What does my future look like?
If I was talking to my 17-year old self with the knowledge I have now, what would I tell them?
In 2007, I graduated with a class of 14 people from my K-12 school in Hudson’s Hope, British Columbia. With a plan. I was going to become an electrician with BC Hydro to pay for an education in theatre. Which I forgot about until recently. I remembered the best way to pay my tuition and living expenses was to have a solid skill (trade or technical) to fall back on and support me while I was studying my true passion.
I am going to set forth my guide for paying for post secondary education if you come from a low-income family or do not have a full-ride scholarship.
Finish highschool. Get your grade 12 for christ-sakes! You didn’t have to pay for that one. Just show up and do the work. Otherwise, you will have pay for it later with a GED. Don’t even take hard classes like physics or math if you don’t want too. I did because it opened the door to the trades. In my school district there is a paid 4 year scholarship to UNBC in Prince George for the student with the highest GPA in grade 11. They don’t even look at the courses you take just the average.
If I was smarter, I would have taken more fluff classes (ie the humanities) and skipped science and math. But I was not really interested in UNBC as a school. But for some people it worked and they got a 4 year degree out of it. If there are opportunities like that in your area, take advantage of them. Maybe, you can go to school for free.
What if you don’t have a paid scholarship? Or rich parents? Or you really don’t know what to do with your life? My advice: DON’T GO TO SCHOOL! Wait at least one year before thinking about applying. Any of the awards you got out of high school will still be good for at least 1-2 years after graduating. But what should you do with your gap year?
There are lots of great programs out there, but you have to pay fees. Not really desirable for people on a budget saving for school. Preferably, you want to do something low-cost, allows you to travel, build some skills and learn about what yourself. Something like Katimavik, a youth service learning program for ages 17-21 in Canada. I had the privilege of being part of the program in 2010-11 and it completely changed my outlook on life. Unfortunately, the Conservative government doesn’t care about youth and shut it down last March.
Katimavik’s sister program Canada World Youth has an international mandate is similar and still recruiting for the 2013-14 program year.
Work or a paid job shadows are good options. I have personally done both. And they helped me decide what I didn’t want to do for a career. Namely, 24-30 hour shifts in the oil and gas industry or mindless hours of sanding screws while dry-walling. All good paying jobs but not a career. I believe that doing things and learning by experience is better than any 4 year university program. Real world skills in other words.
Finding a Passion
This is extremely misleading. There is a difference between having a passion for something, and doing something passionately. Traditional career advice is follow your passion and the money will come. I don’t agree with that. There is an inherent bias towards technical trades and business when it comes to profitability. Arts and other media on the other hand take a back seat. For the average person, it is extremely difficult to make a living from their craft.
Artists often take side jobs and other forms of employment to pay the bills. Or enter into a related field such as teaching. Only the most talented and well-connected successfully make a living with their art*. (*includes actors, musicians, photographers, painters & writers) It is often better to have a technical skill first in order to save money for university or art school. And then follow your passion.
Building Technical Skills
You can take professional programs to become certified in education, health care, social services, trades or business. With these programs, you have high employability in 6-12 months. Upon graduation, you can enter directly into the workforce. Work 3-4 years, save up the cash for university and move on to bigger and better things. You will enter better prepared and more focused than kids coming directly out of highschool.
Do not go into debt to pay for your education. The bank and government make money from your interest. This is calculated from the day you graduate, and even if you don’t finish school, the loan is non forgivable. Canadian students have an unsustainable level of debt and it is getting worse as institutions continue to raise tuition prices 2-3% per year.
Remember: Education is a business. It is not really about providing students with the resources to better themselves for the future, it’s all about money. Plain and simple. The faster you figure that out, the better.
Go to school for your passion but wait until you can afford it. You will be better served gaining the technical skills from a professional program. In 3-4 years, save enough money to go to school without debt for the thing that you really love to do. It may not be the most direct route but it is the most financially feasible.
If you have any stories, similar to mine I would love to hear about them. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org