Check out the photo below. It was taken late one night (okay, maybe not late by NYC standards) at a speakeasy in Manhattan’s Flatiron district.
In the photo is me, my wife, and our very good friend and fellow Canadian, Dr. Bryan Chung.
Whenever I see this photo, the first thing I think isn’t “did you really just pay $18 for a cocktail?” but instead, “37 years.”
As in, 37 years of post-secondary education between us.
Dr. C (Bryan) is the big winner at 19 years. That’s four years for his BSc, then God knows how many years for his Masters and Ph.D, then four years of medical school followed by however long it took to become a hand surgeon.
So if you ever hack your finger off carving a turkey, now you know who to call.
My wife, the other Dr. C, clocks in at 11 years. That’s five years of undergrad study, four years to become a dentist, and two more years of specialty study.
I don’t know. I guess she likes teeth.
I’m the relative moron of the trio, fumbling in at seven years — English and Psychology degrees, and then later, Journalism. Though I suppose if you factor in all the training and nutrition courses I’ve taken since graduation I deserve at least another year or two. All right, maybe not.
So that’s 37 years of student loans, tests, exams, term papers, parties missed, and (for the two doctors especially) gratification delayed.
So is it worth it? For the most part, we’d all say yeah.
The Fitness Authority Paradox
However, I’ve noticed a trend among many fitness trainers and experts. They seem to all have similar stories – they graduate from high school not knowing what they want to do with their lives, so they head to university and, well, hate it.
Some drop out, many others bomb out, while a few decide to take “a semester off” and never go back.
The good news is, most of them seemingly got their act together – typically in fitness – and now report happy, fulfilled lives doing what they say they want to be doing.
I think that’s awesome.
However, what I don’t necessarily agree with in their success stories is all the bashing that university takes. Cause I think, most times, the problem wasn’t school, but them — or at least, what they expected to get out of an education.
Making School Work For You
So what’s the best way to get the most out of post-secondary education? Here are a few helpful hints.
Don’t go to college or university out of obligation. Who cares if a college degree would make your mama proud? You think she’d be proud if she knew that you spent four years of your life doing something you hate simply to appease her? It’s your life son. Live it.
Don’t go to college or university to find yourself. This is about as dumb as it gets. “I’m going to go lock myself away for the next four years studying stuff I don’t really care about to get in touch with who I really am.”
It won’t work kid. You’ll learn a lot more about who you really are by working — especially jobs you really hate — or by chasing your passion.
An honourable mention goes to backpacking across Europe or dating a stripper.
Don’t go to college or university to get a job. This may seem counterintuitive but getting a degree, especially in the humanities, is a really low percentage move if gainful employment is the goal. If you want an in-demand job that pays, then go learn a trade. A plumber or electrician or drywall guy will always have work — not so with a Religion degree.
Don’t go to college or university cause your friends are. Seriously, what are you, 12? At some point you have to find your own way. Be your own person.
DO go to college or university to learn. While you can learn a lot about life and struggle in the real world you can’t beat academia for getting exposed to subjects you simply don’t come across in everyday life. How often do you get to discuss Descartes when stocking shelves at the Piggly Wiggly?
DO go to college or university to pursue your passion. If you know from second grade that you want to be a doctor then obviously university is where you need to set your sights. But if your passion is making music, is school really for you?
DO go to college or university when you’re a bit older. I don’t believe that heading to college right out of high school is the best route. Those that do tend to be those attending out of obligation, peer pressure, or cause they don’t know what the hell they want to do with their lives.
It’s better to spend a year or two finding your own identity by either working or travelling, or even chasing a pipe dream (i.e., dating a stripper.)
Otherwise, you run the risk of being that guy sleeping in the back of the classroom dreaming about what he could be doing. No one wants to be him. Not even James Franco.
When choosing minors, choose your passions. I originally had an economics minor. I took it because it was apparently easy and the classes fit nicely into my schedule, allowing me to work out at 3 pm.
That wasn’t too bright as I hated it and couldn’t wait for the end of the year, whereupon I promptly changed my minor.
Others choose minors that are “closely related” to their majors, under the assumption that all the similar info will overlap. Say, sociology and psychology.
Minors are where you should try to have fun and indulge yourself. If your goal is to be a pharmacist but your side passion is Renaissance art – why not make Art History your minor?
This way you can feed your passion while catching a break from all the heavy work of your chosen major.
Who knows – maybe you’ll discover a possible career path much more in line with where your heart is as opposed to where your head is?
The Most Important Reason To Consider College or University
I think back often to the boy I was at 18, when I first walked onto the university campus. I was young, bright, a good student, and nice person. But I was also naïve, somewhat close-minded, and woefully ignorant to what happened outside of my insular world of school, sports, movies, and hanging out with friends.
University changed all that.
Four years later I had a passion for electronic music and DJ’ing.
I had friends from every race and sexual orientation and socio economic background.
I travelled, picked up new hobbies, and had some truly interesting (read: shitty) summer and part time jobs.
I drank a lot and had a lot of fun. School is also 60% women, 92% of which are hot. (Hey, I took a stats class.)
I read a metric shit ton of books. Being well read is a gift — you just don’t know it until you watch Jeopardy.
I had arguments with professors about constitutional referendums. I also listened to an inebriated and tenured prof teach a one-hour class on how Bugs Bunny was a subversive left-wing tool intended to brain wash kids.
My big point is — If you allow it to, school will test your intellectual mettle and push you far beyond your comfort zone, so that you emerge in four years with confidence in your ability to think critically, defend your beliefs intelligently, and be a more wordly, more compassionate person.
Of course, you can experience all this without going to school. And for most, maybe that’s the best course of action.
It just wasn’t for me. And maybe not for you either.
So if you’re on the fence and meet my criteria above for going, I say do it. Then you can join us for over-priced drinks at the big kids table. I’ll even get the first round.
What was your school experience like?