Your university degree is as valuable as you make it

Graphic by Joshua Awolade
Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Hi first-years!

A lot of people are going to promise you a lot of things this Orientation Week.  From the freshman 15—or 30—to the virtues of volunteering, everyone from the Students’ Union and professors to your dons and icebreakers to your parents and families will try and describe the university experience to you.

Some of those things will be true, a lot of them won’t be, but I’m going to join the fray and predict something that will happen in about ten months.

You’re going to meet a few older students who are going to graduate in June and somewhere on social media at least one of them will make some crack about their degree being just an “expensive piece of paper”.

Undoubtedly, jokes like: “I’m $30,000 in debt and all I got was this piece of paper” or “No job, but at least I have my $30,000 piece of paper to keep me warm at night” will come across your timeline.

To those alumni who make posts like this, let me be the first to say, fuck you and your expensive piece of paper.

The fact that you have posted this on social media makes me feel sorry for you because you don’t value the time you put into that fancy piece of paper.

You know how I know? You think all you got was a piece of paper.

First-years, for the love of your education, don’t fall for this bullshit.

This may be a cliché but I believe with every fibre of my being this is true—if you treat your diploma as just an expensive piece of paper that is all it will ever be. And that doesn’t just hold true to your diploma—every aspect of your education will be limited by how you treat it.

If a class is just a credit, then you’ll have forgotten all of its content by the time you walk across the stage. If a paper is just a grade, then it has a zero per cent chance of it having any impact on your life. If volunteering and working while at school is just a resume filler or a paycheque, then you are doomed to hours of unfulfilling work.

So my advice to you is to never think of your degree as just an expensive piece of paper.

When you get to every one of your classes, figure out how you can get passionate about what you are learning and make an impact with every assignment you get.

When your icebreakers and dons and other student leaders at the school show you all the opportunities to work and volunteer and meet your peers, take advantage.

Join clubs and see the diversity of people you can meet here. Volunteer and see the difference you can make in the lives of other students and community members.

Find any of the hundreds of job opportunities available at the school and see how the school can give back to you outside of the classroom.

And when the holidays come, seriously think about running for election to any of the positions available to every undergraduate at the school.

From the governing bodies of the university in the Senate and Board of Governors to the Board of Directors for both the Students’ Union and Student Publications to presidency positions, there are literally dozens of positions that are available to you.

Your degree, through your place at this university, is the single greatest collection of opportunities you will ever have for the rest of your life.

Treat it as such. You are lucky to be here.

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