This article clearly illustrates the financial costs of enrolling in the wrong college program. The author advises students to research the job prospects in their chosen field prior to enrolling, in order to avoid making a $20,000 mistake.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Personal finance

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How can students research the job prospects in their given field of study?
  • What resources are currently available to students to make informed decisions?
  • What steps should students take if they find themselves in a program that is not the right educational fit?
  • Is it advisable to save for an extra year of college as a contingency plan?

New Terminology:


  • STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but a far wider range of academic disciplines falls under this description. STEM includes, but is not limited to, the following: astronomy, biochemistry, biology, computer science, physics and statistics.

Materials Needed:

A copy of article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Most people will agree that a college or university degree is highly valuable in today’s economy. College or university degrees ideally lead to better job prospects and higher wages.

However, given the economic changes occurring in today’s economy, the demand for certain degrees is higher than others. As stated in this article, there is a high demand for STEM programs. As a result, the wages earned by graduates from these programs is higher and the percentage of graduates hired from these programs is higher.

Some students tend to shy away from STEM programs because they are typically more expensive than other programs, and they require a significant time commitment. In addition, not everyone has the aptitude to succeed in these programs

Fortunately, according to Canadian Business Magazine, there are other jobs that provide good pay, opportunity and outlook. These jobs include: economist and policy research, urban planning, financial planning, public relations management and corporate sales management, to name a few.

There appears to be a mismatch between what employers want and what is currently available by way of graduates. This is dangerous to the well-being of the Canadian economy; it not only costs students significant sums of money but it also costs the economy millions of dollars, as some of the brightest minds are relegated to minimum wage jobs. Programs like the 2018 pilot projects on financial literacy and better college counselling could go a long way in closing this gap between employers’ needs and the labour supply from university and colleges.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • As a conversation starter, ask students to explain why they want to enroll in a college/university
  • Ask your students to state how they go about researching
    1. Their field of study.
    2. The college/university they will enroll in.
  • Ask your students to state how they research their job prospects (i.e. the opportunities available, the average pay rate, and the outlook).
  • Ask your students the steps they will take if they decide they have have enrolled in the wrong program.
  • Ask students if they have considered gaining some real life experience after high school before enrolling in college. Ask them to explain their rationale.
  • Ask students to explain how they plan on financing their university/college education.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Ask students to state if they have considered saving up for an extra year as a contingency plan, in case they need it due to unforeseen reasons. Ask them to explain their rationale.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • By the end of this lecture, students should be better equipped to chose the right educational program, considering their personal preference, aptitude, and the job prospects of their program of choice.

Confirming Activity:

  • Ask students to explain the benefit of taking a gap year prior to enrolling in college.
  • Ask students to explain their steps to saving for their higher education (university/college).