“Go to school. Get a job. Go to work. Get married. Have kids. Watch TV. Obey the law. Now, repeat after me: I am free.” You might have seen this line on your socialist friend’s Facebook feed. We know, however, the truth is more complex– especially when it comes to education. School and the ways in which we approach it can be a dynamic and consequential pursuit.
In a broad sense, education pushes students to consider different viewpoints, to recognize the difference between academic works and opinions, and to develop and communicate ideas in a way that’s relatable to others. It’s more than a simple vehicle to attaining a job. Because education is in itself meaningful, it makes sense to choose a particular discipline because of the material we will learn and the skills it will teach us, and not because of the job it may lead us to. Many students choose their field of study based on job prospects, and oftentimes this decision is made by their parents. But parents aren’t the ones who are going to be completing readings, pulling all-nighters, and banging their heads on textbooks out of frustration from not understanding the material. And they’re certainly not going to work in the field for the next 40 years.
University is truly about your own choices, and there are numerous ways we, as students, are able to customize our post-secondary education. We can choose what to study. We can join the clubs we’re interested in and take the courses in our fields that interest us the most. We can also avoid taking morning classes, and we can choose to take fewer classes than others. All students deal with the academic weight of university differently. Everyone has different study habits, some students require accommodations, and others are part-time students because they also work. There is no right or wrong way to be a student. Taking 30 credits a year and graduating in four years isn’t the only way to complete your degree.
Once we start university, we’re really rushed into finishing. We’re told to take x amount of courses in order to graduate on time, and glorify the idea of finishing and moving on rather than enjoying our time here. It makes sense– we’re young, so obviously we want to get started doing our “thing”. But university is a time of intellectual and personal development. We shouldn’t speed through it, and we shouldn’t hate ourselves when we feel unable to handle what is expected of us.
Instead, we can tailor our education to fit our needs. We have the ability to individualize your education, whether it be with gap years or semesters, international exchange, internships, or even being a part-time student. It certainly might seem like it, but there is no single path set leading to you to the convocation stage, just like there is no one thing that you have to limit yourself to after having finished your degree.