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Confusion over Career Choices in COVID Era

Posted by Dr. Dhaarna Bhardwaj
Published on : 2020-10-23

Anxiety and confusion prevail as COVID derails the plans of prospective college students

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inevitable imperative.” Many years later corona virus has made us realize the significance of this quote. These times have been nightmarish for the vast majority of students who aspire for higher education. The constant shifting of deadlines of leading universities and competitive exams have induced a nervous dread.
The College goers have a different reaction to this changed milieu, lot of confusion still prevails -

  • What should be the next step?
  • Do my grades reflect my true ability?
  • Shall I opt for a gap year?
  • Will colleges open in time and will I be able to choose the right course?
  • Does going to a foreign university makes sense now?
  • How will this new college life be without freshers' & majority being online classes?
  • What about internships or entering the world of work this year?

As the results are out, many students are feeling confused and want to reconsider their career choices amidst the trend of rising cut-offs this year according to various university officials. Bearing in mind that there is a very minor difference between a student who scores 98% from one who scores 97.5%, the cut-offs play a vital role in deciding their future prospects.

This very fact has led many deserving students suffer as they scored low due to the marks being averaged out as their papers were cancelled. Additionally, India has acute shortage of good institutions where there is a fierce competition and now COVID played the spoil sport.

I recently counselled a student who is an aspiring sportsperson who came for career counselling as he had to pay a heavy price due to the sport events being cancelled this year and he had not seriously prepared for any entrance exams.

Those students who were focusing on their Medical or Engineering Entrance Exams also had to bear the brunt due to exam being rescheduled umpteen times. Many students ushered in for counselling to overcome the anxiety and worry for the future.

Impact of shutting down of colleges is beyond academics as well. The youngsters are missing social interactions with their friends. Depression, anxiety and stress are nothing but a natural fallout of this desolation. Parents are worried about the safety and hygiene outside the campus resulting in dwindling outstation admissions.

Visa issues and travel restrictions across the globe have adversely affected the foreign university admissions this year as majority of Universities opted for online instructions.

Parents also are worried about the futility of online classes against the colossal fee they would pay. The American Council on Education has projected a 25 percent drop in international enrolment this year, according to the New York Times.

So, the takeaway for us is that if life is giving lemons, let us make lemonade, right?

  • Let us adopt positive mental attitude and focus on what we can still do rather than what we can’t.
  • Consider gap year as an opportunity to self-explore before taking a deep dive into any career.
  • Enroll in MOOC courses, webinars, conferences and seminars.
  • Have counselling sessions for better career choices or to deal with distress.
  • Go for virtual internships for good placement opportunities.
  • Attend Virtual Career Fairs.
  • Participate in online fests and events.
  • Go for volunteer work which may really be impressive to future employer.

Parents can empathize with children who may have suffered a setback of disappointing exam results, or cancelled travel plans or internships.

Guide them to have back up plans.

Go for specialized courses (Data Science, AI) rather than going for plain bachelors in Computers for instance. Data Science and AI are important skills for any industry or career, can be online studied alongside any other course like Cognitive Psychology, Biomedical research and Economics.

We need to accept the fact that “it is not so much what happens in life that defines us” as how we respond to it.

Dr Dhaarna Bhardwaj is an expert Psychotherapist and Career Counsellor. She can be reached at

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