Before we delve into today’s debate, there’s something you should understand about me. I love school. I love every part, whether that’s buying new stationery in September, making flashcards for an upcoming test, or creating an outline for a ten-page paper. No, I don’t love exam season and yes, I have bad days. But, overall, there’s no place I’d rather be than at Queen’s for my undergraduate years. To me, education is a priceless gift that I am extremely privileged to receive. 

The reality is I came to university to learn. Yes, it is a necessary step to getting a job, but I came mostly for the opportunity to learn from incredible professors. Not everyone feels this way, for many, university is more of a means to an end. Through this lens, a degree is nothing more than a piece of paper. This paper is one that students will receive regardless of their four-year journey as long as they get to their destination (graduation). 


With these two varying views students have on what a degree is: a four-year pursuit of knowledge or a piece of paper, I have begun to consider the latter perspective more and more each day. Recently, I’ve noticed the conflict between our pursuit of knowledge and the limitations of the institution’s course structure.


Course selection is creeping up on us and in anticipation, I have been scrolling through the Queen’s course catalogue. With each hypothetical enrollment, I have realized that I seem to have two choices. 


Choice number one is that I can pick an easy course that will boost my GPA and help me get into my dream graduate school. Sounds great, right? Yet, this easy course will likely be on a topic I am less interested in and will do little to enrich my mind. This first option will give me a higher grade with less effort, but this is at the expense of my own personal growth. 


In contrast, choice number two is that I can pick a harder course where I have to fight tooth and nail for every percentage, but I will be more fulfilled. I will likely be more passionate about the topic of choice two. I will end the semester with not only new knowledge but a whole new toolkit of skills. 


Choosing to personal growth and passion seems like the obvious choice; however, as I read the GPA minimums of various graduate schools across the nation, course selection becomes less straightforward. Yet for those who have “the piece of paper” mindset, the choice is more clear. Their course selection consists of required classes and a few added courses that they found on the “Easiest Courses at Queen’s” thread in the “Must Know” course Facebook group. You know the ones. 


So why is there often such a tension between passionate learning and academic success? After considering these choices, which one should I pick?  


As I await my enrollment appointment, I have a bunch of “bird” courses options in my shopping cart. Most of them are completely random, and not within my realm of interests. I don’t feel good about even considering them since I’m spending so much money to learn and follow my passions. I must ask myself, is the journey or the destination more important? While my mom has always used this little idiom throughout my life to teach me the value of the journey, I’m starting to wonder if, in this case, my destination is more important.


Honestly, I have less than a week before my enrollment appointment and I still don’t have the answer. So, if you see me enrolled in your ENIN class, cheers. 


I don’t know exactly how this problem can be fixed, but I do know it is a problem. I shouldn’t have to be pondering between choices one and two. Why can’t Queen’s provide a choice three? While there are some courses where my performance and interest in the subject are closely correlated, they are few and far between.


This course selection season I challenge everyone to find their choice three. Whether that means generally prioritizing what you’re passionate about, or picking one hard course that really interests you, choice three may be different for everyone. It’s a tough challenge, but I know next week I’m going to try to do the same.


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