About the writer: The writer is a final year undergraduate at a top university. He has many non academically inclined friends who put themselves in a meaningless ‘paper chase’. He believes that his friends would be better off acquiring real-world work experience in an industry which suits their talents.
Ben (not his real name) is a 19 year old Singaporean youth. He is an average polytechnic graduate with mediocre results – neither exceptional nor lousy. He is unable to gain admission into the NUS, NTU or SMU. Unfortunately, he does not come from a wealthy family to pursue an overseas degree. Recently, he came to me to seek advice for his next step in life. Here are his options:
Option 1 - Enrol into a Distance Learning (DL) Degree in UniSIM / other education providers
Option 2 - Find a job in his industry and get working experience
Ben tells me he is not alone. Many of his friends in polytechnic are in the same boat. He also tells me that many of his friends chose option 1 and encouraged him to choose option 1 as well.
I disagreed. I told him that he should not be blindly chasing after a ‘paper’ but be looking for an option that would benefit him most in the long run.
Practical Work Experience in Ben’s industry will benefit him more than a University Degree
Ben is not the type who learns best in an academic environment. He prefers a more hands-on learning approach which he obtained in his polytechnic years. Work experience will give him the “On The Job” training that will benefit him more in his career progression.
For example, Ben would be better off being a technician in the oil & gas industry and build up extensive knowledge in that area than study some abstract theories in chemical /mechanical engineering which is irrelevant.
Work experience will put Ben ahead of his peers
By the time his peers graduate from University, Ben would have accumulated 4 years of work experience and extensive knowledge of his industry. This puts him ahead of his graduate peers in 4 years time.
A degree will not guarantee a good job for Ben and is likely to be totally irrelevant
A degree does not and never will guarantee a good job. The only guarantee is lots of hard work for a not academically inclined Ben.
This degree does not come free; it costs a lot of money. Ben is likely to find his degree completely irrelevant and useless in his future career.
Job market for Fresh Graduates is highly competitive & Ben will be at the wrong end of the pecking order
Let’s get real. Would employers prefer to hire a NUS/NTU/SMU graduate or a chapalang university graduate? NUS/NTU/SMU takes in the brightest in each cohort while anyone who pays tuition fees can enrol into a DL degree. Remember the Garbage In, Garbage Out theory. Employers are no idiots.
There are many anecdotes of DL graduates who struggle to nail down their first-choice jobs online. Many arguably fail to even get their 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice and have to settle for a job that do not require a degree. Just Google search it.
I asked Ben, “Do you want to waste your parents’ hard earned money and 3 years of your time on a useless piece of paper?”
Khaw Boon Wan sums it up perfectly when he said “If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can't eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless,”
I wish Ben all the best for his future endeavours and hope that he will not be trapped in the paper chase that will do him absolutely no good.