Thursday, March 8, 2018

Is Uni Necessary? The Argument From Both Sides

With Uni back in full swing, it has made my schedule even more hectic than usual. I like to push myself through the struggle that is full time work, full time Uni and so many passion projects on the side by telling myself that it will all be worth it in the end. But will it?I find University to be extremely fulfilling and it's something that I'm good at but I'm in the third and final semester of my Masters and never before have I questioned the necessity of University so much until now.

It recently dawned on me that I was spending almost 40k on my masters. So while I never entertained the argument that Uni wasn't necessary because I truly saw the value I was getting out of it, it is now that I am beginning to understand the other perspective on this.

As such, it seemed like an interesting idea to examine the necessity of Uni from both sides. I am going to be explaining the opinion I have had for the past 5 years about University being an essential step (at least for the career path I chose) and my experience with the value I have received from the education.

I mean, in my experience yes getting my bachelor was worth it. Primarily because it opened me up to so many opportunities, including landing the new job that I have just started and am loving. But it has made me question if doing my masters is worth it, especially with the hefty price tag of $39, 600 for 12 subjects.

We all hear about the lucky ones who get their foot in the door while still in Uni or land their dream job without studying at all. I started my professional career in marketing during my second year of Uni so I do believe that not only my degree but also my practical experience in the field is what helped me land my current position.

In this blog post, we are going to explore two different sides of if University is worth it based on unique situations. This might be useful for those of you contemplating your current degree or tossing up whether to go in the first place.

I hope this provides some insight into the different experiences myself and my boyfriend have had with University.

I’ll be talking about my experience completing a bachelor and studying my masters. To authentically capture the other side of the story I have backups. My boyfriend, Josh, will go into his opinions on University as someone who is currently completing his bachelor. I want to be as concise as possible, which will be difficult because my opinion on Uni has shifted quite a lot, especially since starting my Masters.

So starting with my thoughts on if University is worth it...

I'm going to kick off with what I have experienced as the benefits are the following;

-          It sets you up for good habits in the workforce because it shows you how to work autonomously while still achieving highly. If you’re anything like me, in high school you might think that some tasks teachers give you are kind of pointless. Why do I want to read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird”, I’d rather watch TV?! But it’s all about setting you up with good habits to carry on in adulthood (as a now avid reader, I’m thankful this habit was instilled in me). Same goes with Uni, it’s about getting you to 9am lectures to train you to get out of bed, giving you homework to prepare for reports you might have to read outside work hours etc.

-          It teaches you how to deal with a variety of different people, personalities and cultures by continuously putting you in group situations and taking you out of your comfort zone.

-          Provides a great understanding of all the basics and allows you to perfect your essay writing style, knowing how to get the most out of software / programs, correct grammar and punctuation etc. You think you learn all of this stuff in high school but then you go to Uni and it’s such an advanced level, it feels like everything you learnt before was step 1 of 10 (especially if you are going straight into Uni from high school and haven’t had learning experiences in the workforce already).

-          Creates contact with professionals in your chosen field of study. This allows you to network with them, learn how to communicate in their language and understand how things operate in the “real world” (sorry, I’ve gone to QUT pretty much my entire academic career so I think they’ve brainwashed that term into me with it being posted literally everywhere).

-          Expands your horizons and opens your mind to alternative ways of thinking. I noticed this especially in my first year of my masters because it was so specific to the industry I was in (marketing/advertising) that class conversations would provide me with practical knowledge to then go and apply to workplace situations. Being in a lecture listening to your teacher or in a tutorial with 30 people sharing their opinions is so valuable and authentic. It’s such a great way to open yourself up thinking critically and challenging your existing beliefs.

-          Most of all I love the benefit of being around likeminded people who inspire me to do better and be a more advanced version of myself. You see all the fantastic things your peers are doing and you can’t help but push yourself a little harder to follow suite. This is particularly the case with masters.

I think I could go on and on with the positives but honestly, it’s probably because I like to see the good in every situation. I could likely give 100 positive examples for getting into the workforce right away at a young age or for following a passion project instead of going to Uni but with that being said, everything above stands as my positives for attending Uni.

So now onto the negatives;
-          It costs a lot of money. We have a great system in Australia for student loans but the education is definitely not free. Once you enter a certain income bracket, you have to start paying your University costs off and it does add up. My student debt is around $75, 000 - $80, 000 with half of that cost being my Masters degree (yeah, it’s a lot more expensive to do advanced study because you start to gain access to higher level professionals with more experience in specific fields). While this is great that I haven’t had to pay it back until entering the workforce – it’s still a LOT of money to be in debt with.

-          I feel that I got a lot less out of my bachelor that went for 4 years than I did my masters degree that goes for 1.5 years. Some of your first years of Uni are so repetitive; teaching you how to write a paragraph and basic grammar (mainly because I was doing journalism and the core subjects were like ‘how to not sound like an idiot when you write’. Once you get to your masters it is so specific and in-depth. You have so many amazing intellectual conversations that expand your thinking. The only negative – you have to finish your bachelor before you can do a masters.

