The subject matter above is perhaps one of the most populous phrases vocational counsellors and many academics may have heard. The author chooses Law because his personal experience is more on Law admission seekers than Medicine and other programmes – although Medicine is another area generating many career clashes.

Over the years, many parents had often nurtured the pathways their children will follow academically. Findings from numerous studies have indicated that many socio-economically buoyant and educated parents have a programme of study their wards should study and their insistence (willpower) on what they want is stronger than their children’.

Some parents are lawyers and want one or few of their kids to take after their profession. For some other parents, they may not be educated but have suffered the disadvantage of not being educated. Some parents’ lands have been taken from them through oppression and court cases, some suffered humiliation; yet, others experienced the lack of esteem in gathering of the educated. Consequently, it has become a matter of “do or die” that their kids must not only be educated but must study a particular programme that will place their children in their pride of place in society.

Consequent upon the above, it is extremely difficult to persuade these crops of parents to allow their kids take up a career that their aptitude and interest match rather than what they really want. To them, a child can be taught to know just anything – but that is far from the truth in many instances. The set of parents in this category see it as their obligation to select and impose a career on their wards. Although many of these cases had gone wrong, some others went on fine as though the imposed programme was their original course of study. Let us take a glance at instances of career imposition.

Case I:

Otega’s* father have a medicine shop. Her father’s level of education to own a medicine shop is unknown. However, he wanted Otega to study Medicine at all cost. The mother wouldn’t dare give Otega junk foods because the brain with which Otega will read Medicine must not eat junk foods. Fortunately enough, Otega got Medicine in the Niger Delta University and is more than doing well. This is one fortunate case as we shall see in subsequent cases.

Case II:

Mirabel# wanted to study Theatre Arts but her father wanted Law. Mirabel has been trying to gain admission into Law but all her attempts has been futile. In her first attempt, her scores were very ok, but the population of admission seekers in her institution of choice did not allow her to stand a chance. In her second year of attempt, the father’s insistence on Law was still very much passionate; admission did not come in law but in Agricultural Science. “My daughter will never study Agric” so the father stated unapologetically and Mirabel rejected Agricultural Science. The author happened to be a colleague and friend to Mirabel and all academic attempts to study in the university were initiated at the same time. In the author’s third year in the university, Mirabel got admission to study Philosophy instead of Law. By now, daddy’s wings have been soaked after so much cries from Mirabel. Four years later, Mirabel graduated as a Philosopher and the father’s dream for the daughter of being a Lawyer never came through. In all of these, three years were wasted.

Case III:

Ebiowei<> had passion to study Mass Communication but her father wanted Medicine for him. He obliged and attempted the Medicine. However, as time goes one, Ebiowei got admission to study Medicine but during his MBBS examination to 300 level, the university law did not allow him to pass on to year three because of his performance but to be transferred out of Medicine to another Faculty/programme entirely which is not in any way related to Medical programmes.

A Review of Career Imposition Cases and their Consequences

Many parents have over time directly or indirectly imposed career paths on their wards. Unfortunately, a larger percentage of these parents are not qualified counsellors to understand what it takes to actually study a programme. They impose programmes of study at will and sometimes because prestige is added to the programmes they so love.

Some students have been at home for years with some even forgetting about university education all together as a result of their inability to get the programme their parents/sponsors really want. There have been reports of suicides as a result of failure to attain medical and related programmes in the university. Just in May 2019, a Medical student in the Niger Delta University committed suicide by jumping into the Amassoma river in Bayelsa State Nigeria. It was reported that the parents who earlier wanted Medicine or nothing also wanted the boy to succeed at all cost after getting the Medicine. Unfortunately, the boy failed his MBBS exams and was to be transferred to another Faculty. The thought of his parent’s verbal bully sent the boy to commit the act.

These are the issues in career imposition, that parents don’t actually assess their ward’s interest, aptitude, capabilities amongst other variables before choosing a career for their wards. The consequences of all of these are very grave. Career imposition has resulted in many unwanted circumstances around university education.

