It’s that time of year for me to be thinking about my life after high school. I’m in my final year at Jarvis CI, and have decided that I want to go to university. I’m interested in studying journalism and television broadcasting and have done my research on many schools and programs. However, to clarify and reassure myself that I’ve made the right decision, I spoke to people who are actually part of the industry.
I went to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and talked to fellow workers as well as student interns and volunteers. As I spoke to these people, I realized that most of them didn’t go to the same school, they didn’t graduate with the same type of education, and it seemed that every path was completely different yet they all ended up in the same place. Talking with these people who are in different stages of their career, I found that I had many misconceptions about post-secondary education.
Myth #1: You can get a better job with a university degree compared to a college diploma once you graduate.
False. Having a university education doesn’t mean you’re going to get a better job than your college counterparts when you graduate. Ann-Marie Zammit, a CBC intern and computer programmer, spoke about how reality hits hard when you graduate, “I’m a McMaster graduate in biology and I haven’t used it to my advantage since graduation. When I entered university I had high hopes and this image that I was going to graduate with a job and work my way up quickly to my dream job. When reality struck, I found myself in debt and without a job. Not only couldn’t I get a job in my field, but I had to settle to pay off debts. I work to live and live to work and it was this way for years until my debt was paid. It was rough and what ended up happening was that I changed my career! Now I’m starting from scratch; it sucks but it’s worth it.”
It is more difficult to get an initial job than many graduates think because bosses are looking for experience, which many may not have. Whether you attend university or college, you need to take your own initiative to go out into the world and look for intern or co-op opportunities. Coral Schog, the production coordinator of Royal Canadian Air Farce said, “Personality and experience will get you furthest in life. The exact same thing applies to jobs. You have to prove yourself to others that you took that initiative to go out on your own and stand out. This doesn’t always mean score the highest marks in university or college. It’s great if you do but you need look for opportunities, network with people and show your passion for your field or even just the passion for moving forward.”
Myth #2: You earn more with a university degree.
True. Although statistics will tell you that a university degree will earn you more money than a college diploma, it doesn’t mean that you will be well paid and attain a desired job the minute you graduate. StatsCanada's "National Graduates Survey: Student Debt," states that the median salary for Bachelor —degreed students two years after graduation is $39,000 and for college graduates, $31,200. From these statistics, it is safe to assume that for the first little while after students graduate from university they will probably be getting paid about the same amount as their college counterparts. However, with your degree, you do have the opportunity to move up and earn more money as is shown after two years, according to StatsCanada.
This doesn’t mean that college graduates don’t have the opportunity to earn a lot of money; the skilled trades industry provides many possibilities for high incomes. Ms. Ancans of the English department says, “College, today, has changed a great deal from the 1970’s or 1980’s. Then, many perceived college to be strictly for the trades or for those who couldn’t get into university. Long gone are those days. Colleges now provide so many interesting and specialized programs that you can’t get in university that many university graduates are also choosing to go to college, my oldest daughter being one of those. College, thankfully, has lost its stigma and is a place for specialized, practical, and creative pursuits. University graduates don’t necessarily make more than college graduates but, if money is of importance, there are many possibilities for high income earners there as well.”
The trades industry makes the same amount as some professionals, if not more; the only difference is the status of the job.
Myth #3: It matters which university you attend.
False. Unless you have an Ivy League degree, it doesn’t much matter where you go. The reason is that, in the end, you’re out on your own with your degree, handing out resumes and looking for a job just like everyone else. It is nice to say, “I go to McGill University,” and getting a response like, “Wow, really? I heard that was really hard to get into.” But if a student is only aiming for an undergraduate degree, then it doesn’t matter. Students pursuing graduate schools need to consider the reputation of the university because graduate schools may favour prestigious schools.
University is a personal choice and students should research as much as they can to find out which program and university would suit them best. If one university was exclusively better than any other, then all grads from that one school would be employed in the field they studied, but that is not the case because no school has a 100% employment rate.
Ann-Marie Zammit comments about how people end up in places that seem very out of place: “I know people who have their masters and Ph.D.s and who’ve graduated from well-known schools and they’re managing a Burger King or dealing at a casino. Jobs are hard to find period and no university is going to change that for you. Students can’t expect that if they work really hard in school that everything will fall into place. It doesn’t work that way because there is more to life than school. School creates good work habits and education is the corner stone to everything but you need to step out of the box to realize that you need to build your own life and school is just one important block of it. Prestige and status will get you nice comments but it won’t help you survive in the real world.”
Myth #4: You need to decide your career right after high school.
False. You change your mind about your summer plans, so most likely you’re going to change your mind with your career choice. To choose now is like deciding what you’re going to name your children. You don’t have to decide your major until the second year of university, and even then you can change your mind. Students do it all the time and it may take longer or it may cost more money, but you’re dealing with the rest of your life. It’s better to follow your passion and spend money rather than doing something you hate and waste money. You really need to ask yourself what you want to be even if it sounds crazy. Our hopes and dreams are shattered past the age of 5 when the question is no longer, “What do you want to be?” but is now, “Which one do you want to be? A doctor? Teacher? Lawyer?” There are so many things to discover and forcing yourself to decide now is very limiting.
Myth #5: University is better than college
Depends. University encompasses a broad education because it teaches the theory of the subject and not necessarily the skills required. University is more expensive than college and their programs tend to be longer; however this does not mean university is always a better choice. Coral Schorg said, “University is put up on a pedestal because university used to only be for the wealthy and educated. It kind of carries on into today because university is so expensive and I feel that, people respect you more because you paid more and have paid your dues to education. It really depends on your priorities because if you really care about the social ladder in terms of career choice then definitely go to university and get into a profession. If you’re a practical person who just wants good money and security and really doesn’t care what others think, then college is the way to go.”
In fact, college has become extremely popular as many people feel that it is the more practical choice, being cheaper and shorter. Many feel colleges prepare students better as they provide more hands-on experience. Others feel that statistics prove university grads earn more, so why not spend the time and money to invest in the rest of your life? It is absolutely a personal choice since neither education guarantees anything. In this day and age it is also important to be well-rounded and many university students are attending college right after graduation and vice versa because many jobs are looking for both kinds of education.
Deciding what to do with your life after high school is hard enough without having to worry about what other people are going to think. We have to decide what we love in order to pursue it for the rest of our lives; we have to think about money and living standards and our abilities and goals. Programs may be the same but they differ in what they offer. They may not give you the dream job of your life right away but some may get you off to a better start. For example if a school offers programs or internships, that’s definitely a plus. But step into any industry and you’ll find that most workers have taken a unique path to get where they are today.
Jobs are not easy to come by, especially ones that you like, but as soon as you step out of school and into the real world, all you have is your education, whatever form that may come in. Whether it be a degree, diploma or just the hard-earned skills, it’s your duty to search and prove yourself to be qualified because a piece of paper can’t tell all.