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Is university really worth it?

So I see high school kids talking about going into the arts or business and I can't help but wonder, will I be working at Starbucks four years from now making their coffee?

I fell for the trap of university. Every year high school kids think about going to university and spending thousands of dollars to study. I attended Queen's for Commerce at the Smith School of Business for my undergrad and learned the hard way. Majors such as English, political science, business, social sciences, humanities, psychology are all useless due to the over-credentialization of post-secondary education.

In this forum, business topics are always the most popular and I contributed to them several years ago. When I got accepted into Queen's, I was so happy because I heard all the good stories of students going to work at big financial/consulting firms. This is just not true. In the top business schools of Ivey, Schulich, and Queen's, so-called " top Canadian business schools", students are misinformed about stats and employment facts. Only a few - and I mean very few - actually end up working in these big firms. The rest work in retail or slowly make their way into marketing/advertising where the pay is just average.

Since everyone has a business major these days, the job market is pretty bad. I'm being honest here. Majors like English and humanities are equally pretty bad choices because high school kids think they are hoping to be the next Shakespeare, but instead they will be making sandwiches at KFC. Pre-medical degrees, like biology, is also pretty useless as medical schools are now seeking diverse undergrad degrees, like people who studied poli sci. Unless you spend 5-6 years getting a PhD, I would say an undergrad bio degree has little value.

As the job market gets tougher and tougher, people need to realize that only a handful of majors are worthwhile - engineering, accounting and computer science to name a few. I wanted to rant about this because high school kids need to know about the over-credentialization of post-secondary education.

I also like debating. Does anyone want to challenge me here?


  • 3 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Hi Gayle,

    Pretty interesting post that should have gathered more debate. I personally have had similar thoughts as you, however, I do think you are wrong to be calling these degrees "useless". I agree that more and more majors are becoming more common, making it harder to find jobs outside of university. Now days, to better secure your outcome after university a Masters will be the next step. Having said that, however, I still believe every major has plenty of value. Whether you have found your passion, or you want a change in the current life you have, having that major will set you in the right direction.

    Maybe you don't get into the big firms, but at the same time, do you need to? Sure you would probably get more money with them, but is there a problem with getting to pursue your passion while helping the little firms? I think if you are going to be taking a major you should really like what you are doing, otherwise why are you spending 4 or so years in your life getting it? Which kind of makes me wonder if you like what you took? Maybe it actually has come down to you not being happy with the major you took?

    When I went to university I would notice there were people working two or three jobs just to get that degree, or completely quitting their jobs and going back to university to learn more about what they want to do. When you earn that major people still look at you and think "ok this person spend four years of their life learning about this specific position, that shows dedication". Now your next move is to show them that you have what it takes, and that you will benefit them if they hire you.

    Also to add to your Medical degrees, yes it takes forever to get anything worth while, but A. I think people that go into medicine know this, and B. I think everyone who looks at someone like a doctor, would like them to be knowledgeable about their body's and be able to trust them when they ask what is wrong and how they can fix it.

    Overall, you should never be saying your major was useless you should be happy you earned it and be prepared for the next step in your life. Create a final goal for yourself and pursue it the best you can. If you didn't end up with the position you wanted, there is always other options, maybe consider relocating or just searching harder. I'm sure you will be able to get what you want if you keep going after it and stop thinking so much about what the major gets you but what you take out of the major.

    Hope to hear what you say to this and reconsider things in life after this!

  • Hey Gayle!

    So I can't lie, I've definitely had the same thoughts as you. However, I believe we also need to look at it optimistically. No matter what your degree is, you should be proud of that degree! You worked hard for it; the countless hours of studying, the all-nighters writing those papers that you somehow procrastinated until the last minute. University can be hard, socially, mentally, physically, and academically. I don't think employers are going to forget that. They know that you worked to get to university, and worked even harder to obtain your said degree. However, I know the job market isn't the best right now, there is no denying that.

