About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article on my thoughts about what to keep in mind when applying to university, using my personal experience as an example.
In that article, I focused mostly on figuring out which university fits you best based on program, location, opportunities, etc. However, there is one more important question you need to ask yourself when thinking about your education that I completely failed to mention.
In short, that question is: what do I want out of my education?
At first glance it may seem like an odd question to ask, but it’s really not. It seems odd because many of us have our own ideas about what the purpose of your educational experience is or should be – but the truth is that your educational experience is whatever you want it to be. There is no one right way to view your education, and it’s important to always realize that, despite what people may argue.
Some people just want to learn. Very often they are genuinely and strongly interested in the topics at hand, and want to sponge up as much as possible.
On the other hand, some people go to university purely for the degree. Usually this in terms of job prospects or further education requirements (e.g. professional schools, graduate schools, etc.).
Of course, if you’re applying to professional school (such as medical school), marks matter. So some people go to university primarily to get the grades required to move on to something else.
In my opinion, these are all legitimate. It bothers me when people try to act as if there is some universal agreement as to what we should want out of our education (e.g. “You shouldn’t be picking your school just for the sake of getting good marks!” There are reasons why doing so is often not a good idea, but it has nothing to do with a right or wrong way of looking at education). Quite often, what we want out of our education will be some combination of 2 or 3 of these views, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
When you are thinking of where you want to go to university, you need to reflect on all of these issues, because different undergraduate programs will be more conducive to one of these aspects than the others.
So take the time to figure out what you want out of your university education – it’ll save you a lot of head ache down the road!