It is almost impossible to escape societal norms and expectations; everywhere you go it feels like someone is telling you what to do, what to wear, and how to act. Even in our educational system, it seems like there are expectations and unwritten rules as to how your post-secondary experience is supposed to be. It feels as though there are these expectations that you must finish your degree in four years, at one university, and if you don’t you did something wrong. During my post-secondary experience so far, I have met many people who have challenged these expectations and decided to make their post-secondary experience their own. Through these encounters, I have come to realize that there are so many different opportunities and pathways available and that it is possible to take a different path and still end up at the same place as everyone else. Your educational experience is a personal one and there are so many different paths that you can take, which is why I think it’s about time that we changed the way we think about post-secondary education and allow our experience to take us to wherever we want to be, regardless of what we’re “supposed” to do.
When you think about it, you choose the university you will attend when you are 17 or 18 years old. Since then what you want to do with the rest of your life may have changed, you may have found a specific area of study that you are really interested in, or maybe the school that you choose just really isn’t the right fit for you. When these realizations arise, you might be inclined to, dare I say it, transfer. Transferring is not something you hear about daily, universities don’t advertise it as an option due to their business mindset, and people don’t really talk about it. Because of this, it seems to me that transferring has gotten a bit of a bad rap and can be seen as shameful or a bad thing to do. When somebody transfers the rest of the world views it as if they made a mistake and now are trying to fix it. Transferring schools should not have this negative connotation; if moving to another university is going to prepare you better for your desired profession why in the world would you not do it. I think that if you could find any transfer student and asked them if they regretted the decision, they would say no.
Another opportunity or choice that I have found to be underrated is the gap year. A traditional gap year is taken in between one’s last year of high school and first year of university. This type of gap year is very popular in European countries but seems to have lost popularity in Canadian schools with the increased pressure to continue one’s education right after high school graduation. In the UK, the gap year is viewed as a time for young adults to discover what they want, maybe travel a bit, volunteer, or get a job. Universities in the UK value the gap year and to students it is crazy to even imagine applying to university without one. Here in Canada, there is stigma attached to the gap year. Canadian students experience pressure from teachers, friends, and families to apply to universities and attend them months after graduating from high school. Some grade 12 students just aren’t ready to make that transition into post-secondary and that’s totally okay. Unfortunately, to Canadian students, they feel a need to be ready and if they aren’t something isn’t right. I have met people during my time at University who took a gap year for themselves and you can tell that they are better prepared because of it. There is no need to rush into university, the school and the degrees are still going to be there a year from now, and if that extra time needs to be taken, students should feel supported by their communities to do so.
I have learned that post-secondary education has multiple paths to the same destination, and that there is no need to feel like you must be on the same path that everyone else is on. Education and the post-secondary experience is a personal one, and no one should let external pressures and stigmas decide how they are going to live these years.