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312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Five Inconvenient Truths About College/University Today

Written by Sandhya R

Photo by Lance Matthew Pahang on Unsplash

Having a positive post-secondary experience requires you to understand these five important, but inconvenient truths about college/university today.

Where I hang out (which is mostly Reddit threads and YouTube comments) nobody’s really happy about college/university. Most people who graduate are rarely singing post-secondary’s praises. The narrative of lose-lose is shining bright, especially with student debt horror stories.

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This video by Film Riot, for instance, goes hard on ditching the university route. The YouTuber is mostly saying, “Eh, I got a degree but I would have been fine without it”. Here’s a YouTube comment that really caught my eye:

I can understand if it’s 1991, but choosing to go to film school in 2017?

Well, get this: I did go to film school, for a Masters Degree, no less, and graduated in 2015. And to you Anonymous YouTuber, I say, “Yes! People like me exist. And some of us are trying to answer your question through a self-reflective podcast.” Off the cuff, I’d say film school is necessary if you don’t live in a country that has a self-sustaining film industry. BUT—personal defence on pause—the fact of the matter is…

Colleges and universities—the way they are today—with lectures, projects, and exams at their core, might not work as effectively as they once did.

Colleges/universities, let me clue you in on what alternatives a millennial and whatever the next generation is being called have:

→ Rapid self learning on YouTube.

→ Online courses by Lynda, Adobe etc.

→ Celebrity effin’ master classes at $180.

1. Alternative education is not an iffy option anymore as job postings become more skill specific.

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Not having a college diploma or university degree but the required skills can get you employed in some sectors. Monisha Thimmaiah, an HR professional in the Financial Services Industry, explains that the workforce has become very field specific. For “technical, more specialized jobs, it’s all about the right qualification from the right place, so that the job is not entirely alien to them.” I’m talking accountants, auditors – they need to be CAs, CPAs, or have a Masters in Finance.

“But for a sales role, she says, “Employers would much rather prefer candidates who have the skill and experience of creating a positive impact on the business.” Recruitment, airline operations, and retail care far more for skill than where you graduated from. Victoria Harrison of Salt, a global recruitment firm, further adds that in media industry, “Employers care more about relevant experience than a degree for sure!”

On the other hand, a four year college diploma or university degree is the base criteria in some fields like forensics or nutrition. For some employers, a college diploma or university degree can hold value because it shows you the candidate has the grit, hard work, and commitment to get things done. A big part of adulting is doing sh*t you don’t always like to the best of your ability. And making it through this giant elaborate obstacle course called college/university shows you can!

A good education is often seen as one that is “relevant” and guarantees reduced risk when entering the job market. People go through this system for that coveted job. The job that brings in the money and thus freedom to live. This type of a linear approach to achieving happiness in life definitely puts the onus on education to be profitable. And by that criteria, what we have today as education may well fall short.

2. Picking what to learn by studying the market isn’t a perfect solution either.

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Our minds live in times of extreme distraction. The discipline and focus required to carefully choose your courses. Setting aside time and commit to a schedule by your own volition at 18-years-old is a rarity.

You can do it for a Motion Typography effect on one project for an intense couple of weeks. But not your entire education.

The super lazy and the very brilliant will be quickly bored and frustrated with merely using the internet as a learning tool.

3. School should become more of an incubator, in line with the growing popularity of entrepreneurship.

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In an ideal world, learning would thrive without the looming fear of employment. It’s really the only sanctioned phase of life where you can immerse yourself into something, driven purely by curiosity and a passion for the subject. Nerding out is a special kind of love that often kickstarts great ventures.

In order to be successful, even from a strictly employment sense, you need two things:

→ Technical skills.

→ Soft skills.

Not everyone has equal access to developing their technical skills. Fortunately, the internet is solving this problem.

However, the other part is those soft skills. Sit-down college/university education is not testing your ability to innovate, solve a problem, or get back up from a failure. It’s still more about deadlines than depth.

Students are not necessarily complacent when entering college/university. But the structure is such that you can get away with moments of complacency. Low attendance and not submitting projects are still an issue. That’s just a few ways students can mess up education for themselves.

4. It is time to welcome stand alone YouTubers like Video Revealed and Every Frame a Painting into the curriculum.

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With the overwhelming amount of tutorials and masterclasses out there today, a teacher’s contribution could well be narrative. They can provide flow to the information and explain how it all fits, so that you aren’t just a repository of how to do this and that.

You still need a human, preferably one who is a generalist, to draw those connections out.  YouTubers are doing it well in the form of video essays. The educator as a guide needs to be aware of ALL resources available.

Which means you can’t sleep on YouTube schools anymore, academia.

Dr. Fazal Malik, Dean of Humanities, Arts and Applied Sciences at Amity University, Dubai recognizes the urgent need to stay relevant:

As new educational technologies and practices change the way the students learn today, universities have to transform to stay relevant. Online open educational resources, social media platforms and mobile applications are opening up innumerable ways of knowing and doing things. Which implies change in the traditional role of the institutions of learning.

He goes on to add that to stay unique, universities have to change. They have to go from classroom-based learning institutions to scenario-based learning sites, “where innovative disruptions, new technologies and modern pedagogies lead to a learning environment necessary for developing a workforce fit for the rapidly changing industry.”

5. A focus on mentorship cements the importance of university for youth.

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The other valuable takeaway from a traditional education experience is the face-time you get with experienced, accomplished humans. Ones who invest in your growth and success. I personally haven’t been on the receiving end of this much. But if schools can have more teachers who are readily mentors, so many people won’t feel like college/university was a waste of time.

Even if all a student has to offer is a half-page essay and five hours of attendance, there should be one faculty member in college/university to give their time and opinion on the student’s work. That conversation could change the student’s entire career path (granted, it will be a short meeting). It really makes you think about the requirements to do teaching right.

You need to be a knowledge source. A communications expert. An innovative thinker. And a guidance counsellor to provide value to a student. Thank YOU Ellen for honouring educators on the regular!

The disappointment with today’s system of education is a result of two things: 1) Commoditization of knowledge as skill, and 2) Lack of human connection. Skill-sharing platforms can allow college/university study to maintain relevance. Personable teachers can make all the difference in a time where communication is facing all kinds of breakdowns. There isn’t a better time to be truly creative with our approach to education.


You could graduate high school with up to $20,000 in hand to pay for 1st year.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.