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Sound academic advice from a past peninsula student


To high school students on the Burin Peninsula interested in pursuing university education, I am writing you this letter because I wish someone had written one to me some 15 years ago. 

I grew up in Burin with a wonderful family, and had the influence of many amazing teachers and community leaders during all my school-aged years.

When I was nearing the end of my senior year at Pearce Regional High School, like many of my friends and classmates, university seemed like a logical next step. Supportive parents, teachers and coaches all saw the potential of a university education as a gateway to life’s successes. They were not wrong, but I wish we had all known a little more about how the timeline for education and training would change as the world shifted around us.

What I mean by this is an undergraduate degree in many disciplines is not an automatic guarantee of success anymore. Most likely, your undergraduate work will need to be supplemented with additional education and experiences.

Stop and consider for a moment how many people hold bachelor degrees in various disciplines. Enrolment in university has steadily increased in recent decades, and now we have many well-educated individuals either already in or about to enter into the workforce. Essentially, having a university education is no longer a rarity in our population, but a basic pre-requisite for many professional and technical jobs. You need more on your resume to truly stand out for these jobs. This may mean completing graduate school, adding professional certifications and training from outside the university – and most importantly – being involved in diverse activities!

Develop your real-world communication skills, volunteer with community organizations, take part in arts and sports activities and be involved in leadership activities. I urge you to not underestimate the value of these endeavours! 

Do not go to university and remove yourself from extracurricular activities because you are told marks are the only thing that matter. Yes, good grades are needed, but so are well-rounded people with interesting life experiences.

I want you to realize that four years of university is a start point, not the end of your training and development. If I may, I offer you my story as a guide.

I wanted to ‘grow up’ to be a physician when I was in high school, and that was my goal when I started university. It took me a long time to develop the resume, maturity and perspective to finally pursue that dream. Graduate school, community involvement and some really interesting employment opportunities presented to me over the last decade made me a strong applicant to medical school. I am happy to report that 15 years to the day after starting my undergraduate degree I will begin my first day of medical school this fall at the University of Alberta.

While it took me 15 years, I’m sure you may find your dreams fulfilled much more quickly - just don’t stop trying to learn and develop both in and outside of the classroom.

You, my young friends, are in a far better position than anyone could have imagined. New technologies and worldviews are driving the need for innovative and knowledgeable people in many disciplines.

You are among the first generation of high school graduates to enter this new world of unprecedented knowledge, technological and social connectivity.

Exciting new fields of employment are on the horizon that will need your brilliance and skillset. Be ready for them! But be aware that your development will not be complete in two to four years at a college or university.

Find ways to develop beyond that undergraduate degree or diploma, and never stop looking for ways to improve. You’ll get there. It just takes some time.

David M. Antle, PhD

Former resident of Burin

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