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Photo: Rémi Yuan

Post-secondary education shouldn’t be relegated to a classroom

Despite only lasting 31 seconds, a promo for the Université de Moncton (U de M) has managed to ruffle a few feathers.

When the New Brunswick school posted the video online in January, some people took umbrage with the ad’s apparent lack of professionalism. It showcased non-academic activities like rock concerts, beach-side hangouts, and—most scandalous of all—library make-out sessions.

It was a fairly honest and forthright portrayal of student life at university. But some people just aren’t having it.

According to U de M professor Marie-Noëlle Ryan, this promo has more in common with a beer commercial and isn’t an accurate representation of what post-secondary education is all about.

This kind of narrow-minded thinking is the driving force behind a lot of university marketing. The University of Ottawa’s own official online promo may be slick and well-produced, but the campus life it depicts is totally sanitized, and it never deviates from the realm of the academic.

Aside from the fact that the U of O ad looks like it’s made for parents instead of prospective students, this idea that post-secondary education should be about nothing but grades and studying is counterproductive to a student’s healthy social development.

Of course, setting goals to attend class and excel academically is important, since it teaches self-discipline and helps to cultivate a steady work ethic. But concentrating exclusively on schoolwork without any avenue for down time—or party time—is not the path to mental well-being.

Science can back it up. Some researchers have found that seeking out social support actively increases the production of the hormone oxytocin, which helps decrease anxiety levels and produces a calming response to the nervous system.

Furthermore, by neglecting the more outwardly social aspects of university culture—going to bars, attending sporting events, joining clubs, and such—you’re missing out on a significant aspect of the real reason you attend university.

One of the primary benefits of attending a school like the U of O is that you get to meet many interesting people with diverse backgrounds. Interacting with people outside the confines of a classroom is key to your adult social development; these encounters expose you to ideas, lifestyles, and cultural interests you would not experience reading textbooks.

These social encounters also serve as a crash course on how to converse with others in an affable manner—an invaluable skill for life after university.

Most serious employers will tell you the number one quality they look for in a new hire is their ability to work with a team. In other words, beyond the academic credentials that will get your foot in the door, managers are looking to hire people who they can get along with on a personal level. And what better place to develop these “people-person” skills than by interacting with actual human beings outside of a sterile classroom setting?

Of course, universities are still learning institutions and students shouldn’t totally disregard academics in favour of self-indulgent, 24/7 partying. But they should still strive for a balanced approach to university life that allows time for studying and for blowing off steam.

That’s what makes this U de M commercial so effective: It’s real. Here’s hoping that other Canadian universities adopt a similar marketing strategy that promotes a more accurate and well-rounded view of what to expect during your post-secondary education.

Besides, who hasn’t caught somebody making out in the library?