Lakhs of students across the country would be making crucial career decisions of their lives during the next couple of months. Many would be deciding about their professional courses. Many would be deciding about their stream in Plus Two which in turn has a bearing on the options open to them two years down the line. Any curious observer is likely to see a hysterical herd mentality in action.
The South Indian obsession with medical and engineering degrees has been a subject of discussion in many forums. The obsession still remains! Every one joins the coaching centre with the highest enrolment, overlooking factors like personal attention, location disadvantage, stress factors etc which can work against you. Parents usually find solace in the aspect that they have enrolled their child in a coaching centre which is supposed to be the best and hence assumed to be the best choice for their child. There in not much thought given to the individual match and other concerns. The presumption is that ‘What is good for majority is good for me as well’.
We have been witnessing such herd mentality in action year after year during engineering admissions. Admissions to the branch IT or Information Technology in Kerala is a case in point. The course has the best aspects of Computer Science and Electronics and the syllabus is the most up to date among the engineering streams. The students of this branch get opportunities in all the IT companies which are the major recruiters from campuses. Many good colleges offer the course. But still it is not a popular choice even after a decade since its inception because it was not popular in the first couple of years.
The same is applicable to college selection as well. Many a time, the sole comparison parameter for a college happens to be the last rank (The rank of the last student who got admitted to a college – course in a particular category) of admission for the previous year. A better last rank is seen as an indicator of the quality of the program. We have seen that the last rank has a strong correlation to the fee structure. Lower fee is the reason for many choosing a particular college. There is nothing wrong in doing that. But the problem comes when a person who has the means to go for a better college chooses another, because it is a popular choice by virtue of a lower fee and presumes it to be the better option for him as well.
I had the occasion to observe the herd behaviour in decision making first hand when our team was marketing a CAP based decision support system last month. We were addressing parents of Plus Two students. After a product briefing, if two of them buy the product then all of them are likely to buy it. If the first person to respond says a “No” then others would mostly follow suit. This herd mentality in decision making happens with almost all decisions – even the critical ones. Combine this with scepticism to anything new, especially if it is marketed, everyone is happy repeating the old mistakes. They find comfort in the numbers who are along with them.
It is time to take a relook at the decision making process. What is good for your cousin is not necessarily good for you. The right choice for your friend could turn out to be a disaster in your case. Majority is not always right.
Career decision that you have to take as a teenager is going to decide your future. You need to involve your parents, consult others and seek expert advice. But at the end, you should have the conviction that you are making the right choice, the best possible one under the given constraints, the Informed Choice.