Canadians take their education seriously. In fact, statistics show that 54% of Canadians between the ages of 25-64 have either a college or university degree. That makes us one of the most “educated” countries in the world, which is something we should be proud of. 

But formal education is changing. In an era where information is in abundance, there are many opportunities for you to learn new skills outside of a traditional college or university setting. This in no way takes away from the incredible benefits of attending post-secondary institutions, but this new reality should make you at least pause and ask yourself some very real questions about your goals and intentions. 

 

4 questions you should ask yourself before committing to post-secondary education in Canada 

College or university should be something you consider, and you should treat it like any other life-changing decision. You’re committing years of your life to this institution, so you should be confident in your decision and clear in your purpose. To reach that point of clarity, ask yourself these questions: 

 

1. What are my career goals? 

Before committing to post-secondary education, do you know what career you want to pursue? Are you going to college or university to obtain the skills necessary to be in that career, or are you still not sure? Does your potential career even require you to have a degree? These questions may seem simple, but have you taken the time to answer these questions honestly? Goals can sometimes be stressful, but if you approach career goals the right way, meaning you give just as much weight to the experience as you do to the outcome, then it can help alleviate some of that anxiety. 

2. Am I willing to put in the time commitment? 

A full-time college or university schedule is a lot of work. Even if you’re on campus and not commuting, the time commitment of attending classes, lectures and getting work done at a high level can be daunting. Assessing your personal situation, do you have at least six months of uninterrupted time to devote to attending college or university? Do you also plan to work while going to school? If so, does it make more sense to take on a part-time schedule? You don’t just want to pursue higher education; you want to do well. That will require time and effort, and unless you’re ready for both, you need to take a step back and consider your best move. 

 

3. Do I have the financial means to pursue higher education? 

Maybe one-day tuition will be free or so inexpensive that it’s negligible, but for right now, it costs. What’s your plan for paying tuition? If you don’t have an RESP account in your name, have you saved enough money to get you through the year? Two years? Are you going to work to pay for tuition while you attend college or university, and if so, have you worked out the math to make sure it’s possible? What about any kind of financial assistance? Are you eligible, and if so, how much are you eligible for? Financial assistance is primarily loans, so you’ll also need to eventually think about paying those loans back. Colleges and universities also have bursaries through Student Life Network (SLN). You’ll need to look into the eligibility requirements to make sure you can apply, but those are also options you need to consider. 

 

4. What kind of support do you have? 

Yes, you’re the one attending classes and committing your time and effort to do your best, but having the right support around you as you endure this journey is important. What’s your living situation like? If you’re not living at home, are you in an environment where it’s going to be difficult to focus and get your work done? Is your family in your corner? Are they supportive of you pursuing higher education? What about resources? Do you have everything you need at home – internet connection, laptop, software or other materials, etc. – or would you need to use libraries or other resources? Regardless of your situation, a positive mindset can go a long way. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, positive emotions and a healthy mindset can help you get through. 

 

There’s a reason you need to ask yourself the tough questions

College or university is hard. It’s supposed to be. Ideally, it’s supposed to be preparing you to compete for a job in your field. That means teaching you not just the skills that will be necessary for you to succeed but also preparing you mentally for the environment you would expect so you’re able to function in high-pressure situations. 

 

If you consider all of these questions and are ready to commit to an institution of higher learning, it’s never a bad idea to upskill to fill in the gaps. Colleges and universities are great, but they aren’t perfect. There will always be opportunities for you to advance your skill set outside of the classroom. It’s probably a good idea to go through a semester so you can better identify those gaps you’re trying to fill– but fill them. Perfecting those skills will only make you a better candidate when searching for a new job. 

 

Prepped can help guide you through the job search process 

By upskilling, you are filling in the skills gap and making yourself more attractive to hire. Complete our Career Vision exercise to determine if higher education is right for you, and sign up for Prepped to gain access to our tools and templates that can help improve your chances of getting a job by up to  6x1.

 


1 Songqi Liu, Jason L. Huang, & Mo Wang (2014). Effectiveness of Job Search Interventions: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1009-1041.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.
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