In my last year of high school, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but did not have the confidence to only apply to universities. I thought I would be considered too dumb for university education, so I prepared for the worst and applied to five colleges and three universities, all for journalism.
To my surprise, I got into the University of Toronto, and credited this to luck rather than knowledge and skill. Luckily, my program consists of two years in University and two years in college, combining textbook thinking with hands-on learning in the field.
But most are not so lucky. They go to university with a vague idea of what they think they should do for a living, or even what their parents think they should do. In reality, their undergraduate degree is often not good enough to land them their dream job, or even consideration.
This is why we have to stop teaching Canadian students that university education is the only path to success. Such a narrow view stunts the growth of many creative thinkers who thrive on coming up with innovative ideas in the field they want most.
In Canada, there were about 1.3 million students enrolled in a university program and around 750,000 in college over the 2014/2015 school year. Among university students, 55 per cent also prefer hands-on learning; including co-op and internships. If students learn better by doing then why has everyone grown up with the idea that going to university equals success?
“In reality, their undergraduate degree is often not good enough to land them their dream job, or even consideration.”
This concept has been ingrained in our heads for generations. But earning a university degree and obtaining employable skills are not mutually exclusive. Without knowing how to do a job itself, you will never make a long-standing career doing what you love.
Everyone wants to be excited to go to work when they wake up in the morning. Unfortunately, those of us who gave up on finding our dream job must suffer the consequences.
Often after obtaining a generalized university degree, post-grads need to go back to university for a graduate degree, or go to college to a program targeted to a specific job in a field relatively close to their undergraduate degree.
The path of university first, college second, exists due to a cultural ideology that pushes students to aspire for greatness, rather than employment. The is push stresses that university means furthering your intelligence, while college is for the supposed second-class citizens of intellectuals in society – or everyone who couldn’t make it in university.
To shift these ideas of post-secondary education, we have to understand that these traditional views are existing in an entirely different world. The job market that Gen Y largely and seamlessly joined, after growing up in a comfortable middle-class, no longer exists.
Choosing to go to college over university does not mean you are not smart enough for university. It means you are lucky enough to know from a young age what career you want, and to practically peruse it. High-paying jobs aren’t the be-all-end-all of life. It all comes down to your values and how you enjoy spending your time.
In careers that necessitate university, like medicine, law or science, a university degree is only deemed worthy or useful with continued education. But even with a masters or doctorate degree, there is no guarantee there will be spot in a research program to make it all worthwhile – or that it is even something you want.
Why should being a student for as long as possible be the way to go? Why should rushing to graduate be the way to go either? It all depends on the goals of the individual and if they care enough about their life to make the right decision before it is too late – before student debt overwhelms them and the pressure of society takes over, who is going to be there to catch a student left without the safety net of a parent’s wealth?
Society must shift from a cultural ideology that college programs are easier than university and promise less success than university. College programs are designed to be different. Doing something different and unexpected is what sets students apart from the competition once they graduate and start looking for employment.
By Emilie Must
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.