I’m currently winding up my final semester of undergraduate education.
Nothing too atypical about this situation, besides the fact that I started over six and a half years ago. It’s been a somewhat bumpy road, but at 5:15pm on the fourteenth of November I will have reached some form of off-ramp. Or perhaps a freeway. I don’t know, we’ll see.
So what exactly have I been doing for the last seven years? I’m asked by fellow third-year students (who are four years my junior) and Masters students my age why, as a 24 year old who has never taken a gap year, I still haven’t got any fancy letters to put in front of my name on an otherwise flashy business card.
Well, it’s a long-ish story. But let’s see if I can get it some of it into five hundred words.
After leaving high school, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. Do an Arts degree at Melbourne with an ENTER score that was well over the requisite (and be done in three years), or do an Arts/Science double degree (slightly higher requisite score) and feel a little better about the fact that I had apparently wasted a bunch of time in high school studying to get a final result which I didn’t really need (and be done in five)?
2 things made me go with the latter option.
- Dad. Yes, okay, fine, I listened to Dad. He thought Arts degrees were wishy-washy, and pointed out that if I did the Arts/Science degree and hated the science part, I could just drop it easily.
- A final-year student I was forced to associate with at the time (he was a fellow football umpire) threw in his two cents, and when I said I was considering doing Arts, as it seemed fairly flexible and didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do in the future, he said;
“Most people who go into an Arts degree not knowing what they want to do come out not knowing what they want to do.”
I don’t remember much else about this guy, but these words stuck with me.
So I picked Arts/Science, and buckled up for another five years of education. Then, in February 2007, I had to choose subjects. I had no real idea of what I wanted to do for my Science degree, but I was good at Maths in high school, so I chose Maths. I had a real passion for animals as a kid, but I had long since dismissed that as dumb kid stuff that didn’t matter in the real world. Somewhat ironically, I knew exactly which Arts subjects I wanted to do. They don’t matter at this point though.
I stumbled through an awful first year of mathematics, hating every subject and failing one. Still in the high school frame of mind which dictated that I had no other option, I had a crack at a third semester, which went just as badly as the first two. I then realised that this was my tertiary education, I would be the one to pay for it (eventually), and maybe I should have a think about what I really wanted from it.
So for the next semester, I only took three subjects (as opposed to the norm of four), to give me a chance to slow down and figure out what I wanted to do. I kept ploughing on with Maths, and though my grades improved almost immediately, it took me two more semesters to decide what I wanted to do. But once I had, things turned right around.
Take home messages at this point?
- It’s your University education. Do what you want to do for a career, that doesn’t mean what you were good at in high school (though the two often happily intersect).
- There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time off at University if it means sorting your life out and make sure you’re not wasting your time there
- Don’t try and fit the story of your University education into 700 words….