Students shouldn’t have to choose between education & experience

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Over time, the perception of what university is and what it’s meant for has changed. 

University isn’t exclusively about studying anymore. In the few years students spend as undergraduates, academics have always been a huge part of their lives. However, having experiences outside of academics is necessary for a balanced, healthy life for a lot of people. 

In an article in University Affairs, Associate Professor Jonathan Finn at Wilfrid Laurier University argues universities are increasingly prioritizing their students’ personal satisfaction and positive experiences over their education. Instead of pushing students towards experiencing enriching extracurricular activities, he argues we need to re-establish education as the primary purpose of university. 

Simply having an undergraduate degree is no longer enough to guarantee a job after graduation. While a formal education is what students are here for, the student experience holds a lot of sway in determining what students want to do with their lives. 

The idea that making experiences a focal point of university will lead to a “less well educated and capable citizenry,” as Finn puts it, simply isn’t true. Clubs and extracurricular activities have a lot to offer in terms of professional development that classrooms just can’t compete with.  

In order to be a competitive applicant in a modern job market after graduation, students often have to draw on experiences outside of schoolwork. Part-time jobs, clubs, sports teams and charity work isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite for resumes, but participating in them definitely helps set someone apart with their job application. 

Extracurricular activities on campus allow students to experiment with their passions with a freedom that a costly, lengthy degree program alone can’t offer. For many, campus causes and clubs are a means to explore and develop skills and interests outside of the classroom. For more general degrees that don’t offer a clear career track, the time spent on extracurricular activities can give invaluable direction to someone still unsure of what they want to do when they graduate. 

An increased focus on the university experience doesn’t mean a decrease in the quality of education provided. More of a focus on creating a positive university experience will only help students, not harm them.

The primary purpose of going to university is always going to be receiving an education — that won’t change. But along the way, participation in clubs, causes, jobs and other on-campus opportunities have become an important part of the years spent working towards that education.

Instead of seeing “the rise of the experience industry” as a threat to universities as we know them, we need to embrace it as a necessary part of a well-rounded modern education. 

 

— Journal Editorial Board

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