BY JAMES PEETERS
According to a Stats Canada report released today, more than half of Canadians between the ages of 25 to 64 have college or university qualifications.
While the pursuit of education should be valued, some students feel they are labelled as not smart enough for university.
Why do people associate a degree with being intellectually superior, leaving diploma programs to be recognized as the opposite?
Davin Fairbrother, who graduated from Wilfrid Laurier in 2014, works for TD Canada Trust as a financial service representative. He noticed the stigma around post secondary applications when he was in high school.
“I remember it being assumed that smarter people go to university. Brighter kids were in academic classes and worse students were in applied.”
Fairbrother says just by being a good student, his guidance counsellors had already ruled out the college option for him.
“We never even looked at what college could mean,” he says. “It’s also a problem that when you are making this choice at 17 or 18, you think you know better than everyone else.”
Fairbrother says he has a friend who graduated university who often states that he never would have gone to university if he hadn’t been in Fairbrother’s circle of friends.
Fairbrother’s advice to students who don’t want to be influenced by others about their education is to take a year off.
“It gives you real world perspective, and you won’t be influenced by what others are choosing to do,” he says. “You go into school not knowing what it’s like to work full time in the real world.”
Jacqueline Sicard, currently studying photography at Sheridan, agrees that college was portrayed as an inferior education while she was in high school.
“We never directly heard it from our teachers, but there were undertones of it throughout my high school experience.”
Most say it’s difficult to make an informed decision about your future with such external factors and biases coming into play. Fairbrother’s suggestion for making a decision about school by taking a year off isn’t shared by everyone.
“In the case of my sister, she had classmates who thought less of her for wanting to take a year off school,” Sicard says. “She was criticized for not knowing which university she wanted to attend.”
For those who want some clarity on university vs college, they may benefit by speaking to someone who is not directly involved with the Ontario government’s education system.
Tonya Pomerantz runs Puddle Jump Coaching in Ottawa. As a career analyst, most of her clients are post secondary graduates who can’t find a job.
“Going to university does not make you smart,” Pomerantz says. “And people who are hating on college are just insecure. They don’t know what they want in their own life.”
Pomerantz also believes that the system is the problem.
“People are getting boxed in,” she says. “Going to university doesn’t mean you’re graduating with a career.”
This doesn’t seem to be made clear enough for applicants to post secondary education.
“It’s all about learning. What kind of problems do you want to solve?”
Secondary school students are being influenced by this narrative that college is somehow of lesser value than university. The truth is that the two work hand in hand.
These students should realize that plenty of university graduates are enrolled in college classes because they want more applicable workplace skills or are continuing to expand their education in a way that wasn’t possible in university.