*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

University: 'get paid!', kid.

Well, nobody on either side of my family had gone to university in their youth.  I'm in my forties, but I know enough what I did wrong to know what my children should do in a few decades.

The way it's done:
- when you go, you are too young to know what to study
- and are too young to know that your course load is nothing compared to working a real week
- on the other hand, taking a full course load in the first year is a bad idea for your marks
- as is isolating yourself on campus with all the other precious snowflakes
- you can't make any real money in the summer, just as everyone else is glutting the market
- besides, what are you going to do with your room/apartment if you go out of town?
- don't pay rent out of town for the sake of it
- finish in as few years as you can
- 'study what you love!'

The way it should be done:
- get accepted in your last spring of high school, and defer it for a year
- work, travel, volunteer, what have you
- know something about the real world first
- forget the eight-month school year, four-month summer
- take summer courses
- but take fewer fall/winter term courses to keep the balance
- use the extra time all year to keep the same part-time job through the whole year, living in the same location, making more than the amount in a year you would in just the summer
- you'll learn more about life and where you live, if you are not only with privileged jerks
- use the money saved on rent out of town to backpack somewhere interesting the weeks left off school and work between semesters
- finish with as little debt as you can
- 'what you love!' doesn't pay; minor in it

If I'd known a fraction then what I know now...


  1. That's pretty much what I told my son when he was in high school but did he listen to me... he ended up dropping out of uni in second year because he hated his course.

    It's ridiculous to expect a 18yo kid with no life experience to make a decision - and a huge financial investment. We have a slightly different system here in Aus than the US model (not sure about Canada, UK etc) where you get taxed extra to pay for your uni course once you reach a certain income. Used to be around $50,000 pa now it's down to about $30,000. It's much more deceptive because kids don't see the debt they are accumulating and don't have the mental connection between pissfarting around and failing a course will cost $$$ in the future for nothing.

    I'm lucky - what I love did pay since I discovered at uni that I loved IT and switched to major in that :) I think that's part of knowing yourself too and knowing the system.

    Kinda off topic but it really boggles my mind how many women do "feminist" studies in uni. To me, doing something like IT or Engineering is much more feminist than a Mickey Mouse arts major.

    1. "'Feminist' studies in uni. To me, doing something like IT or Engineering is much more feminist than a Mickey Mouse arts major."

      You are very much on to something there! I'll put aside the fact I am a Philosophy major, EA Studies minor, to agree with you.

      My courses influence my 'get paid!' attitude now, though I wouldn't tell a student to take nothing he's interested in. An Arts degree should be good enough like once was, because you should have learned all non-math/science skills you could be called upon in unknown work in the future; however, there's both been too much credential inflation for an Arts degree to compete, and employers do not prefer people who might have learned to think for themselves and identify BS independently.

      I started in English Lit., FFS, but a semester of learning to hate reading, and the late-eighties deconstructionist nonsense killed that. Switched to philosophy, which I regret as a major, but not as a minor: I have an ironclad fallacy detector and razor-sharp skills at tearing apart anyone's ignorance. (I am much loved for it too...) Took two years off in the middle broke, and when I came back after two away I couldn't believe how much easier it was to study than actually have to get up for work. The EA studies minor relates both to an interest, and a plan to go to Japan on JET, which I did. A BEd later is the only reason I get paid.

      Debt... There are many things I did not do as a young man because of the debt, and places I did not go. If you can avoid debt from school, cars and inflated mortgages, 'the world is your oyster'. Yeah, you have to pay for these things seomtimes, but better to put off getting them until: you have the money, or in the case of a house, the market has bust.

    2. Not sure about elsewhere, but an Arts degree here doesn't even teach the transferable skills it once did. My sister is doing Arts atm and she complains because students don't even need time management skills but can keep getting extensions. Not a lot of learning to think for themselves either. And apparently the little darlings all get Mini Coopers from their parents when they start uni.

    3. Proud holder of an MA in "Japanese Studies" here... for a variety of reasons I ended up taking more-or-less the path described in the second list, effectively paying my own way through university, luckily enough in an era/locale where you could (and still can) study without being forced to take on debt. I never intended to go into IT, but ended up building a career on that despite a total lack of IT qualifications, hah. (Basically I got sick of dealing with IT people who said something couldn't be done when it clearly could, so I bought a book and worked out how to do it myself, and things snowballed from there).

      I'd hate to go through the higher education system these days, particularly without a clear idea of what to do afterwards.

  2. Mid thirties and still going to school. I am 3 classes shy of a Bachelors, have a career that pays well enough to support my self, indulgences, travel habits and husband who as to stay home to clean house, mind the child (Asperger's does not allow for the husband to work). I actually started college while in high school and had a part time job. As the work hours increased, the school hours decreased, I moved closer to work (incidentally further from home but closer to school as well). I took an 8 year school hiatus while honing my career (which most kids these days go to school for, in order to be considered for my job), traveled, got married and now I am going back to school. I started out this last semester with Pottery Wheel for Beginners, in the fall I will take a class that will enable me to put two more AA's under my belt at low low community college price but still acceptable as Uni credit.
    Going back I realized how many kids start off strong with a full load of classes that will serve them of little to no use in the future when they decide Psychology is no longer fun. (I was a psych major, ending up with a career in Comp Sci, go figure!) I am glad I took it slow.... I can still change my major without having to reinvent the wheel and I am not nose deep in debt because I worked hard during my schooling years. Hopefully if the little booger listens he will glean enough from my life/career path to make his smoother than mine is/will be.