Life has seasonality to it. Time moves on whether we want it to or not. Currently my husband and I are moving towards a new phase in our lives as empty nesters. That’s because while juggling senior high school tests and assignments, my daughter is starting to think about which university she will attend next fall. Her anticipation and my trepidation build as we tour universities across the Greater Toronto Area and further afield.
Selecting a university is an important choice, since it will determine her experiences over the next four years or more, and will have a significant impact on my daughter’s opportunities for the future. We are fortunate that there are many excellent universities in Canada, and so many possible areas of study (Macleans University Rankings). When I applied to university decades ago, I simply chose the place with the best reputation that was within commuting distance of home. I never thought of doing campus tours. Now tours are the norm for my daughter and her friends, and rightly so. Higher education is a large investment of time and money, so it’s important to do your research. Tuition and living costs are typically around $20,000 to $30,000 per year when living away from home (The Cost of Studying in Canada). Amazingly, this is considered affordable compared to the costs in many other countries and also compared to the fees that foreign students pay in Canada. Times have changed since the days when I could earn enough in a summer job to cover my costs for the next school year.
Naturally, we might wonder whether the time and expense of attending university is really worthwhile. Luckily research shows that getting a post-secondary degree still pays off financially (Yes, post-secondary education makes you rich). Beyond the financial benefits, education expands your worldview and teaches you how to learn. Studies even show that people with higher education live longer, volunteer more, and are less likely to commit crimes. Degrees in engineering, business or science often result in higher earnings, but graduates with social science or humanities degrees also improve their incomes (Is the university experience worth the cost?). My daughter is choosing her program based on what she is passionate about, not just the earnings potential, but it’s still good to know the investment should pay off both in terms of financial and personal growth.
Touring universities with my daughter brings back memories of four short years ago when I was doing similar tours with my son, his girlfriend and her mom. Now my son has only one more semester before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics. It’s a huge milestone in “adulting”. Soon it will be time for him to launch into his next chapter, whether it is through more studies or finding a job in his field.
These rapidly approaching changes for both my children got me thinking about how timing can be a significant factor in starting something new. Will the university admission cut-off grades be higher or lower than last year? Will a teachers’ strike impact grades or even graduation? Will there be plenty of new jobs or will a recession impact job openings? Coincidentally, I was reading a new book while touring McGill University that focused importance of timing. Daniel H. Pink writes about the importance of “when” in making decisions in life. Not only does Pink discuss the research behind successful timing, he also includes a “Time Hacker’s Handbook” at the end of each chapter about how to put this research into practice. For example Pink provides some suggestions about how to make a fast start on a new job (or when starting at a new university!):
- Begin before you begin: Start by visualizing yourself in the new role. The earlier you start, the easier it will be when you arrive. Think about how you fit within the larger organization. So for my daughter, that means she should start thinking of herself as a university student well before of her first day of classes.
- Let your results do the talking: Concentrate on achieving a few meaningful results right away so you can gain status through excellence, rather than trying assert yourself without a track record. Like my daughter, all new students should therefore focus on acing the first few assignments in a new university to build their credibility.
- Stockpile your motivation: Motivation comes in waves. You may be filled with energy and enthusiasm at the beginning, but it inevitably wanes. Use your higher energy time to move forward in new directions, and shift back to your core tasks when your motivation is lower.
- Sustain your morale with small wins: Making progress helps to keep you motivated, even through minor victories. Create small wins for yourself in your new role and celebrate when you achieve them. This will help maintain your momentum for bigger challenges ahead. For my kids, that means that after getting a good mark, or making it through a tough week, they should take the time to go out with their friends.
The next year will be a learning experience for our whole family. We will need to take the time to celebrate both the endings and new beginnings to make the best of them.
How has timing played a role in your life? What do you do to celebrate beginnings and endings of phases? Share what you have learned!