University from Both Sides Now

Eldest has graduated high school and is preparing to start university this autumn. It’s been an exciting and occasionally stressful year in our household with her working through the process of deciding where to apply, waiting on the responses, applying for scholarships, making her decisions and, now, following through with the endless summer of paperwork still remaining.

As a second-generation academic, I realize that I have a wealth of information and experience about the entire university application and entry experience. Despite that, this has not been an easy or simple process: forms for financial aid, scholarships and even redeeming your own educational savings appear to be entirely opaque. I’ve availed myself of the phone helpline for the last more than once and it’s not like I’m doing all the work, here. She’s been doing her share, which is quite a bit.

Seeing university from the other side, now, a generation (or more) beyond my own freshman year, is sobering. This is a lot more work than I remember. Is it that I look on the past with rose-coloured glasses? I don’t think so. This is a lot more complicated than it used to be and there’s no good guidebook, at least for the Canadian experience. (Believe me, I’ve looked!)

Particularly, it’s the tricky part of knowing what to do and when that’s got to be the hardest part of university. Here at our institution, which serves a large proportion of first-generation students, I’m constantly made aware of how much they don’t know. But even with Eldest, who was raised in this milieu and can navigate her way around my campus blindfolded, was left adrift, time and again, especially with the scholarships and other funding opportunities.

University is hard. Getting into and staying in university is even more difficult in many ways. What could be accomplished with more sessions that not only invite questions but also lay out the key elements that students, coming from a publicly funded K-12 system, might not know they need to know about? That would be amazing, I suspect.

Now, because I can’t think of this phrase without thinking of the song, here’s a lovely 1991 cover of “Both Sides Now”:

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Filed under academe, personal

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