TikTok videos confuse student decision-making

April 02, 2023 - 08:07
Compared to the old days when children were obedient to their parents, online social trends and content, particularly on TikTok, play an increasingly important role in determining a 12th grader’s future academic path.
Illustration by Trịnh Lập

By An Phương

March every year is the peak time for high school students to make important decisions in their academic life. Choosing majors and universities to attend adds a lot of stress to students already caught up in final exams.

Compared to the old days when children were obedient to their parents, online social trends and content, particularly on TikTok, play an increasingly important role in determining a 12th grader’s future academic path.

I have recently had a discussion with some of my close friends, aged between 25 and 31, and we all agree that social media used to have lesser impact on finding the ideal university and educational path.

“I was quite certain about my college choice back then. Parental advice, together with my acknowledgement of personal strengths and weaknesses, shaped my decision to attend the HCM City Pedagogical University,” my friend Thuý Võ, 29, said.

These days, English language, pedagogy, human resources, marketing and especially business administration are deemed by many TikTokers as “useless” majors that students need to avoid.

These subjects are seen as competitive to find a job, easy to get laid off, and, it is claimed, students will “learn nothing” studying these areas.

According to TikToker H.D., graduates from business administration major can only work as salespeople or marketers, which "anyone from other academic backgrounds can also deliver!"

He claimed that "since everyone studies English these days, it is 'useless' to pursue a degree in English language". He then encouraged viewers to pick other majors and attend IELTS courses instead.

Meanwhile, TikToker T.đ.h considered History and Politics to be too "particular" and suggested that those graduating from these two majors can only work for public agencies, while a job in those offices is hard to secure.

To be honest, I was not surprised at how TikTokers came after the topic, but there were various comments left by social media users under a number of videos, saying they were having second thoughts or doubting their choice of career path.

“Many of them are under 18 years old!” said Thuỷ Đào, 27, an English language major who currently works for a technology startup.

“Even though I admit I had a hard time deciding what to study in college and English language was a convenient decision, I would never think of any subject as 'useless'. Of course, it is more competitive to find jobs when the number of individuals looking for employment exceeds the number of available positions, and English language was one of most popular academic disciplines during my time. However, in addition to education, experience and skills are necessary for a fresh graduate to stand out in the job market.”

Another friend said her academic journey was a tough one. Although she graduated as a potential high school teacher, she then worked in an HR department for several years.

“It was challenging to nail a job in education, but soft skills collected during my college days gave me a competitive advantage to find a proper job in HR in a well-known firm,” she said.

“Now that I have had a bigger picture of the working industry, I have decided to sign up for a master's degree so that I can be the teacher that I have always aspired to be in the future.

“What we pursue in college does not dictate what we do afterwards. Often, we need to be realistic and expect that things might turn out entirely different from our major."

Vũ Nguyễn, 31, currently a product manager of a health and beauty firm, said that when he was young and inexperienced, the many major choices confused him. However, he was determined to learn as many soft skills as possible so that he would be up to any job related to what he learnt in school.

“Choosing the major that suits one’s ability and interest while staying eager and always ready for new challenges has been my motto, and it works!” he said.

While the younger generation might see social media as being helpful sources of information in determining career goals, it is essential to recognise legitimate sources of inspiration.

“I’m uncertain whether the purpose of recent TikTok videos on the matter is to generate views or to promote other majors, but it has caused unnecessary confusion.” Thuỷ said.

In my view, TikTok videos, which are usually short, cannot fully and properly convey the topic. Therefore, parents and students need to stay informed using reliable sources of information from the Ministry of Education and Training, universities and the press.

“Most people who make career-oriented content on TikTok do not have sufficient data to form well-rounded advice. Those videos are too personal and often negative!” Vũ said.

With the virality of such content, universities and colleges definitely have a difficult time correcting misleading information.

The Ministry of Education and Training has strongly recommended schools to carefully look at the labour market and needs of young people to provide a better training environment and methods.

According to Vice President of HCM City University of Agriculture and Forestry Trần Đình Lý, all training courses are based on real market demand. Candidates should be aware of misleading information which might affect their opportunities to enter the fields and schools they love. - VNS