    The thing with your degree, is that it can no longer be just a degree. Experience is valued highly above education in today's job-market, especially industries like business (I'm a business minor, so I know a little bit about this). In every business class I've taken so far, the professors are constantly stressing about how important experience is, because employers will take the individual with experience over the individual who just has the education. But, what if an individual has both the education as well as the experience? Co-op programs are great for this, and so are programs that have internships built right into them (usually during the last semester). If you're like me, though, you have to go hunting on your own. I can't lie, it is difficult sometimes! I've applied for more jobs, internships, and positions over the past few months then I can even remember. The one thing I can tell you about doing this though, is that it is so fulfilling and exciting to finally land a position, whether it be paid or unpaid. Having school as well as a part-time intern position can be a lot of work, but I know for sure all of this hard work is going to be worth it someday.

    I've changed majors about three times so far throughout my undergrad (I'm currently in third year), but I absolutely love my classes and what I'm learning. I also love my part-time internship position. Most of what I do, for both cases, doesn't feel like work to me (well, not as much as if I was working on a subject or in a job I disliked). I think that's the key to being able to gain your degree as well as experience, because the more you love what you're learning and what you're doing, the more fulfilled and interested you will be!

    I hope I was able to get you thinking, or change your state of mind, even if it was just a little bit! I hope to hear your thoughts, and good luck with your degree!

  • Hey everyone!

    This seems like a bit of an expired thread from Gayle but I really wanted to weigh in on this with you guys as it is one of my favorite topics surrounding education and life as a whole.

    I, too, fell for the "trap" of university. I mean that in the sense that, at the time when I made the decision to go to University, I felt as it was the only route to future success and living "the good life." It is tough to avoid, as a high-school student, when you're in the stage of your life where your thoughts, actions, choices, and lifestyle are predominantly controlled by those of your peers, despite most of us being unaware of this. High-school, after all, is where we begin to develop and recognize reputation and we often make irrational decisions based on how we want to be perceived rather than what we truly want to do or what is actually beneficial to us. Though
    not usually something we are proud of, I'm sure we can all name something like this that we have done!

    I definitely have to agree with Kevin in saying that no degree is entirely useless; I really can't see anyone successfully arguing for that point as I would think it impossible to go through three or four years of post-secondary education without learning something.

    I think where we all go wrong at one point or another as "students" is forgetting that we are attending EDUCATIONAL institutions, not job-acquiring institutions. Looking at University programs thinking "Hmm... Business and arts programs might not land me a job, but computer science will!" is the most simplistic and black and white way to select a program and will do nothing but harm to your life satisfaction (unless by some incredible chance the job sector is dying of dehydration in your number one desired field of study). If this is your thought process I would recommend becoming an investor or stock broker instead, because you seem to be prioritizing your ROI (Return On Investment) above ALL else. ;)

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say "there's no jobs in Arts programs." This is obviously true. But do you honestly think that a painter or musician's number one priority is finding a job? No way! There's freelance employment, selling artwork, becoming the designer of a start-up, getting signed to a record label; the possibilities do not end at J.O.B.. Most artists know this going into such a program and they don't care if you believe in them or not. Building a resume and acquiring a good job will come with your learning experience, but if these are your number one focus, your education, would not really be an education at all. Just like in business, if your number one focus is on making money, rather than solving a problem for your target customer, you're most likely going to find your way to failure or at least, permanent mediocrity.

    On the other hand, I will add that I do believe that learning through an educational institution is a far better route to take in many cases, but not in all of them. For example, say you want to learn chemistry. Are you going to build your own lab? No. Well... I certainly hope not. Take college photography programs as another example. Are you going to finish your 2-year program, reading textbook after textbook, before taking one picture? Of course not, you'll likely be learning on your own as you go throughout the program through personal experimentation alongside the course material.

    If I had to give anyone serious advice on this topic I would say:

    1. When in doubt, learn. Going to University is never a step backward. If you're not sure, watch a documentary on Netflix, it doesn't matter, just remove from your mind the invalid social construct that getting a job and retiring is the only path to success and LEARN.
    2. School is not always for everyone, learning is.
    3. Do what you love and you'll never find yourself headed in the wrong direction.


    P.S. If the job market is bad, create one. Blaming external and uncontrollable circumstances for what YOU'RE not accomplishing is a bad habit to get into and surefire way to not ever reaching those goals! Brands like Colgate, Dove, and Kellogg's don't even flinch in recessions!
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