Higher Education

A classmate of mine (the lovely Brenda McKeen /shoutout) posted an interesting article that really got me thinking. The article is from the CBC website and you can find it here.

The article is called “Was Going to University a Waste of Time for You?”, and basically goes on to talk about two university professors that have written a new book called “Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don’t know about Canadian Universities”. One of the startling conclusions? That there is a large population of students attending university that don’t necessarily belong there. I have to agree.

I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who attend university. And the majority of them? Taking the most inane and un-employable things. If you’re one of these friends and you have a legit, genuine plan, then I apologize for the above comment…. But seriously? Norse mythology? I think the job prospects for being a viking have long since passed (Unless you want to be in a takes-themselves-too-seriously metal band.. Then that’s awesome). Regardless though, I ask; why are you spending so much money on something that is seemingly not so employable?

That’s why I’ve always been a big supporter of college, and proud to be attending it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people I’m a student in Ottawa and they ask “Oh? Carleton or University of Ottawa?” for which I reply with a laugh and say “Algonquin, I actually want a job when I graduate.” There just seems to be such a public perception that smart people who want good jobs go to university, and people who had a little too much trouble getting the shapes to fit in the puzzle go to college; and it’s really unfortunate. I know a lot of successful, smart people who attend Algonquin; and I know they are going to be doing tremendous things. Then I look at the people I know in university, and honestly; most of them I have no clue where they’ll end up.

Now I’m not knocking university, I have some friends that have been university students and they’re successful, bright people. However, I think the majority of people who attend university have no idea what they’re doing, and only go because it’s either expected of them, or that public perception that’s all too prevalent. What makes me optimistic for the future however, is the tremendous work that Algonquin College has been doing to shift that public perception. Algonquin is starting to come into it’s own, and people are starting to realize that Algonquin grads got serious cred. The biggest example of this is what I heard from the National Capital Leadership Competition that I’ve mentioned before. For all their theory, none of the Ottawa university students could apply their knowledge like their Algonquin counter-parts could. I think that’s one of the college’s greatest strengths. When I graduate from marketing this year, I will have created a marketing plan from scratch with a real-life client. How many university students in my field can say that?

So after this huge plug for college and Algonquin, (which should be your number one choice if you’re in Ottawa by the way), I’d like to leave you with a gem of advice my lovely mother once said to a young Jason Connell; “If you don’t want to be a lawyer or a doctor; don’t go to university.”

10 Responses to “Higher Education”
  1. Gorg says:

    I feel obliged to point out that until recently, colleges and vocational schools were the place you went to when you wanted to learn employable skills or trades, and university was the place you went for “knowledge”.

    Part of what we’re dealing with now is the result of the subversion of post-secondary education to the job market, and so people who in the past would have gone on to study wonderful things about Norse mythology and expand human understanding for the rest of their lives now leave school after three years with a degree in writing academic essays.

    I believe anyone who wants to go to either style of post-secondary institution should be free to do so, but re-purposing education to do nothing more than produce more employable people is going to require retooling those same institutions.

    • I was expecting your reply, dear friend. You raise some really good points (as I was sure you would), and I definitely agree with your point on subversion. It’s becoming increasingly more important to have a secondary education for a decent job, and the days of our parents (where you could work your way up to a well-paying job without further education) are long gone. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Adam says:

    I can definitely agree to some extent. University used to be about going for 4 years, proving yourself as a glutton for punishment, and getting a white collar job at the end of it.

    Now, with businesses actually looking at what grads do, University has lost some of its luster. Still, I will maintain that it’s very much like College in how there are courses you can take that will not get you anywhere.
    For every Norse Mythology major in University, there’s probably 250 Police Foundations grads that will never get a sniff at policework because it’s such an exclusive club. Of the 7 people I know who have taken the course(all of whom have had placements with police in Ontario or BC), none have been able to pick up a job in their chosen field. Yet, my brother’s friend who took Advertising in College(not sure he finished college though) has been working with the Smith’s Falls police for 2 years now because he knew someone inside it. Chalk this up to what you may, being a Police Officer doesn’t require a Police Foundations certificate, and is rather useless.

    College offers a less theoretical, more hands on(read: proven) approach that is most definitely more job and workplace oriented. However, some jobs require University for good reason, and some college graduates need to take some University classes in order to open the potential of their career field. This is because there are things to learn in University aside from getting a Bsc in Neuroscience, a BCom in Accounting/Finance or a BA in Philosophy(heading into Law….it’s funny, students actively working toward Law degrees in Uni who don’t take Philosophy have a hell of a time getting accepted into Law School, or even passing their LSAT).

