Sports, Music or a University Degree?

university degree

So you’re about to finish school and have a strong love and aptitude for doing something less academic orientated. A university degree might not be the path for you.  I’m talking about you sportsman, artists, and musicians. You’ve been excelling in these arenas your whole life, not to mention a lot of hard work you’ve put in to be at that level. The thought of giving that up just doesn’t seem right…is this not what you were born to do? But do you necessarily need to give it up by choosing to study something else or can you keep it going at a level that still tests you and gives you enjoyment?

I was in this very same position and hopefully this article will help you to come to a decision as to your future. This really was the toughest choice I’ve had to make over the course of my life but through careful deliberation and in depth research into the alternatives, in hindsight I believe I made the right call.

What it Takes

Having completed the Gr.8 violin exams with distinction, finished with a solid subject music mark at school, and won various music prizes I felt like the next step would naturally be to study Music at the SACM (UCT). The goal to be the next Josh Bell or the like. I also just enjoyed being around other musicians. So I started to do some digging and here’s what I found out.

To make it big in the classical music arena you have to be nothing short of exceptional. I’m not talking about doing well in any exam or competition; I’m talking August Rush level stuff. It’s an international game and only those who were born prodigies will make it that far. In addition, I had the privilege of going on holiday to Vienna and Berlin during the year following my matric and listened in to first years at their respective music colleges rehearsing. To put myself anywhere near their level would be stupid and so I wont. These are the people that eat, sleep drink music all day and work tirelessly on the finest details to prove their superiority.

If this is the type of person you are, then go for it! This is what you really were born to do! I’d like to just point out that if you are this good then you will more than likely have been approached by those in the know by this stage.

You may think well I’m not in it to be number one, but then consider this: “Is your passion something that you just really enjoy doing? And would such day-in day-out pressure actually be of detriment to the fun of it?” Because if your answer to that is yes or you are even vaguely unsure, then you will quickly require other forms of remuneration i.e. cash and status to keep you motivated. You need to deeply consider whether you can commit to countless hours of practice each day, which will without doubt affect your social life in a big way.

I’d also like to mention that entering any professional environment whether the arts or sport, it’s the same deal. Some of you may have made it into an academy such as my brother who made it into the WP rugby academy. You will face no less intense standards.

You don’t Need to Give it Up

Prior to making the final decision, I went and spoke to SACM about whether I could continue playing by being in the UCT orchestra even though I wouldn’t be studying music. They were more than accommodating and so long as I could hit the majority of the notes, were happy to have me around. I found this relaxed environment where I wasn’t concerned by grades or judgment, but where the standard was still very high and I was doing this for my own enjoyment and challenge, lifted me to a whole new level of ability and loved every second.

University Degree vs Financial Reality

As much I’d like to punt the “follow your heart motto”, one needs to face the economic facts surrounding SA at the moment.  Having a university degree behind you will give you credibility in the working world.  We are skills driven economy that requires certain professions and doesn’t have much cash lying around for anything else. You need a marketable skill to thrive in SA.  I have heard this from every potential employer I have visited or done vac work for and its true. So the price of not making it big as a sportsman/musician is very, very high should you later reconsider.

This may seem negative, but it needn’t be. I am a firm believer in the concept of funding your hobbies through your work. Now I’m not saying you should hate what you do for a living, but if it isn’t exactly that thing you most want to be doing then it will make doing those things you love that much better. You treasure those opportunities far more and it’s rewarding to be able to do them in the way you wish.

You may realize, like I did that you have many passions that you’d like to pursue, and I’ll bet that many of those come with a hefty price tag. Don’t take for granted the things you can do now at the expense of your parents because you may one day find that you cannot afford to do them anymore. You need to consider whether your sport or music is the one and only thing that supersedes all else?

What if I’m a Trust Fund Baby?

Look, if this is the case I would implore you to follow your passions. You are in a unique position where you can follow your dreams fully without having to concern yourself with financial burdens. Not to do so would be a crime and you can potentially effect a lot of positive change in people around the world. I would consider studying some kind of basic business university degree at the very least though as there are many sharks out there waiting to take you for a ride if you don’t know what you’re doing. But in general just bring heat to those around you!

I sincerely hope this article has served to help you in making this big decision!

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