Learn to live. Live to learn
Post-secondary education should be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. It is an opportunity for personal growth, a chance to build life-long relationships, and to acquire the skills that will be the foundation of success for life after school. That success must be earned, and it doesn’t come easily, no matter how well you have performed in secondary school.
What can you do to ensure you receive the educational experience you deserve? Here are some suggestions:
- Education is much more than developing skills and expertise to obtain employment, but if that’s not one of the outcomes, you’ll almost certainly regard the experience as failing you. You need to see the point of what you’re learning in terms of work outcomes or you won’t perform anywhere near your potential.
- Understand what the learning experience will be at the university you choose. Don’t choose a school because of reputation, status, family history or what your friends are doing. There’s a big difference between the learning experience at a 7,000-student university and a 50,000-student university.
- Many students experience challenges, especially in first year. This is normal, but not addressing those problems can undermine your success. Schools provide help and support around learning issues and personal well-being, but you must ask for it. Before you’re too far into your studies, know where you can get help with academic performance, relationships, emotional and psychological well-being.
- Give some thought to whether you’re ready to begin post-secondary education immediately following high school. You must be prepared to establish new relationships, build a life independent of family support, and to set and achieve independent learning goals. Students who take a gap year with a plan rarely regret it. Furthermore, studies suggest they perform better academically and get more out of their post-secondary experience.
- Colleges and universities offer numerous ways to build skills, expertise and accomplishments that will support academic success to build bridges to meaningful careers. Student government, clubs, groups, organizations, volunteering in the local community and working with professors on research projects can lead to meaningful extra-curricular experiences and may even lead to jobs.
- Employers clearly value students who have practical experience that complements their academic studies. Many schools offer experiential learning, co-operative education, and internship programs. Students should seek these out; remember that gaining access to these programs is often based on academic performance.
- If you’ve had a learning assessment and accommodation in high school and accommodation has been critical to your academic success, you will have to seek it out again at college or university. This takes time. You need to approach schools well before the start of the school year, contact learning support or student success services and arrange a meeting. You’ll need an up-to-date learning assessment from an acceptable professional provider.
- Post-secondary studies provide an opportunity for you to develop an independent life separate from your home life, but it is important for you to stay connected to your families or support networks. No one loves you more than these people. Don’t lose touch!
Geoff and David Lawson are career and educational planning specialists with Career Solutions in Burlington, Ont.