Why Go to University

As a young man not having a clear career direction I had the good fortune of knowing two friends who went to the University of Alberta and excelled in their studies. I asked each of them why they went to university. One person told me that he learned how to research topics he was interested in. The other friend told me he learned that “everything is relative to your source of reference”.

I had the idea that I would like to be a guidance counselor. As such, I thought that I would need a university education to learn how to be a counselor. I enrolled in the University of Lethbridge in the Department of Psychology with the express intent of learning how to be a counselor. I soon learned that the University of Lethbridge was a liberal arts university and I would have to take classes seemingly not related to counseling. At first this was very disheartening and seemed like a waste of time. After taking courses from other faculties my career directions changed dramatically. I became a proponent of a liberal arts education. Housing a broad base of knowledge gained through liberal education helped me understand more about how people work and how the world works.

It seems that many professions are regulated by professional standards and for many professions the standards are acquired through university training and education. That people work and specialized professions it would be appropriate for them to have met the professional standards criteria as defined by an industry. I soon learned that you can call yourself a counselor without any education but to call yourself a Psychologist requires you have a Master’s degree. People entering colleges may learn trades that qualify them for challenging and rewarding careers. People going to university may enter faculties that train them for a specific career direction as well.

I have believed for a long time that post-secondary education and lifelong learning are necessary for people to have a happy and healthy life. People attending university seem to be more interested in asking more pure science questions to understand the “why” of how things work. Both applied and pure science have their places and their values. For each individual determining which path of post secondary education is right for them would be worth contemplating. It has been said that people don’t pursue academic careers for the money. They may desire other rewards.

As an undergraduate I think I did learn a great deal about finding information relative to questions I have. I also learned information which made the questions I wanted answers to more sophisticated. To some degree I have come to agree that much knowledge seems “to be relative to your source of reference”. However, this seems less important that the skills of being able to research what you want to know about. For me, university has provided tools I am glad to have learned and continue to evolve.

John Walkey B.A., B.Ed.

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