Why Societal Timelines MIGHT be Limiting Our Potential

Finish undergrad in 4 years.

Find internships during the summer.

Get accepted into a postgrad program.

Get hired straight out of graduation.

Work till 65.


These are all things we’ve probably heard sometime in our academic career, but many of us struggle to stick to this timeline. I am currently in my second year of a Master of Social Work degree, and this is what I wish I knew earlier.

Photo of Hart House, University of Toronto
Courtesy: University of Toronto Communications

During my first two years of undergrad, I did 5 courses per semester and struggled to balance my commitments. I constantly felt like I needed to not fall behind everyone else. It wasn’t until the end of second year when, after talking to my peers, I realized many people felt the same way!

I decided to take fewer courses and graduate in 5 years instead. I started to apply to relevant work and volunteering experiences and noticed that both my grades and mental health improved; I was less burnt out compared to other semesters.

Photo of the CCT building, University of Toronto Mississauga
Courtesy: Cesar Mejia

In my master’s program, most of my cohort are people who’ve had fulfilling careers in other disciplines, such as computer science, law, financial management, psychology and research. Each of our journeys to social work have been so different. It is okay to take longer to figure out what you want, it is okay to start a career and switch paths, and it is okay to work for a few years before you apply to grad school. In summary, it is okay to find your own path.

This is my story of how I changed my path. I recognize I had the privilege of extending my time at school and not everyone will be able to do the same. But adhering to the pathways society sets out for us can prevent us from chasing what we truly want. I hope this helps you realize that the beauty of life is that it’s your own.

Linda Ben (she/her) is a peer mentor with Academic Success and is in her second year of her Master of Social Work degree. You can read more about peer mentor appointments here.

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