Why Are You In University or College? -Every Student Need to Answer it.


Getting enrolled in a University, College, or private training institute in Papua New Guinea is not compulsory schooling like elementary or pre-school to Grade 12. And it is not free. Every student including you (reading this if you are student) have made a choice to commit several years of hard work to earn a degree or diploma or certificate.  If you were selected under the DHERST TESAS scholarship to study, then you may have had to work really hard to pass the Grade 12 exam by getting good grades and test scores in high school. If you are sponsored then you may have worked and saved school fee money or convinced your close relatives, and other sponsors for the money to pay for tuition and fees and other expenses. Now you have more at stake and a clearer path to achieving your goals, but you still need to be able to answer the key question “Why are you in University, College or the training institution?

To help answer this question, consider the following questioning technique called “The Five Whys” that was originally created by Sakichi Toyoda, a Japanese inventor, whose strategy was used by the Toyota Motor Company (well known worldwide Motor Vehicle brand and also in PNG) to find the underlying cause of a problem. While your decision to go to University, College, or training institute is not a problem, the exercise is helpful to uncover your underlying purpose for enrolling in any of them.

The process starts with a “Why” question that you want to know the answer to. Then, the next four “Why” questions use a portion of the previous answer to help you dig further into the answer to the original question. Here is an example of “The Five Whys,” with the first question as “Why are you in college?” The answers and their connection to the next “Why” question have been underlined so you can see how the process works.

While the example is one from a student who knows what she wants to major in, this process does not require that you have a specific degree or career in mind. In fact, if you are undecided, then you can explore the “why” of your indecision. Is it because you have lots of choices, or is it because you are not sure what you really want out of University, college or training institute?

The Five Whys in Action

Why are you in university or college?

I am in college to earn a degree/diploma in speech pathology

Why do you want to earn a degree in speech pathology?

I want to help people who have trouble speaking

Why do you want to help  people who have trouble speaking

I believe that people who have trouble speaking deserve a life they want.

Why do you feel it is important that people who have trouble speaking deserve a life they want?

I fee they often have needs that are overlooked and do not get treated equally.

Why do you want to use your voice to help these people live a life they deserve?

I feel it is my purpose to help others achieve their full potential despite having physical challenges.

Do you see how this student went beyond a standard answer about the degree that she wants to earn to connecting her degree to an overall purpose that she has to help others in a specific way? Had she not been instructed to delve a little deeper with each answer, it is likely that she would not have so quickly articulated that deeper purpose. And that understanding of “why” you are in University, college or training institute—beyond the degree/diploma or certificate  you want or the job you envision after graduation—is key to staying motivated through what will most likely be some challenging times

How else does knowing your “why,” or your deeper reason for being in a higher learning institution, help you? According to Angela Duckworth (2016), a researcher on grit—what it takes for us to dig in deep when faced with adversity and continue to work toward our   goal—knowing your purpose can be the booster to grit that can help you succeed. Other research has found that people who have a strong sense of purpose are less likely to experience stress and anxiety (Burrown, 2013) and more likely to be satisfied in their jobs (Weir, 2013). Therefore, being able to answer the question “Why are you in college?” not only satisfies the person asking, but it also has direct benefits to your overall well-being.

What Are the Rewards and Value of a Degree/Diploma/Certificate?

Once you have explored your “why” for enrolling in a higher learning institute, it may be worth reviewing what we know about the value of a degree/diploma or certificate. There is no doubt you know people who have succeeded in a career without going to college. Famous examples of college dropouts include Bill Gates (the cofounder and CEO of Microsoft) and Ellen DeGeneres (comedian, actor, and television producer, among her many other roles). These are two well-known, smart, talented people who have had tremendous success on a global scale. There are also politicians, high profile business man and women in PNG who have never completed a university degree or college degree but yet they are successful in their lives.  They are also not the typical profile of a student who doesn’t finish a degree.

For many students, degree /diploma or certificate helps them follow a career pathway and create a life that would not have been possible without the credential. Even in this time of rapid change in all kinds of fields, including technology and education, a degree/diploma or certificate is still worth it for many people. It is common trend worldwide that the more education you receive, the greater the increase in your average lifetime earnings. Even though a degree/diploma or certificate costs a considerable amount of money on the front end, if you think about it as an investment in your future, you can see that higher institution graduates receive a substantial return on their investment. To put it into more concrete terms, let’s say you spend K50,000 for a four-year university degree (Don’t faint! That is the average sticker cost of a four-year degree at a public university if you include tuition, fees, room, and board). The return on investment (ROI) over a lifetime of that investment is far greater.

Making more money over time is not the only benefit you can earn from completing a university degree/diploma or certificate. University or college graduates are also more likely to experience the following:

  •  Greater job satisfaction. That’s right! University/college graduates are more likely to get a job that they like or to find that their job is more enjoyable than not.
  •  Better job stability. Employees with university degrees or college diplomas are more likely to find and keep a job, which is comforting news in times of economic uncertainty.
  •  Improved health and wellness. College/University graduates are less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
  •  Better outcomes for the next generation. One of the best benefits of a college degree is that it can have positive influences for the graduate’s immediate family and the next generations.

One last thing: There is some debate as to whether a university degree is needed to land a job, and there are certainly jobs that you can get without a university degree. However, there are many reasons that a college degree can give you an edge in the job market. Here are just a few reasons that graduating with a degree is still valuable:

  • More and more entry-level jobs will require a university degree/college diploma /certificate.  A credential from a college or university still provides assurance that a student has mastered the material. Would you trust a doctor who never went to medical school to do open-heart surgery on a close relative? No, you won’t.
  • University/College/Training Institute- provides an opportunity to develop much-needed soft skills.  Employers has identified career-readiness competencies that college students should develop: critical thinking/problem solving, oral/written communication, teamwork/collaboration, digital technology, leadership, professionalism/work ethic, career management, and global/intercultural fluency.

There are few occasions that will provide you the opportunity to develop all of these skills in a low-stakes environment (i.e., without the fear of being fired!). You will learn all of this and more in your classes. Seems like a great opportunity, doesn’t it? If you find yourself asking the question “What does this course have to do with my major?” or “Why do I have to take that?” challenge yourself to learn more about the course and look for connections between the content and your larger educational, career, and life goals

Analysis Question

In what ways will earning a college degree be valuable to you now and in the future? Be sure to describe the financial, career, and personal benefits to earning a University degree, College Diploma or Certificate?

Source: Book “College Success” from Openstax.org   Download for free at https://openstax.org.