Consequences of Career Imposition

To talk about the consequences of career imposition is like writing a whole new book altogether. However, a brief attempt is made in this section. The case of a Niger Delta University medical student above is just one of a million cases bedeviling our dear university students/applicants. Some students have remained at home for years while others left school altogether. Here, let us highlight them one after the other.

  • Suicide: Career imposition can lead to suicidal attempt and consequent suicide. When students are not meeting up with what their parents wants, their parents can easily compare them with their colleagues whom are seen to be very successful in their academic pursuits. This act alone can drive admission applicants crazy and may lead to suicidal thoughts. The suicide thoughts will then find its way to maturity because most of their colleagues at this time must have gone to school while they are still at home pursuing one programme of study. Without any comfort from friends, the result could be fatal.
  • Long stay at home: Career imposition can lead to long stay at home. Many students had been admitted before but rejected their admission because of a different programme given to them. The Nigerian university system is in a state that not all admission applicants in a particular session are admitted at a go. I also believe this is the same case with many other countries. For the Niger Delta University, reports have it that Medicine only admits 80 students per session while Law admits lesser (about 60-70). In some years however, reports of 120 students have been admitted in Medicine and most of them are transferred out of the programme when they fail their MBBS exams in year 2-3. So, because of the volume of admission seekers, not all applicants are often admitted especially in public universities. In line with this perspective, rejecting admission becomes a choice not too wise to take. This is because many applicants who reject admission in a particular year did not even see any admission in the subsequent year, talkless of the one to reject. These are the issues. Now you are rejecting admissions, what are the possibilities that in the following year, you will even be admitted into the least programme?
  • Dropout: Dropping out of school is very easy. This is because the stress of schooling can be daunting and overwhelming at times. Adding another pressure of waiting for one programme before one can go to school, whereas, such admission is not forthcoming can easily make students lose interest in academics and drop out altogether.
  • Poor performance: Since the child did not select his/her programme of study by his/herself, the probability that performance may be poor is very high. There are more cases of poor performance with students on who careers are imposed than cases of high performance.
  • There is also the possibility that the final programme the student may later settle for may be far lesser than what has been rejected. Here, I would not want to measure programmes, but the fact is that at the end of most cases, the programmes that students will later settle for are less preferable to the first programme in which admission was granted. This is an involuntary case of “settle for less”.


The potential for success lies in every individual and in every field of study. Careers have been wasted because of waiting for admission into a particular programme. Unrepentantly determined parents who will never allow their wards to study any other programme except their own imposed programmes have done more harm than good. At the end, they find themselves encouraging the child to accept anything that is granted. These are the issues that parents should consider before imposing programmes.


Based on the above issues, the following suggestions have become imperative.

  1. When an applicant is looking for a particular programme of study, the best approach is to accept any admission given in the first attempt. By this, you are a student first. Then by the next session, you write all exams again and see the programme that will be granted to you. If you are lucky enough to get what you wanted, then forfeit the previous programme and start all over again in your preferred programme, otherwise, just quietly continue where you are. You can repeat this strategy as long as you want to attain a particular programme of study in the university.
  2. Parents should understand that there is what we call capacity and interest in choosing a career and these determine selection, attainment, sustenance and completion of a programme of study in the university.
  3. Not all cases of career imposition are negative. If it cannot be avoided because of existing circumstances, attempt should be made to assist the child to succeed. However, if it is glaring that the child cannot meet up, then career readjustment should be adopted as soon as possible.
  4. Academics is not a ground for competition, therefore, students should be allowed to learn and achieve at their own pace and not be measured against each other as aptitude and capacity differs.
  5. Parents should always seek the assistance of career guidance counsellors (if any) to aid their children make better choices on their programme of choice and not making themselves professional counsellors.

* Original name was not used
# Original name was not used
<> Original name was not used



Do you know? Most of the students whose programmes are chosen for them are actually dependent on their parents for a choice. While the literary world have been largely focused on career imposition, very little or no attempt has been focused on that group of students who actually look up to their parents for a choice. To properly understand career choice dependence, you will want to read one of my publications on the issue Theory Of Career Choice Dependence: A Prime Approach