest. A gap year is advisable if you are not sure about what course you wish to pursue or have not managed to get the course of your choice at a leading campus.
There are many ways to make your gap year a meaningful and enriching one. You could, for example, pursue some interesting free online courses delivered by eminent faculty through coursera.org. Alongside, you could take master classes to hone your talent in art and design, music, dance, acting, culinary arts or sports etc. A gap year could also be utilised for community service which is a huge learning experience and also adds value to your application to top universities, or internships to provide insights about careers you are exploring.
Before I close, I want to share what Dr Dass had told me years ago, “If you have good communication skills and a positive attitude, no one can stop you from achieving your career goals”. This has remained a mantra of life for me. I would like my young friends to work on improving their communications skills and developing a positive attitude.