Ah, to post-secondary or not to post-secondary? That is the question. Ok, so you graduated high school, right? You got that high school diploma, officially done with secondary school. What’s next? I have a lot to say about this. First of all, I think it’s a pretty ridiculous thing to ask of a 17/18-year-old child (yes, you are a child at this age) to know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I remember when I was in high school, and my parents and other adults would ask me what I see myself doing, and this question would damn near cause me to have a panic attack. I think this question ties along with a lot of other aspects of life. What makes me happy? What do I enjoy? What are my interests? What do I see myself doing? What is my purpose in life? What am I meant to be doing? Some people spend their whole lives trying to find the answers to those questions, so it’s quite absurd to expect a child to even have an inkling of understanding of who they are and what they want. Hey, some teenagers are incredibly lucky and they just know what they want. The things that they learned in life, and in school, in their 17 or 18 years of life have led them to a certain passion, or provided them with certainty about an endeavor. Ah, to be so lucky.
I am a firm believer that the pursuit of education has no age limit, and genuinely think that anyone can do anything in life, within reason, reach, and availability, of course. You can’t pursue an opportunity that is not available to you, that you can’t financially afford, and/or that is simply unrealistic. Not to say that anything is impossible, but if you want to pursue something or you have a certain passion or interest in something, you must have realistic expectations, otherwise, you may be disappointed with the outcome. For example, perhaps you have always wanted to sing and make songs/music. You can’t just expect that the first thing you make or share with the world is going to be excellent and that everyone is going to love it. Well, I mean, if that does happen, maybe it’s just beginner’s luck, or you’re just insanely, crazily good at what you do. In that case, damn! Go you! I think it’s just healthy to set realistic and clear expectations and goals for yourself, so you don’t end up disappointed and discouraged.
However, in the same breath, I believe it takes a certain fearlessness, boldness, and almost stupid confidence that you have what it takes to succeed and be good at what you want to pursue. Scratch that, be EXCELLENT at what you want to pursue. Sometimes, being realistic is boring. You must dare to dream bigger, think bigger, and to move outside of your comfort zone to grow and evolve as a person. You have to have an unwavering faith in yourself that you can do it. You can’t listen to what other people have to say, or other people’s opinions. You can’t be influenced by your parents, your peer group, your community. You just have to follow your intuition.
So, to answer the question, is post-secondary really necessary? Well, short answer, not really. The way I see it, if you want a specific career with skills you can’t learn on the job and/or one you need certain qualifications for, like being a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, dentist, any kind of healthcare profession really, teacher, university professor, engineer, then yes. However, there are so many opportunities and fields out there that don’t really require formal education, and they favor actual experience over what you learned in school. From what I learned, a lot of positions just want you to have an undergraduate degree to see if you have the commitment, work ethic, and time management skills (amongst other things) to have a job. It’s actually pretty common that people don’t even end up working in a field related to their degree. Even if you do have an undergraduate degree, a lot of these jobs expect you have to 10+ years’ experience for a minimum wage position. So, either way, it doesn’t really matter.
Also, just because you do not go to university/college, or you go to university/college later in life, that does not mean you are “late” or that you haven’t done enough. Like I said above, I think the pursuit of education has no age limit. People switch careers all the time. They work in a certain job or field or position for years and decide that they actually hate it, and want a change. It’s not really so black and white. So, if you’re a high school student and you’re reading this, and you don’t know what you want to study, or if you even want to pursue post-secondary, DON’T DO IT. TAKE A GAP YEAR. Work, gain experience, meet people, travel, save money, grow as a person, indulge yourself in your hobbies and interests. Pursuing post-secondary is a huge investment of time, money, and effort, and it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. Also, don’t worry if you think you’re going through an existential crisis. It’s normal. You’re growing up, and you’re having to make decisions about your life. You’re in a period of your life where you must truly be introspective and be real with yourself.
Whatever you decide to do, just remember it’s YOUR life. Not your family’s, not your friends’, not your teachers’ – YOURS. Be bold, believe in yourself, make smart decisions and investments, make good friends, and don’t be afraid of other people’s opinions. The world is your oyster (I’m sorry, I had to).