-          Masters are super expensive and yet a lot of it is self-directed. 6 months of your 18-month master is spent on a major project which is entirely up to you. So while you get that amazing first year of mind expanding knowledge, that’s about the entirety that you pay for (at least in my case with a master of advertising and what I have seen with friends as well in a master of IT).

So to sum it up; while I prefer undertaking my masters compared to completing my bachelor, it is a much more expensive practice AND you have to get through your bachelor first.I would recommend masters quicker than I would recommend entering into a bachelor degree but be prepared to rack up a 70k-80k debt at minimum.I think I take for granted how much I learnt in Uni because it’s become so second nature to me now. But I do often wonder how much I would have inevitably picked up through working or self-learning.I guess I have always had mixed feelings on Uni but if I was to give an overall opinion I would say that I think it has extreme value and would encourage anyone to go.

Now I'll hand it over to Josh to discuss his point of view on the topic and the experiences he has had.

I will preface my argument on this topic by explaining that I started my degree as a ‘mature age’ student in my mid/late twenties. This is important information to note as my outlook on life and on studying may be different to those leaving High School.

In my opinion education is the single most important aspect to growth as a human being. That is my opinion now, it was not my opinion when I was in High School and trying to create a pathway through life. A career was the last thing on my mind at this stage in life and other priorities such as mischief, responsibility abandonment and travel were important to me. Some time later, with plenty of stamps on my passport, time served in the Australian Military, a trade under my belt and plenty of stories to tell the grandchildren I decided to attend University.

It can be hard to get your foot in the door of many white collar, well paying, structured businesses in this country. I had tried my hand at many different jobs and career paths in my time before heading to university and found it a struggle to get my foot in the door to anything that remotely looked like a decent pathway to what I would consider a success.

Is University a necessity? Absolutely not. In fact, it is not an option for many people through lack of schooling, opportunity, financial struggles or bad grading in High School. Get yourself an apprenticeship or trade, work your way up through the hospitality or tourism industry or just find something, learn to be good at it and work hard and nothing is stopping you from being successful. There is an unlimited amount of opportunity for young people especially in this technological age.
I argue that life, and work experience, trumps anything that you can read in a book or learn at university. Experiencing things in a real life situation and dealing with them is far more beneficial than being taught how to handle them.

University will give you the foundation to be successful in a particular discipline. It will teach you the academic skills required as a baseline to start out a career. Depending on the degree in which you are studying, it is absolutely necessary to have these baseline skills and this foundation is a prerequisite. If you are completing a degree to become a paramedic, you must first learn the medical practices and theoretical part of the job before thinking about moving forward in that career. Does this mean, at the end of the degree or at any time, be ready to make a split second decision to save someone’s life? If you were a law student, after studying endless nights and countless hours over many years, does this guarantee that you will know how to connect on a personal level with clients, judges and fellow work colleagues? This latter part to these questions are learnt with time on this earth and in the workforce.

have worked full time since being at university and am currently in what I would consider close to my dream job. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that without my degree, I would not have even got a look in when applying for the position. On the flip side, when trying to make my overall point, I could argue that my degree has had little to do with my success in my role in this current job. I would rate my willingness to learn, eagerness to succeed, passion for the work/industry and ability to get along with colleagues and cooperate as a team ALL ahead of any academic skills I have learnt at university so far. University helps you get passed the bouncer at the front and into the club but once you are inside, you must learn how to successfully interact on a very crowded dance floor. I believe I am a good dancer. Both in this metaphoric situation and in real life. Said everyone ever…

When I was around 60% of the way through my degree and started my now dream role at work, I seriously considered dropping my degree. What would I honestly need it for from here? I had no intention of leaving my job any time soon and had been praised for the work I was doing in my role. My boss even joked with me that not only had he never asked to see proof of someone’s uni degree when hiring but that he had never produced evidence when applying for a role either. What was the point in continuing a degree that will only cost me more money and take more of my time.I was at the stage of my degree that now allowed me to gain work experience and work on the job as credit toward my degree which really appealed to me and made me reconsider my position on whether to continue. I have also always had a strong will to finish something that I have started.

In summary, in my opinion, the pressure to attend University to make a successful go at a career should correlate directly with the importance of the theoretical knowledge YOU believe to be necessary. One thing I am certain, it will make it easier to get opportunities that you may not be able to get had you not gone. There is a balance between studying, gaining academic knowledge and being prepared theoretically and making sure you are ready to tackle the workforce from a personal development and maturity standpoint. Some, like me, were not ready to enter a corporate environment at the age of 21 and needed time to learn, travel and grow personally first. Some are born for it, ready to tackle it head on and learn as they go from a young age.   

Okay so those are two different arguments about whether Uni is necessary. Obviously these are just opinions and personal experiences but I thought it was an important topic to discuss since I'm sure some of you reading may have just graduated high school and are tossing up this exact dilemma.

If you would like to hear more from my intelligent and funny boyfriend, Josh actually has his own blog - The Inside Word. He covers some very different content to mine and it's a really entertaining read. Recommend it to your boyfriend, brother or dad for some brownie points. Especially if they're into horse racing, punting or sports in general then they are guaranteed to have a laugh and enjoy this blog!

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