Photographs: Rediff Archives Disha Pinge
Here you are, with your class X marksheet in hand and a confusion of thoughts in your head, trying to make a decision that will probably affect the rest of your life.
Today, the courses on offer are varied and there are many colleges that offer specialised programmes. But here lies the predicament: when there is so much to choose from, which stream is the best choice? For many, the decision is based on the subjects they chose or like in class X, but you're choice does not have to be limited to them. It is good to know what each stream entails and what options it will open up for you in the future.
Besides, the regular arts, commerce and science courses, universities all over the country are coming up with interesting options for students. For example, the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai offers a course called the MBA-Tech. This is a five-year integrated course with features of both engineering and management studies.
Many universities, both government and private, offer courses is management, mass media, mass communication, geology and every other subject imaginable. Prestigious institutes like TISS and TERI offer some very interesting and well-designed academic courses as well.
So before you decide that arts is the easiest to get through or commerce offers the widest scope, do a little research on the kind of job you are interested in and the courses that will help you get that job. Once you have a clearer idea of what you want to do, you will be better equipped to choose your stream. To help make the decision a littel easier, here we take a look at what each stream offers.
A tough but rewarding stream: Science
Contrary to popular belief, science isn't just for the nerds.
It'll introduce you to the fantastic world of physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. But you need to have an aptitude for the subject. It can be very tough, but at the same time, science will open up some great avenues.
Now, the primary option is to do BSc. While earlier there were just the basic subjects such as maths, physics, chemistry and biology. Today, there is microbiology, information technology, computers, biotech, and a horde of new options. Depending on which university you are in, a variety of subjects may be offered.
Some institutes, like BITS offer MSc Integrated, which is a straight five-year course after class XII. Other more popular courses such as medicine, engineering and veterinary sciences also are good options, after class XII. Even architecture is closely associated with the stream but is also inclined towards arts.
There is, however, tough competition in this field. Science is considered, at least in our society, more honourable than the others. There is often family pressure and other factors that lead students to choose science. But science can be a bad idea if you don't have the aptitude. It requires several skills including a lot of concentration. Once you've made up your mind, get ready to dive headlong into a world of books and lab coats and funny smelling chemicals! A naturally inquisitive mind and dedication to studies are of utmost importance.
Science also requires that you do PCM in std XII in case you wnat to study microbiology or medicine, you also need biology.
Says Eisha Mhatre, a TYBSc student of microbiology in Wilson College, Mumbai: "I first took up science only because I scored well in my board exams. But after attending a couple of counselling sessions in Wilson College and Ruia College, I made up my mind to take up microbiology."
Like many others, Eisha also attempted medical entrance exams but lost interest when she couldn't find the course of her choice. "I am fascinated by microbiology. The whole experience of looking through a microscope and observing such minute organisms is just awesome."
Science really isn't the monster that it is often made out to be though. With the right approach, science can be quite a joy. For some, it has even become a passion. Allwyn Pereira, a final year student of biotechnology, says, "The subject of biology has always captured my imagination. One of the main reasons that led me to choose the field of science for my graduation was my urge to understand the basic principles that control life and then later on by taking up a career in research to find solutions to some of the problems that plague mankind, for example, diseases like cancer and contributing towards finding an effective therapy for it."
A numbers game: Commerce
Welcome to the world of numbers and balance sheets. This is where you'll learn about one of the most important aspect of our world -- money!
Commerce is all about financial management. In this you can graduate in a wide range a subjects -- right from finance and accounting to travel and tourism. Universities all over the country offer these courses. Commerce (or BCom) will also lay the foundation for a highly lucrative career choice -- chartered accountancy.
Now the most important prerequisite for choosing commerce is that you must fall in love with the concepts of accounting and mathematical calculations should interest you. If this is not the case, the course will become very boring and you can easily lose interest.
However, once you are into it, the subject can be fascinating. It is also one field that will be rarely affected by many factors. CAs are always needed. Also, Bcom itself isn't a very rigorous course. If you aren't studying for CA exams, you will have plenty of time on your hands to pursue other hobbies and interests. Unlike science, in the first couple of years at least, you can spend a lot of time on other activities.
Once you do graduate, there are a number of other post-graduate courses you can opt for. MBA, ICFA, CA and CS are just some of them. Financial management is the most crucial aspect of any business, and you can make a foray into the field.
Sumit Shah is currently studying in FYBCom in HR College, Mumbai. "I was mainly interested in business, which is why I chose to do commerce," he says. "It is a very interesting stream, especially subjects like accounts. Commerce has helped me make sense of the world around me in business terms."
But there are its negatives also. "There is a lot of theory to be studied and it requires some amount of mugging," he admits. "But there are so many new subjects introduced in the curriculum that it definitely makes for all round development."
Off the beaten path: Arts
This is probably the most underrated stream of all. Parents and students alike believe that arts is a stream for those who don't get into science and don't want commerce, which is not true. Arts is a very interesting field and has more scope in the real world than we imagine.
Arts is not just about 'artist type' people who are found more outside college than in the classroom! There are many subjects that you could major in, ranging from philosophy to psychology to sociology. A BA is the ideal course to do if your interest lies in making a career out of a non-academic field such as music or choreography or even in journalism or media for that matter.
"The main reason I took up arts was because I wanted to the have time and opportunity to do lots of things while I attend college," says Ryan Thomas, who is currently in SYBA and also works part time in an event management company. "And besides, I love English literature. It is so much fun!" he adds.
Arts will give you all the time in the world to pursue your interests. In fact, in many cases, you could actually use your interests as a means of studying your academics. Case in point being, that dance is often a product of many sociological processes.
There are also many prestigious colleges offering a bachelor's degree in arts. Premier institutes like St Stephen's in Delhi have cut-offs as high as 95 per cent for BA.
Besides, one interesting career option is also teaching. The one most important thing about arts is that, unlike science and Commerce, you need not have any prerequisite subjects in class X. This makes admission more flexible, while the course itself is interesting and enjoyable.
These are the three streams most colleges offer but before you take the plunge, make sure you have sufficient information about the course and make an informed decision.
Many students, after spending a year in a particular stream realise that they aren't cut out for it and then change streams. Shahista Sheikh, after doing BSc for one year realised that she wasn't really interested in it. She changed her stream and is now pursuing a bachelor's degree in mass media.
"I was very keen on doing medicine, but I realised after giving the entrance exam that I probably wouldn't get through. So, I ended up taking BSc by default. It was only after a year that my parents also began to notice that I really wasn't enjoying the course."
Shahista had many friends pursuing BMM and on reading up more about the course, she made up her mind to go in for it. She is now in her second year of the course and is thoroughly enjoying it.
So, while you do have the option of changing your mind a year or two into college, it is wiser to do your research now and make an well-informed, balanced decision.