Attending college or university can be one of the most daunting yet exciting decisions one makes in their life.
It is the time when you start planning your future and the path that will lead you there. So many opportunities and new experiences lay ahead, but the first question is, “where do I start?”
Knowing what you want to study is a helpful first step. However, even with all those personality and occupation quizzes our teachers gave us, the answer isn’t always crystal clear right away – especially right out of high school. “I did not always know what career path I was going to take,” explains Madison Wallace, a recent graduate of Keyano College’s 3rd Class Power Engineering Co-op Program. “In fact, all throughout high school, I had no idea. It wasn’t until a year after I graduated that I decided to start my career as a Power Engineer.”
Taking a bit of time, known to some as a ‘gap year,’ can allow students to enter the real world and get a feel of what they are capable of, which was also the case for Ryan Earle, who graduated from Keyano with his Bachelor of Business Administration – Management. “I had no idea what I was doing or fully capable of doing, and it took a while for me to set my mind on a goal for my future,” he states. “I wasn’t completely sure what I was going to do after high school. So instead of going to college right away, I took a year off to work and had the opportunity to grow and time to figure out what steps I wanted to take next. In this year of work, I found an interest in the world of business, specifically how to operate a successful business.”
That’s not to say there aren’t those lucky ones who end up knowing from a young age what career path they see themselves in and start working towards that goal throughout their elementary to high school years. This was the case for Chioma Igbokei, a Licensed Practical Nursing graduate who knew as a child that she wanted to grow up to work in healthcare. Now working at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, Chioma is glad to have chosen to complete her program at Keyano, thanks to recommendations from family members living in Fort McMurray who also attended the same college.
Determining where to study is the next decision you’ll have to make once you’ve figured out what you’d like to pursue. That can come down to a combination of many factors such as; location, cost, programs available, campus environment, and more. Madison based her decision on the program structure that Keyano offers, particularly the co-op-style program. Looking at the successes of previous students, she knew this was the right choice, and landing a work term at the end of her program was a proud accomplishment.
For Ryan, his decision included recommendations from friends who attended Keyano and spoke highly of their experience. “Another reason was that being a local who grew up in Fort McMurray, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a college within my own hometown with my family and friends there for support.” Sometimes sticking close to home is a better option, and it is always good to consider all of your options near and far before selecting a college or university.
When you undertake the journey of post-secondary education, you anticipate being equipped for your future beyond your diploma and degree. Madison felt the college faculty did an incredible job getting her ready to enter the workforce. “What stood out the most for me was the power lab,” she says. “It gave me the hands-on experience that made me feel comfortable entering the field.” Chioma also mentions that the hands-on training they received was extremely helpful for her to practice her clinical skills and gave her a glimpse into what she could expect once she started working at the hospital. “The program prepared me well, and it made me really excited.”
When asked whether they would choose a different career path if they could go back in time or have done anything differently, it was a resounding no. “I wouldn’t change a thing I did. Taking the time to decide what I was interested in and what I wanted to learn more about was a great idea for me as it has paid off well,” Ryan explains. All three graduates expressed that each lesson, both inside and outside the classroom, was a necessary and worthwhile step toward their career paths. This includes their time on campus making new friends, participating in events, and joining student initiatives. “I enjoyed being part of the student association, as it gave me an opportunity to make plans about ways in which we could enhance mine and my fellow students’ experiences.”
Transitioning from high school to a degree or diploma program can be a significant change for students as they embark on their own. Your first year presents many new experiences: living away from home, meeting new people, and learning how to manage your time. Preparing for life on campus can be overwhelming, but speaking to peers and hearing their experiences and advice is always helpful. Ryan’s advice is to take your time with each step and enjoy every moment. “There is no rush to get there because sometimes great things take time, and it’s better to be able to have fun along the path as you’re heading towards your future.”
For those who are still choosing what career or program they’d like to pursue, Madison says, “choose something that both interests and challenges you.” She suggests always setting goals for yourself and being patient. “Bumps in the road are only going to help shape you to succeed in the long run.” No matter how passionate you may be about your chosen future career, there will always be obstacles to overcome, and it is all a part of the learning process. Chioma leaves us with this neat little tip; “Before you choose your path, write a little note on why you want that career – this will help you know if you are really passionate about it.”
And remember, life is a continuous journey of growth and learning – so don’t be afraid to change your mind down the road and try new things!
Photo of Madison Wallace supplied by Keyano College.