I started my post-secondary journey a long time ago and spent more than enough years completing my undergraduate degree. I fell victim of going to university for the sake of going to university, I really didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do. I had a preconceived idea that I wanted to be a CEO simply because my old man was a successful businessman and I thought it was a genetic trait. Truth is, I didn’t have the slightest clue what that actually meant.
When I first went to university I was going to be a journalist; an archaeologist; a linguist, an Engineer; a communications specialist; an economist, but what I finished up with is an Honors Specialization in Political Science. You know what I have no interest in being? You won’t find me challenging Justin Trudeau or Kevin O’Leary for a seat in parliament. Kellie Leitch on the other hand will probably continue to receive some pestering tweets. I digress, my point is that when we set out as teenagers to pursue higher education, we have a whole lot of what the wise believe are preconceived misconceptions. These notions are misled, but they are also more than just a misguided perspective, they are what is core to finding your passion, they are interests. Not all interests become a passion, but it is important to explore a platitude of interests to truly find a passion.
Here are 7 things to consider when looking at universities:
Pursue your passion: Cliché, right? Of course and most famous commencement speeches echo similar sentiments. It is absolutely the best advice though, you do need to find something you love, but pursuing a passion starts with exploring interests, cultivating those interests into something you love. It won’t always be easy either; it will take perseverance and grit. If you are at a point in one of your courses or a program you don’t like, put your head down and get through it. What appears to be a tedious waste of time in the moment likely will have significance later in life. As Steve Jobs said in his commencement speech at Stanford, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, but only when you look back.”
Don’t Listen to Friends or Significant Others: I originally picked a university based on one simple fact; my girlfriend at the time was attending said institution. She dumped me shortly after Christmas, a victim of a turkey dump. It was at that point I realized linguistics and communications sciences were not the right fit either and transferred universities. Fortunately, the transfer process is much more seamless, but then I did leave a few credits on the table to make a choice for myself. Point is, you are the only one who can make the right decision when it comes to selecting a place to study.
Rankings are not Scientific Data: There is a saying about economists that I think could be interchanged with Rankings. George Bernard Shaw once said that “if all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion”. If rankings were absolute, then there wouldn’t be any discrepancies and they would all produce the same results. If you are going to consider rankings, please only use them as a tool in the kit to help make a decision. Also, consider rankings more in tiers than in absolutes. If you are choosing a school that is in the top 10, they are all pretty close in quality. Disagree? Then consider how many different ways do you think Chemistry or Physics or Calculus can be taught?
If it bleeds it leads: Every week I read an article in a major newspaper that clearly is written to sell papers. This isn’t a #fakenews statement, but there is no denying that every paper has an agenda and has to deliver. Don’t buy into the messaging in the media, one week you will read an article about how universities aren’t producing job ready grads, the next week, the same author will write an article about positive employment metrics for grads. You are much better off using other tools to evaluate the university landscape.
Do you like structure or flexibility: Program delivery can vary. Some programs have preset schedules and defined experiential learning opportunities, while others are more passive and allow you to choose your path along the way. Which do you prefer?
If you are the prospective student, we know that you know everything: But you don’t. Go to higher education with an open, inquisitive mind. There are thousands of courses for you to take, explore and compliment your primary skill set. Don’t be afraid of the unknown, or more importantly, don’t be afraid to say the three hardest words in the English language: I don’t know. These three words represent the first step to letting your mind open up.
Travel: Before I started university, I lived in Australia for a year and Hawaii for several months. I learned just as much during my time away as I did in the classroom. Many universities have International opportunities, but students don’t take up the offer as often as you would think. There are finances available to make this experience more accessible.
Ready for another cliché? University is the best time of your life! You are at the perfect age to really truly learn, to grow and to take your first steps toward the future. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to pick the perfect university or to get perfect marks. It is unrealistic and only will set you up for unneeded issues. Don’t expect to be a CEO as soon as you leave the halls of your alma mater, you are taking your first steps of a long journey. Give it time, you will get there, but pursue something you love, never stay somewhere for too long and enjoy every step of the way.