I posted a little while ago that university is maybe not for everyone. I didn’t use those words exactly, but that was the message. Recently on the bus to work, which is also the bus to the university, I overheard a student talking overly loudly (I almost suggested he could consider using his “inside voice”) about how he had failed many of his midterms and was generally failing most of his classes. He seemed frustrated that he was taking a geography class and was required to use math. He went on to explain that he had a brighter outlook for his third and fourth years, because he had heard that upper-year students get first pick of classes and then he could take classes that he wanted and would enjoy.

I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps my choice for a university education was ill-considered, but I worked and I tried and I didn’t complain that I was taking classes that I didn’t want (well, I probably did). I wanted the degree, and I got it, and there were five years of suffering and frustration, hard work and disappointment.

If this student wants a certain degree, then he’ll have to suffer through the boring classes, the science or humanities classes, the lectures, tutorials, and labs that make up a university education. But I got the impression that he didn’t know what he wanted, or certainly wasn’t interested in taking classes or doing work that he didn’t want to do.

My words are probably falling on deaf ears, or I’m preaching to the choir, to employ some overused phrases, but I think this is what’s wrong with higher education specifically and western society generally. This poor student has it in his mind that he should have a university degree or education, but isn’t willing to put in the effort to get it, and to do it right. This may have something to do with so-called millenial entitlement, but it has as much to do with managing expectations and providing appropriate advice.

I just hope that an academic advisor or even just a peer will ask this student why he’s at university and what he hopes to gain. If he doesn’t have an answer, then he may be able to save himself some anguish and several thousands of dollars.