College in Hindsight

College is a wonderful concept, a hopeful place told to us growing up, but it’s a place where your soul goes to die, alongside your wallet. Ever since I was little the idea of going to college or university was said to be the place where your final years of education will determine your future. My parents told me college was the difference between being a garbage man or being someone important and makes a good living. Highschool failed to educate me on just about everything, but it was sure to drive home one point — go to college.

Photoshopped image of the sign at Conestoga College where I went to school

Before I dive in let me tell you a story. I used to write about gaming every day. Some were feature articles, others were reviews, some were opinion pieces, and many others. This is where my career as a writer truly began. Over the years I went on to write a lot. I wrote books, articles, discussed controversial topics, even politics. I began a blog that has been long-running for over 6 years. But my writing career was held hostage by, you guessed it, college. As someone who wanted to go into Gaming journalism, going to school for it may have been the biggest waste of time and money I’ve ever spent. I could have been writing on my specialized topic 4–12 times a week while making a new video each week. I would have either gained a following on YouTube or Twitch at the same time or at least have a portfolio that would put my current one to shame. I don’t know how many times I was unable to pursue something I was passionate about to sit down and work on some mundane homework assignment that gets me a little closer to an expensive piece of paper to prove I can use Google Docs and record basic videos and audio. I would have had more time to experiment and do real learning if I wasn’t concerned about checking all the right boxes to pass a class. I could have gained more from not being in college, and it would have likely come faster, cheaper, and with a better portfolio to show off to future employers.

Now don’t get me wrong college or university is vital to learning somethings, mainly subjects like Science, Health, Engineering, and…. Well, that’s about it. But as of 2007, we’ve been able to learn just about everything about any topic for free online. It might not be in a streamlined fashion to help the unmotivated. But it’s there. For anyone getting involved in just about anything other than science, health, and engineering, college from what I can tell is only helpful for learning the things you didn’t know you didn’t know. But that too can be learned online for free. This brings me to my next point, just how dated the education system is.

Since the dawn of time, the education system has been out of date. I remember being a kid in grade two when the teacher brings out the good old overhead projector. At the age of 8, I was already confused as to why they weren’t using PowerPoint and a real projector. Why were we folding paper into snowflakes when we could be using flight simulators on Windows Vista? Why are we learning to write like a robot when the modern world of journalism wants personality. Haven’t you all noticed that YouTubers with a personality and no budget get more views than most new sites? But that’s just the beginning of just how dated the education system is. I can understand being a bit behind on technology because putting new technology into all schools or even a large college campus costs a lot of time and money, especially with how fast technology tends to advance. However, many of the teachers who later become teachers at a college or university got to where they are five, 10, maybe 20 years ago. The world moves so fast that so much of what they teach is out of date. Granted many do their best to keep up to date with the latest trends and try to stay “in the know” about their field but sometimes it’s downright embarrassing to watch them try to teach us something that we clearly know more about than them and we are currently living. I don’t blame the teachers, they are only human, I blame the education system. If you want to learn something, we should be learning from those who are the best at their specific field and while they are the best at it, not 5 or 10 years later when they are no longer relevant. That being said it’s important to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, some advice and lessons are timeless. But I didn’t pay money for a few good nuggets. Next, most of these issues could be resolved through online learning. It would cut the prices down to a fraction that they currently are, we could have the best teacher in the world teaching thousands of students all at once. One major silver lining to COVID-19 is that the world is learning to use technology to replace driving to school or work since we aren’t supposed to spend much time in groups. It’s already saved me so much time and I can tell my life has become more healthy, productive, and I’m saving money on gas. Every gaming journalism job I’ve ever researched has been doing this for years. Thanks to online groups, forums, skype calls, Discord servers, and more. We don’t need to leave our house to do good work. It saves time and money. As a gamer, it’s been a normal and natural part of my everyday life. Signing into a server and throwing on a headset to solve issues with a group of people has been normal for over a decade. It’s time the world and especially the education system catches up.

The most disappointing thing about college for those in media is that you’ll quickly learn that what they have to teach you isn’t that much. Most of it is how to format things “properly” but the thing is, is that depending on the place you work, they may want things a different way, or from my experience, they don’t really care. For example in my Journalism program, we need to write in “CP style” which is basically a certain format for everything you write and it’s wrong if you don’t abide by extremely strict and specific rules. Now I don’t even know what CP stands for and apparently, it doesn’t matter, just follow the damn rules and you’ll make it through college so you can apply for a job that doesn’t care how you write, as long as it doesn’t look like a kid wrote it and everything is spelled correctly and is grammatically correct. From what I can tell, no one except Canada’s definitely not corrupt government-funded CBC news outlet and local newspapers uses CP style. Our neighbors to the south use something else but any online news site, gaming news site, or any media company either uses their own standards for writing or they just don’t care. But it’s fine because the college needed to sell me their textbooks, instead of making it free to access online like the rest of the world’s information. Other than learning how to format things, we’re given projects that often don’t really train you for anything, all too often it feels like filler content to make us feel like the price for the program was worth it. We briefly touch on a lot of different subjects and skillsets but never get sufficient at any of them. I can imagine that other than doing basic hard news, most students will walk away feeling ill-prepared for real life.

Next, is electives. Why do we have to take them? Is there a reason we have to waste our life taking some overly simplified bird classes? I’m really asking because every elective I’ve taken, has been a waste of my life and I’ve learned nothing, yet still pass with flying colors.

Finally, I bring this back to highschool and maybe even grades seven and eight. This is where the issue begins. These are the years where we should be teaching people practical life skills and getting them in the creative space to decide their future. Not locking them in the classroom to force them to learn useless things that they’ll never use again. If highschool taught me anything about the real world, which it didn’t, it should have taught more about freelancing and that a good portfolio and past work experience is way more valuable than college. It should have taught us that college is just one path, of many. Of course for teenagers who don’t think about their future careers or simply have no ambitions, then I’d suggest doing a lot of research online, trying new things, and when all else fails then you can go to college. Because never in a million years would I recommend someone go to college if they aren’t 110 percent certain of what they want to take in college and if they can’t avoid it by working on their craft without formal education. Why waste your time and money on something you can learn for free online and use the time you’d waste sitting in class and commuting to and from school and doing useless assignments when you could be using that time to actually practice for your future career and build a portfolio. Especially if you’re in media, there are plenty of places for you to volunteer online and the people in charge will help train you for free and it looks good on a resume.

Now I’ve given a lot of harsh criticism to how post-secondary education works… or doesn’t work. Perhaps I should touch on the good things. My college used an online site to compile all our classes and their powerpoints, notes, assignments, and that’s where we hand in our assignments. It’s so well done that I have a hard time justifying ever going to class at all. The only downfall with it is that each teacher organizes the notes, assignments, etc differently. Making it feel like an inconsistent mess.

In conclusion, the ways of college and university being a required step for your future is a dying trend, I’m surprised it’s survived this long. When others in my generation finish college, I can’t imagine many will be recommending college to their kids. Myself and many others are already looking for cheaper and more efficient means to learn and master certain skills. Companies and employers are beginning to see college and university as less and less valuable. Saying you have a diploma or a degree from college is no longer the magic ticket to employment that our failed education system would have you believe. Colleges must find ways to teach more efficiently for a fraction of the price or they will eventually be frowned upon by both future students and employers.

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Tannar Thompson

Tannar Thompson

Life Advice | Self-Improvement | Gaming | Short Stories