By: Sonika Gupta
Growing up, I was not an exceptional student. I rarely did homework, I barely participated in class discussions, and parent-teacher interviews were always such a nightmare. I went to school for the socializing and that was about it. It’s not that I wasn’t smart, I knew that I was smart, I just didn’t care for school. It was towards the end of my final year in middle school when it finally dawned on me that I needed to get it together. I had to make this realization on my own though, my parents would sit me down for lectures but that only left me feeling even more unmotivated. High school was an interesting time, I raised my marks, did (most of) my homework, and I was definitely seeing the results. I did end up skipping class a large number of times but my marks mattered to me and I got things done on time.
In high school, I was taking all university prep courses and for the longest time I had this idea that university was it, college was out of the picture. There were several occasions where teachers would talk to their classes about the difference between the two. They often spoke about university being very theory based whereas college is more hands on learning. They would mention the different class sizes and teaching styles. A lot of the time, I would be sitting in my chair thinking to myself, “I like smaller classes, I don’t like reading from textbooks, and actually doing it makes it stick.” Even though I had all these thoughts in my head, I knew that university was the more socially acceptable option and it was all my parents and I had ever talked about.
The years passed quickly, and before I knew it, I was in my senior year and I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was conflicted with choosing between computer science and business. My grades started to fall, I was stressed out, and I felt like everything about my future was a huge question mark—it felt an awful lot like hitting rock bottom. My marks were decent but they really shouldn’t have been just “decent”. My mom kept asking me how I planned on getting admissions into any university and I was always at a loss for words. I remember making many appointments with my guidance counselor, Mr. Lain. The man was a gem, he never made me feel bad about myself. He would open up my marks on his computer and we would talk about a variety of different options for the next year. I ended up deciding to take a “victory lap” year. I wanted to take more courses rather than rushing into anything. Three years later and I still regret nothing. That year changed my life. It was the best decision that I have ever made to date. It became clear to me that I belonged in a college environment. I discussed it with Mr. Lain and my mom and we were all on the same page. It was perfect because the programs that I was interested in had a bridging option. Bridging meaning that depending on your marks, you could get your college diploma and afterwards, enter into a degree program at the college or at one of the well-known universities that are partnered with the college. I remember feeling like I was no longer drowning, I could breathe again. I used to blast Jimmy Cliff’s, “I Can See Clearly Now” on my iPod because it was particularly relatable at the time.
I started the Business Administration advanced diploma program at Sheridan College last year. I knew immediately that it was right for me. The class sizes were perfect, the teachers were very passionate for the most part, and the work kept me interested. You know how sometimes you learn something and you ask yourself, “When am I ever going to need to know that? I’m literally never going to do this again.” Well, I am very pleased to say that I have not asked myself that in the last year.
I was talking about it with a friend of mine, Mohini, who is in the same program as me. She is a genius, in high school, her marks were golden, she could’ve gone to the University of Waterloo. Unfortunately, she has severe motion sickness and she’s paying for her education herself so Sheridan was the best suited option for her. She was telling me, “I used to talk straight up garbage about Sheridan, I never thought in a million years that I would end up here, but I’m so glad that I did.” This really got me thinking because even now, when I know that it was the right decision for me, I am still embarrassed to tell people that I go to Sheridan. Mohini agreed with me when I voiced my thoughts, she too hates telling family and friends that she goes to a college. It’s a little humiliating when everyone in your family or friends group is at one of the top universities and you’re in a college. It really frustrates me that I, along with others, are ashamed to tell our closest family and friends about it, especially when we are overjoyed by what we are doing.
In our society and in many South Asian communities, college is sadly looked down upon as there’s a stigma associated with it. It’s seen as “the easy way out” by many. Despite the fact that it’s unfavourable, over the past few years, it’s become more and more popular as people realize that they need the hands-on learning and that employers are seeking college graduates. University is wonderful, university students are extremely hard working and intelligent, but to think that college students aren’t is wrong. The learning and teaching styles are different but that’s on purpose as everyone learns differently. No one should be pressured into doing one or the other, it should be completely dependent on the type of experience that you want to have for yourself.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, I am very content with my education at Sheridan so far and I shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed when I tell anyone about my schooling. I hope that one day there won’t be so much judgment but until then, I’m choosing to embrace the “haterz gonna hate” philosophy. I encourage others in similar situations to do the same.