As an educator, when Grade 12 hits, many students struggle with some serious decisions: College or University? What should I do with my life? It can be a very stressful time for most.
A lot of students feel that they would love to go away and live in residence but they just can't afford it. While others (since OAC was taken away a few years ago- phased out in 2003) feel they are simply not ready yet. The decision is a personal one, and one that can carry some serious social stigma with it.
While friends are opening up acceptance letters, those unsure might be feeling left behind. Here are some tips to think about before making those decisions.
College or University?
Are you the type of person that cares about the bottom line? Do you think that spending obscene amounts of money with little to no chance of obtaining a job after graduation is ludicrous? Then perhaps college is for you. I've attended both Humber College and Sheridan College and they offer fantastic internships and have amazing opportunities upon graduating. Or are you the person that loves to learn for learning? If you attend university, upon graduation you may not have a dream career and may be back at Square One working retail with a huge student debt on your shoulders. So doesn't the choice seem obvious? No, because in the long run, in order to move up in your profession, your boss may gloss you over because you are missing that important piece of paper called a degree. For many jobs, you might not even be considered unless you have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree. Again, it depends on you and the area of work you want to do.
I'm too poor to live on residence
If you want to do it, you'll make it happen. There are job opportunities on campus like Work Study, where as long as you get even a little bit of OSAP, you can apply to jobs right on campus so you can work in between classes. You can also work evenings and weekends part-time and even get bursaries. Bursaries are usually located at the back of a school's course calendar. A bursary is free money given to the university on behalf of a donor (usually alumni) and sometimes the only stipulation is that the student is in need of the money. There will be bursaries depending on your cultural background, what program you are in, and many other factors. It usually only involves writing a letter to the donor as long as you meet all the requirements of the bursary. The best part of a bursary is that you don't have to pay it back. Every year that I attended a university, McMaster University or University of Toronto, I applied to a bursary. Sometimes I was able to receive $500 and even $1,000 each school year. You can do it if you really want to.
Is it really for me?
For some, a post-secondary education really isn't for them. Perhaps there are real social economic or familial issues, perhaps there is a family business already lined up for the person. In any case, it's important to weigh all the factors honestly, and not just because you feel that you're tired of school. How many times have I heard, "I don't want to go back to school, it's gonna take too long." Well guess what? Those four years in university or two years in college go really fast and the long term benefits often outweigh the short term anxiety.
You can change your mind, you know?
Finally, even well into their 20's many graduates often take post-graduate diplomas that had nothing to do with their degrees. Many in their 20's and even into their 30's are still trying to find themselves. There is no end to the self-reflection and growth. To borrow an often, and sometimes overused phrase, change is the only constant in life. More on this next time...
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