For most people, the new year is pregnant with possibility. Your peer group is constantly filled with excitement about the prospect of what to expect at their new university – but you awkwardly laugh and avoid the subject. Your secret truth is that you’re not going.
Perhaps it’s for reasons beyond your control or maybe you didn’t get the marks you needed to qualify for the degree you wanted to do. As a result, your whole life feels like it’s been cast adrift on a windless ocean. If you find yourself feeling like this, take a deep breath and read on, we have some tips:
As cliché as this sounds, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, this may be a blessing in disguise. Speaking to the Sunday Times in 2018, founder of Flux Trends Dion Chang said: “In 2015 I started to question the value of certain degrees. You have a young generation where that young person may be the first person to get a degree and that degree is supposed to open doors, but these days that is often not the case.”
It is a common refrain for recent graduates to exit university only to discover that the degree they ploughed hundreds of study hours and tens of thousands of rands into is worth little more than the paper it’s printed on. Across the globe, more and more students are finding themselves saddled with debts that their qualifications are ill-equipped to help them pay off. This is your chance to avoid that fate. Furthermore, in a world where everything is changing, our approach to education is still lagging behind.
“Our education system was spawned in the 20th century. We are still teaching children to memorise things rather than gearing our system towards something more knowledge-based,” said Chang. And fortunately, we live in a world where knowledge has never been more accessible. For example:
Despite what some may think, Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges are actually a great way to study toward specific careers. For years now the news has been filled with stories about how desperate South Africa is for artisans. Speaking last year at the launch of the Moses Koran’s skills centre, deputy minister of Higher Education Buti Manamela said “artisans are better paid than some of us in suits and ties”.
The idea that the only way to make a good living is behind a desk typing out Word documents is as outdated as the concept of a fax machine and as occupational longevity goes, chances are that the world is going to need electricians for a lot longer than it is going to need journalists. Finally, basic economics tells us that people pay more for things that are in short supply and at the point where the country craves artisans, there is a good chance the resulting paycheck will be worth the dirty fingernails.
As a general rule, universities tend to favour a deep knowledge of a particular field, especially as you head into postgraduate studies. The problem is that we are moving toward a world where it may be better to be a jack of all trades rather than a master of one. Journalists of previous eras, for example, just needed to be nosy and write well. These days, members of that same profession need to be able to write, take photos and video, edit multimedia and more. All of those things can be covered in a variety of courses that cost a fraction of what a Journalism degree does and takes less than half the time to learn. The same applies to a growing number of industries.
As we shift toward a more knowledge-based job market, the emphasis is moving away from where you learnt what you know to how well you can apply your knowledge. Thus, if you have the drive, YouTube can serve as much more than a place to watch ASMR videos. The site is bursting with highly useful educational videos that can take you through everything from an idiot’s guide to nuclear physics to a step-by-step guide to mechanical engineering. All it costs is a cup of coffee at McDonalds to get access to the free WiFi.
Whether we like it or not, the world is globalising and shows no signs of slowing down. Despite its best efforts, Google Translate is still trash and being able to facilitate conversations between people who do not speak the same language is set to become a highly- prized asset. Most major universities offer language courses that don’t cost the earth or need you to have straight As. Furthermore there are language schools, like Alliance Française, that offer courses that come with a qualification at the end.
In short, going to university is not the only way to skin an educational cat. Sure, it’s fun and, if you study the right thing, potentially lucrative – but so are a lot of things. We live in a world where people on Instagram and YouTube are making bucketloads of money doing nothing in particular, where the internet can teach you how to be anything you want to be and, most importantly, where anyone with WiFi and a dream can turn their lives into whatever they want it to be and be debt free in the process.