Payback on University Education: Perceptions and Reality


Having come to the completion of my undergraduate studies only about a month ago, it is inevitable for me but to think in real terms how worthwhile the investment of last three years, living away and tens of grands has truly been.

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Going back a few years, I remember when I was making my decision to pick the university I was told extensively about my employability, potential for reward and recognition AFTER my degree. The study period itself was portrayed as the ‘sacrifice period’ for making the investment of all sorts. The sacrifices undoubtedly exist but my experience of the payback has been entirely different from what I was told. What I found that the degree does enable you to signal the potential for getting hired or approaching advanced education, along with preparing you for it. And you do indeed make huge investment for it but the payback doesn’t start when you capitalize on this signaling and advanced education alone, infact the payback starts way before you graduate or land your first graduate job.

This is a view point I was not told and well not many people have this perception (atleast from the background I came from). For me, payback started the day I entered university in terms of academic, professional, personal and social grooming. I was already able to access so many opportunities I couldn’t do being a non-student in HE. As for the payback in real monetary terms, that started when I landed my first internship/ job during my study period so that by the time I graduated I had already recovered a proportion of the monetary investment of the degree. Also the value of non-monetary gains during the degree is worth giving recognition to, which includes personal growth, people I met, skills I gained, experiences I had, opportunities to travel, learn and think about what motivates me, drives and exploring my true strengths. These times shape how you think and what you do. I think the only reason I write today is because of the time I had to think about my interests and strengths and how things panned out for me during this time. This obviously most Pakistani institutions/ minds lack i.e. knowing the value of student experience, skills you learn, self exploration and the culture suggests one doesn’t start working until the completion of education, limiting the payback and achieving same things in times much longer.

So, I wouldn’t be wrong to say it is not just about the degree and what follows; the education is not completely a period of sacrifice. Instead it is these three years what matters the most and success beyond this is only determined by how much you make from this time as well. There’s really more to gain from every second of these three years than just a degree. If you graduated with nothing but only a piece of paper, it really wouldn’t be worth much and it is not just what you end up with at the end of three years but how you spend them. I realize this more and more as I see my other younger cousins and friends make decisions for their futures. No time should be spent only surrendering and sacrificing. If there’s nothing you’re gaining from any time in life, I ‘d say something not right. I know it is true for sure, because I had not known this perspective had I not spent the three years the way I have and enjoyed every bit of it.

* Plus I am feeling good as during invigilating for another business school’s exams this week I could solve all questions from exam paper. Looks like I learnt something academically too. Lol!

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