I think people of my generation – (children of baby boomers) have a suffered a fallacy regarding university education, that has been pushed on to us by our parents.
The fallacy is the idea that one must go to university immediately out of highschool, and failure to do otherwise is indicative of low social status or a character flaw.
For my, and the generation ten years younger than me, university often treated as a rite of passage, a place where one discovers themselves, more than it is treated as an objective career move.
As a result, you have a situation where a lot of students are going to university, without having a plan for what they’re going to do when they finish.
A lot of people have the attitude – ‘I’ll graduate, then do my OE, and then get a job’. I think – ‘why not just skip straight to the OE?’.
In my opinion – this is a very expensive, and not very effective, rite of passage.
I think it is far more effective, for one to discover themselves while working and travelling. Working a hospitality job, or menial labour job, while living away from home, provides the opportunities to discover oneself – paying rent, working with new people, making new friends, partying etc.
Similarly, travel provides a lot of opportunities for personal growth. Learning to deal with unfamiliar situations, seeing the world and assessing what your values are, meeting people of different cultures, and of course, partying.
I think the attitude arises from the baby boomer generation where careers tended to be a lot more single tracked and long term. One would start a profession and stick with it for life.
Career paths are no longer so static, and it’s now much more normal to switch career track mid-life.
I think also for the baby boomer generation, a university degree held much more social value. These days – with any reasonably intelligent person going to university, a university degree is no longer an indication of notable intelligence – it’s just surprising if an apparently educated person doesn’t have a university degree, but not a mark against them.
My advice, for teenagers considering their next steps after finishing high school, or their parents, is to consider your options. Don’t accept university as the default – because it’s an expensive choice. At approximately $10,000 for a year’s university education in New Zealand, that $10,000 could spent spending the year travelling.
Consider instead – working full time and saving money, moving to Australia and working seasonal work there, taking a one year TESOL course and then the following years teaching English overseas. There’s a wide range of alternative options.
Of course, this advice doesn’t apply to everyone – some young people are particularly motivated and have a clear direction – and I don’t mean to stifle their progress.
But for the others of us who want to experience life first – there’s plenty of time to decide what you want to do for a career – and you’d going to discover that simply by experiencing life – and you don’t university to do that.