By: Jessica Rose

Post-secondary education is intended to expand a student’s knowledge about the specific program that he or she has chosen to enroll in; a concept that is seemingly beneficial, but only when applied to a student who is aware of his or her future career goals. For the majority of students, this certainty is not immediately apparent.

The pressure to decide which path to take right after high school is usually more harmful than helpful for students in the long term. Students who are disinterested in their program tend to exert little effort into their studies, which often causes students to withdraw.

Sarah Fazal, now 28, enrolled in the mass communications program at Carleton University at the age of 18. Feeling a great deal of pressure from her parents to choose a program, she attended school, but only for the first semester before realizing that she wasn’t passionate about her decision.

“I think age definitely played a part, I was too young to understand the relevance and importance,” said Fazal. “I think it is ridiculous to expect children to try and pick an educational direction at such a young age.”

Her lack of interest compelled her to take the necessary time to discover what it was she wanted to specialize in.
Gayle Dumsday, a counselor at Algonquin College since 1968, speculates from his experience that a relatively high rate of 8-10 per cent of students will withdraw from their programs within the first semester.

The reason students choose to withdraw is typically a combination of factors. “Usually it’s triggered around thanksgiving,” Dumsday said. “By then they’ve had some quizzes, they recognize they’re in trouble but it’s not too late to fix things.”

What students may not know is that there are plenty of resources on campus that exist solely to provide guidance and advice about choosing a career path.

“We encourage students to consult us at the earliest sign that they might be having difficulty.” Dumsday said. “Particularly in a great big institution it’s easy for students to get lost and caught between the cracks. We need them to come forward to take the initiative to get help.”

Counselors have several strategies that aim to help students get back on track and consider the option to withdraw from a program as a last resort. “We often use peer-tutoring as a device, we also run study skill seminars for students that they can get in on,” said Dumsday.

Peer tutors are students who have already successfully completed the particular course and are there to help. A peer tutor will cost a student $5 for each hour-long session.

If the issue runs deeper than struggling with the content, students are also able to re-evaluate the direction they are heading. “If it really looks like it’s the wrong program, we often recommend career testing and we do that here in the department,” said Dumsday. “Tests aren’t perfect, as you know, but they can sometimes be helpful in promoting other ideas at least.”

Ken Beadle, 27, enrolled in the community and justice service program in 2004 and decided to withdraw from the program in his second year after experiencing his field placement with a street youth outreach organization.
“In one case I knew a kid who committed suicide and I had gotten close to him,” said Beadle, “so I decided it wasn’t really for me in the long run.”

Prior to withdrawing, Beadle had taken a career test and was able to reference a personalized list of his top three suggested professions.

During his time off, Beadle reflected on this list and decided to return to school and enroll in the business management and entrepreneurship program.

He now works at the registrar desk as a client service representative, which happens to be one of the three careers suggested on his career test.

“I think co-ops or field placements in these programs are awesome because you really get a feel for what the job is like,” said Beadle.