See the Conundrum?

Credit. Debt. Tuition. OSAP. Rent. Food.

Life is full of expenses, and the life of a university student is that much more expensive. When asked at the beginning of the term why we were enrolled in social motivation one student very bluntly declared – because I am paying $600 to be here.

Tuition seems like a terrifying cost when you consider more than $6000 leaving your bank account, but when you break it down like that it gets a little scarier for me. All of a sudden you are paying $30 a class, or about $300 a week! Compare that to what I make working at my part-time job, I am not even paying for half of my classes on a weekly basis. Add in the cost of living (not even the cost of ENJOYING life, just food and rent/utilities) and the debt a student could be accumulating if they worked part-time hours exclusively is absolutely terrifying.

And then it hits me – if I FAIL a class, I just threw $600 out the window. Yes folks, $600 for someone to label me stupid and tell me they will see me next year.


I am a third year Honours B.Sc. Psychology major, and in a few months I will be applying to grad school. There, I will be paying a whopping $10000 a year tuition – UofO estimates the cost of grad school to be $30 000 per year. But wait! There’s more! To apply to graduate studies, I will be paying $185 to write the GRE, where I hope and pray that I come out on top (based on my psychometrics prof’s advice, the key is to appear genius on the first question). Then I will pay $100 per school to apply. Clinical psychology in most parts of Canada is more competitive than Medical School. The average acceptance GPA is a 8.9 (on a 10pt scale), to even apply you need an A- (8.0 for my 10pt scale folks).

So now I will be paying schools $100 to tell me no. Unless I can get the maximum value out of my $600 courses, which would allow me to get a sufficient GPA to get into at least one.  But I can’t put all my eggs in one basket, so I will still be paying close to $500 just to spend $500. After taxes and fees, I am expecting to pay around $1000 just to apply to grad school.

And here’s where things get messy.

To pay for my undergraduate education, I need to work.
If I work, my grades will suffer (if you don’t believe me, the studies don’t lie – over 20h a week has serious academic and psychological repercussions).
If my grades suffer, I may not get into grad school.
But without the work, I cannot go to said fancy institution anyways.

See the conundrum?

This isn’t just me. I am fairly confident that most of my peers are in the same situation.  Many of them work between classes, to the point of complete exhaustion.  All this for a fancy piece of paper that tragically in today’s world means very little, or so it seems.

Yes, certain degrees have a specific career path: say nursing, or engineering. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – my parents are business owners, and the sheer number of applications they get from people with completely unrelated degrees is astounding. And terrifying. This is a business that does safety training (WHMIS, Fall Arrest, Health, Safety, and the Law…BASICALLY, How to not die or be charged at work for being unsafe). And the applicants range from people with biochemistry degrees, biomedical, psychology, sociology degrees.

The fact is, without some sort of graduate studies, my degree is kind of useless in my field.  And I am not alone.

When my parents were in school tuition was much cheaper, and university wasn’t even really required. Now, an undergraduate degree is expected for pretty much anything above minimum wage/retail. And it seems to be shifting towards further education as the job market becomes much more competitive. It is no longer enough to be smart. The big buzz word right now is networking. Where on earth I am supposed to find time for that I don’t know, but apparently to get into grad school I have to be some sort of mythical superhero.

Thanks to a lot of saving, scholarships, midnights at Tim Horton’s (yeah I went in at 10PM and got off at 7AM because it was better pay – who needs a social life?!), and help from my parents, I will probably make it out reasonably debt free, assuming no major expenses come up.

But it all hinges on the next 6 months.

I have been twitchier than that squirrel in Ice Age for a while now. The biggest thing on my mind is grades, meeting professors, getting as much exposure as possible and grad school. I can almost guarantee the moment I finish my Honours thesis and fourth year exams, I will go into a coma. Though by then, I will probably be squirrely about getting ready to start my masters, and possibly about moving…AGAIN…

I have a good plan. A logical and well thought out plan. But things rarely go according to plan, do they?

If Murphy’s law has taught me anything it’s to expect the unexpected and anything that can go wrong likely will go wrong.

[Contributed by Niki Dignard]

First article: C.R.E.A.M. >>

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