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At the secondary school I went there was an implicit sense that all students were expected to go to university. For example councillors would come into our English classes to give presentations on how to make smooth transition to a university. I guess I always had the assumption that a university degree is necessary to a) make a living and b) make a living doing something you enjoy. Now that I'm a little older and a little more experienced I know this is not always the case. There are plenty of people (especially in business) who did not complete a university program. How do you decide if university is right for you? Is the correct approach to decide on the job you want and then, if university is required, get the degree for it?

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    You go there and find out. – Ben Bitdiddle Dec 11 '14 at 0:58
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    @BenBitdiddle I don't think that's a very practical method. There are many universities and many programs offered by each university. If you don't like the current program you're in that doesn't necessarily mean university is not right for you. Conversely there are too many options to just try out. Also the cost (and time investment) could be prohibitive. – Celeritas Dec 11 '14 at 22:41
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What do you want to do with your life? University is one way of getting to some of the answers. Trade school or apprenticing is another, if you think that's closer to what you want to spend your life doing.

It's also legitimate to say you don't know yet -- in which case you need to decide whether starting classes would help you decide what interests you, or if doing something else for a year makes more sense.

I knew what I wanted to study (or thought I did; turns out I was close but not on the mark), but even so I decided to take a year off before college; I needed a bit of maturation time, and to switch from being the youngest in the class to being one of the older kids, for my own comfort. Spent the year doing volunteer work in a hospital (electronic repair, "biomedical engineering"), which was certainly educational in the general sense, helped build my self confidence, and may actually have helped my college application stand out from others.

"... There are nine and sixty ways / of constructing tribal lays, / And every single one of them is right!" -- Kipling

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There are plenty of people (especially in business) who did not complete a university program.

Make no mistake, university is still required for the vast majority of jobs at the vast majority of employers. There are certainly plenty of outliers, but they are a small percentage of professionals.

Is the correct approach to decide on the job you want and then, if university is required, get the degree for it?

No. University isn't job training, it's education. An education provides you with the tools necessary to be a better person. A better employee for sure, but also a better entrepreneur, a better wife/husband, a better father/mother, a better solider, a better scientist... whatever.

The degree itself will open all sorts of professional doors, but it's the education that is valuable. The only reason to not get one is if you think you can get a better education doing something else. All things being equal though, attending an institution specializing in educating you is most likely to actually provide you with a worthwhile education.

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    Unlike in the USA, in many countries university doesn't provide general education. That's something people get in school before they're 18. When they apply for university, they choose a full programme, e.g. architecture, and study precisely that (not all sorts of general things then wonder about choosing a "major" a couple of years in). With an architecture degree you won't be able to become a German translator. And without an architecture degree you won't become an architect. – Szabolcs Dec 11 '14 at 18:20
  • You certainly sound of the opinion the university is right for everyone. – Celeritas Dec 11 '14 at 21:56
  • @Celeritas - it's not, but it's hard to tell ahead of time. It's certainly the safe choice for everyone. – Telastyn Dec 11 '14 at 22:04

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