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Opinion: You don’t need to go to university right after high school

People must understand the value of giving yourself time to mature before making a life-altering decision

by Lucas Reyes
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I remember being in the final stretch of Grade 12. I was a stressed-out teenager roaming the halls of Brebeuf College School, carrying many concerns regarding my university applications.

I not only wondered if I was going to get into my first choice program but if I was going to be accepted by any school at all. 

I eventually learned that I was accepted into Ryerson’s journalism program. 

I was thrilled. This was the program I had my eye on all along and I was excited to get to work and start a new journey. 

However, this could’ve gone very differently had I listened to my initial gut feeling instead of succumbing to the pressure around me.

Despite being excited about getting into my program of choice, there was no way I wanted to jump straight into university at first.

I was worried I was going to sink financially, I had concerns about my work ethic, and I didn’t think I was mentally fit.

I was told to go to university right away by members of my family. I was told that I wouldn’t want to go back to school if I took time off. I was told that I would simply figure it out. I was told that I couldn’t afford to let my peers get ahead of me.

So I went and completed the application process and, months later, I discovered the news while sitting in the school library. I was thrilled and looking forward to a new experience, but my initial concerns remained.

Over three years have passed and I’m now in my final year of my undergraduate career. I don’t regret the decision, but I’ve realized my gut feeling wasn’t all wrong.

I tell myself that if I were starting my university career today, I would be in way better shape. The reason? I’ve grown a lot since I was 18.

Something I didn’t understand three years ago was the importance of organization. I’ve always tried finding ways to stay organized, but I still struggled and I just shrugged it off. I would tell myself that it didn’t matter so long as my work got done.

Yes, the work was done, and the grades were OK, but I found it hard to retain things. I found it hard to stay consistent with my work. I was immature and admittedly not ready to make the most of my opportunity.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people form great habits at a young age, some people have their finances in order early on (and/or benefit from a stable household) and some people have always had a motor for getting work done efficiently.

For those who struggled to start off, perhaps the extra time could’ve been helpful. Maybe some people would have benefited from starting school at 20 or 21 instead of 18, but will never know.

Efraim Eskander, a first-year child and youth care student at Ryerson, has little regrets about starting university at 21.

“I did regret [not going to university right after high school] because I saw all my friends move on while I stuck back, but reality set in and I realized it was the best decision for me to wait,” said Eskander.

Mental health can be fragile for high school students. Learning to deal with stress is necessary to get through school, and not everyone has the ability to effectively do that at a young age.

“You learn the value of mental health. It’s crucial to have the coping skills to deal with stress that maybe you didn’t have at 18,” he said.

This was the case for me. Things got difficult personally, which affected me academically and I struggled to stay afloat. With my first year of university looming, I was unsure of how I would manage the transition.

I didn’t have high confidence and it led to me having a troublesome first year, even if I got through my work with good grades.

Waiting would also give you ample time to deeply think about your program or school, if you’re not initially sure about it.

This may not sound like a big deal given the nature of developing a career and how many times you may want to change routes. However, it changes things when money is involved.

Whether or not you receive financial assistance, going to university is expensive. Is it worth making a multi-thousand-dollar decision when you likely aren’t eligible to buy a lottery ticket? 

Unless you know you’re ready, then probably not. 

Eskander also doesn’t think so. “If I mess up, that’s money down the drain,” he said. “Most people don’t have money to burn on mistakes that could’ve been preventable had those around you respected your initial decision.”

Going to university for the sake of going is not sound advice. People have lost significant money after discovering they weren’t a fan of their program or weren’t in the right place to tackle school.

If you’re a high school student thinking about university, really give it thought. If you’re unsure, consider talking to a guidance counsellor about your academic future.

People likely have your best interest in mind when they tell you to go right into post-secondary. But ultimately it’s your career at stake and you know what’s best for you.

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