    There are many who go to Uni to party, because they feel it’s expected, and they don’t know what to do with their lives. This is a fact, I know many of the latter and have witnessed many of the former. However, these same people would likely be just as lost in any educational facility in post-secondary. Fact is, we push kids into post-secondary too quickly, and high school does not get them ready to decide on a career. There should be more focus on patience. There should be more focus on single areas that students find interesting rather than a generalized approach. Bring back that 5th year in high schools as a sort of specialization year. Make it about finding a career path that suits them. Then we won’t have so many kids who are lost and overwhelmed at this level of schooling.

    On a personal level, I’m taking Psychology because I (a) think it’s fun, and (b) believe it should be able to net me a job so long as my grades are better than average and I can get into a Master’s program. Even if I can’t, I’m making sure I’m minoring in something a bit more….applicable. 😛

    Plus, I haven’t had any crackpot professors like I did in Loyalist XD

    Anywho, solid blog. 🙂

    • And this ladies and gentlemen, is the other person I knew would jump on this! Adam, you’re amazing! Have you thought about getting your own blog? I think it’s definitely something you could really excel in. I hope you guys aren’t thinking I’m ragging on university! Regardless, you’re poignant as ever! Thanks for your contribution.

      • Adam says:

        I’ve had a few blogs here and there, but now that I’m in uni and writing so much, I suppose it certainly wouldn’t hurt to work on my writing through a more editorial way 😛

        I know you’re not ragging on Uni, you’re simply telling it how it is. You’re a straight shooter Mr Connell! 😛

        Honestly, I should be studying right now :S Psych exam today at 2PM, although I’ve been studying for 3 days so maybe I deserve a breather. This blawg entry was a nice refrain 🙂

      • Yeah, start something up and I will totally plug it! Also, good luck on the exam man! I’m going to be in the same boat soon enough.

  3. Trish says:

    Jason, your blog entry expresses exactly how I always felt about this situation, I agree word for word. Your mother is a wise one, that is exactly what I used to say. If you’re going to be a lawyer, doctor, dentist, etc, university is perfect. It is also interesting how Algonquin has also been putting a spotlight on the university students who come from universities to Algonquin to get the practical side to nursing for example, because you can have all the theory in the world but when it comes down to it… what can you physically do to apply it?

    • Thanks for the comment Trish! I think Algonquin is smart to hi-light that, as it’s a competitive advantage; and I truly think that is what makes me more qualified than university students in my specific field.

  4. JustMyOpinion says:

    It all depends on what you want out of your post-secondary education. If you want to run a business or learn a trade, go to college. If you want to become an expert in a specific field of interest/profession, you should go to university. However, some people value having an academic education over simply becoming “employable”. It is not just about “theory”, a university degree will provide you with an in depth look at whatever your study of interest is and you will leave knowing so much more in that area than you ever could have learned in college. Don’t forget that university is not just for those who want to become doctors or lawyers. What about engineers, architects, journalists (Carleton has an amazing Journalism program), teachers (who must have a degree before going to teachers college!!) forensic scientists, art historians, linguists, pharmacists, scientific researchers? I could go on…

    There are other benefits to having a university degree under your belt, both professional and practical. Many programs offer co-op, which will definitely help in getting a job when university is over, or working with a professor can get you a job in research. Living in Ottawa many people go on to work in the federal government and having a bachelor’s degree is a huge asset when applying for a government position (so is knowing people but that’s another topic!) as well as many other jobs that require university degrees simply to prove that can work hard and you have the motivation that company or organization wants in an employee. Also, studying psychology can help mothers in understanding their own child’s development, studying musical theory can help any musician to be a better artist, etc.

    So to sum up, each institution has its own purpose. Neither one is better than the other; they each have their own benefits. Your mother was smart in giving you that advice! I totally agree that studying marketing is probably better in college because you get that hands on experience that you will need in that field. Having only been to university I can tell you though that there are many benefits to university other than getting that piece of paper that simply says you spent 4 years of your life studying there!

    • Well written post Alex, thanks! It wasn’t my intention to knock university, or say college is better per-say. Just that there are a lot of people who are in University that probably shouldn’t be. I agree that in certain instances university does have a distinct advantage, but I think college can definitely make you an expert as well.

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