I’m going through an 18th-year crisis, and I blame it on the University of Toronto.
I am completely devastated – I feel cheated, and I’m so ready to take a year-turned-into-six-years off. You guys need to understand. I had this elaborate vision about my future. My aim, in short, was to be a millionaire in a vocation I love with a sexy, doting husband (ahem, Drake).
Sound familiar? Well, reality hit me about a month into my first year. University students please listen, and listen well. A university degree will not make you, or me, or anybody, a millionaire genius.
I know. I know.
Those of you who are hearing this for the first time, maybe you should stop and let that sink in for a bit. For the rest of you guys who have hit this same epiphany and have been dazedly going through the motions, I’ve got a few answers.
Why am I here?
In the midst of all the debt, assignments, debt, assignments, debt, and assignments, it’s almost natural that one would begin to question one’s presence in this institution. What’s the point of it all?
Allow me to let you in on a little secret. Not only is this secret true for school, but I personally feel like it’s a truth about life.
You’re here to learn.
That’s it. That, my friend, is why we are all here. Sure, a university education will make us more marketable. We probably aren’t going to get into grad school without an undergraduate degree. Unless you have a fool-proof plan that will never change, however, school on it’s own will not amount to a successful career.
But why isn’t it as life-changing as they promised?
In my senior year of high school, every single one of my teachers promised me that the best years of my life would be in university. I thought I was entering a land full of open-minded individuals who wanted nothing more than to learn about and challenge the ideas that are present in the world.
It wasn’t long before I learned that grades are valued more than anything else here. Students base their worth on how well they do in a class. A student might articulate an idea that I think is insightful and creative and smart, but when they bomb an assignment or midterm they become a little less engaged. I get it. Grades feel important. They matter on resumés, they matter to T.As, and they definitely matter to parents. I feel really good when I ace an assignment, and I feel like crap when I don’t do well. But, believe it or not, there is more to school than good grades.
Thinking about exam scores and grade point averages can make school feel like a drag. If your grades aren’t as good as you hoped they would be and you’re feeling nauseous at the thought of memorizing facts, dates, formulas, or whatever else for midterms that are coming up, breathe. Calm down. De-stress. I know that your standing in the university depends on your grades, but your standing in life depends on how much you get out of it (I tried so hard not to make that sound cheesy).
Writing kick-ass essays and acing midterms won’t do much for you outside of school. Remember, you’re here to LEARN. Question what you’re learning. Make connections between lessons and real life. Savour the moments when you find Internet memes with puns that only students in your discipline would get. Think about courses and hobbies you enjoy, and how you can possibly form a meaningful (and well-paying, if that matters to you) career. Make the most out of your time here, people!
Well, what about my future?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been preparing for university your entire life. The most joyous day of your parents’ lives will be when you graduate from the University of Toronto with a science-y degree and get into medical school and change the world. University has always been made out to seem like that first step into a fulfilling life. Is this it?
No. This (whatever “this” is to you) is NOT it. If, like me, your whole life up until this point has been lived in the future tense, please realize that you are wasting it. I mean, you can only plan for the future for so long until you actually get there, right? It’s easy to reassure ourselves and think that things will be better once we graduate, or get our first job, or make moves in our careers, but if you’re plan is leading you in a direction that is making you unhappy right now, what makes you think that your future will be any different? Make changes!
It’s hard, I know. The moment I admitted to myself that I hate the courses I’m taking and the program I planned on enrolling in, I began to panic. I had a plan, but it turns out I wasn’t planning my life; I was planning out the life everybody else thought was best for me. I completely freaked out, and am still sort of freaking out because I was taught from a young age that I’ll never amount to anything if I don’t get the right university education.
If you’re in the same boat that I’m in, relax. You’re here to learn. I really, really hope that you’re here because you want to be here. Find yourself in a class you hate? If it’s too late to switch out, think about why you hate that class so that you’ll be less likely to make the same mistake again. In love with a program but afraid it isn’t lucrative? If your biggest concern is being employable in the future, think about what you have to offer right now and work on building on those qualities.
It might feel like it, but your life is not made up of moments that happen once every few years. This is your life. I’m not saying don’t work hard or think about the future or set goals and achieve them. Just think about how you’re living the one life you have and whether or not you are pleased with where you’re at, and the direction that you’re headed.
This was written for myself just as much as it was written for anyone else.
Don’t get me wrong. I still plan on being a millionaire in a vocation I love, and I’m waiting for the day that I bump into Drake on campus and the beginning of the rest of our life together starts. I’ve just tweaked my thinking a little bit; school is not my crutch in life anymore, with fluffy promises of a successful future.
University might not make me a millionaire genius, but it’s where I want to be. I know exactly what I want to get out of school and I’m beginning to understand how school not only relates to my future, but my life right now.
Do you agree/disagree with this post? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to discuss!