Different type of students

There are students who go to college without a goal, without learning direction, without future plans, without information about the job market. All they have is a wish that they will get a college degree. These “passive students” often depend on their family to support them. They do not have clear direction about what to do with their education; they go to school because their friends are going to school. They sit in class waiting for teachers to explain things to them, but most of the time information comes in then out of their heads because they never process it. They are not interested in learning anything but only do enough to pass exams. They did it in elementary school and high school without much effort; sometime they even did well because teachers like them. When they go to college, they select easy fields of study, take easy classes, do as little work as they can, and take whatever grades they can get. Many of them failed eventually but they do not care because their family always takes care of them.

In contrast, there are students who take an active part in their education. They go to college with well planned career goals; they carefully research the job market to set direction for their future. They select fields of study based on their passion and ideals because they have goals on what they want to achieve. In school, they always prepare to learn by reading materials before go to class. In class, they are motivated to learn more by asking questions and sharing their understanding with others during discussion. They work hard and try to do their best. These highly “active students” will always do well and when graduate, they have no problem of getting good jobs. At work, they excel and over time they move up to better positions as they continue learning to keep their skills current with the market needs.

However, there are students who understand that a college education is important but do not receive proper guidance to plan their education properly. They are usually the first generation in their family to go to college. Their parents do not know how to advice them about career planning or how to set direction for future plan. They do not know which fields of study to select or how to conduct research on market needs. They often listen to other advices from friends or relatives but these people may not know much either. They do not know how to select the right fields of study, or the right school to attend but often choose nearby school for convenience although that school may not have the field of study that they need or qualified teachers in certain subjects. In school, they are motivated to work hard to achieve their educational goals. Their determination help them to do well but when graduate, if they do not select the right areas that are in high demand, they may not be able to get a job.

Throughout my years of teaching in Asia, I have seen many types of students but the majority of them belong to the third category – students who are motivated to learn but do not receive enough information and guidances to select the right fields of study, the right school to study, and the right place to build their career. Most of them are the first generation in their family to go to college. Many of them come from the country side where their parents are farmers or work in agriculture areas. They carry the hope of the entire family that a college education will help them overcome poverty and many are devastated after receiving college degrees but could not find jobs.

With globalization, the world becomes a highly competitive environment. Not just countries compete with other countries but people would have to compete with others on jobs. Today jobs are no longer being limited within a country's border but with technology they can be anywhere. With foreign language skills, you can work for companies in another country via the internet. You can operate an online store and sell things to people who live from all over the world. That is why education is essential as most future jobs will require a college education. However a college degree is NOT a guarantee for job but students must have certain skills that are in high demand. That is why career planning and educational goals are critical. As college students, you must take it seriously and be active in your pursue of your education. You cannot just drift along, not motivate and not engage in anything. If what you learn are not interested you, change your fields of study into something that excite you. If college in general does not interest you, ask yourself: “Would I be better at another school? This is the time to be honest with yourself. If the school you are at does not offer the field of study that you want, find another and make the change. Do not just passively go through school like living in a dream. You need to wake up. If you are bored because you are not challenged enough then go to the library and find a topic that you like and study it, learn something that excites you. It is possible to change your field of study, change the school or volunteer to do something good for other people. When you are young, keep your life active and keep your mind alert, else you will regret when you are old. As students, you need time to think about their future to determine what you want to do next. Plan your education and your future carefully. It is your life and your future so do not wasting it.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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