Second degree a benefit, not a detriment

Ciara Yorston

May 5, 2013. Gown in hand and heels on, I entered the Keating Memorial Centre at St. Francis Xavier University (St.F.X.) in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to receive my bachelor of arts degree in political science.

That summer was my first without the return to school in September awaiting me. I felt aimless. In contrast to the exciting beginning of the summer, I spent the end bouncing between jobs at restaurants and dealing with the mounting pressure to decide what I planned to do with my life.

My mother suggested I pursue a bachelor of public relations (BPR) degree. My previous post-graduation plan was law school—I took the LSATs in October 2012—but, after graduation, I didn’t feel the same enthusiasm towards pursuing law that I once had.

Public relations intrigued me; and after research into the BPR degree at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU), I felt that it was the right path for me.

But I wasn’t without concerns.

I worried about starting out in a program where I knew no one. I worried that I would be much older than my classmates. I worried that enrolling in another undergraduate degree was a gamble. And I worried that it wouldn’t pay off.

But, really, I had nothing to worry about. According to the MSVU website, 25 per cent of Mount students are transfer students (holders of previous degrees are treated as transfer students). So I am one of 1,055 students with, most likely, the same concerns.

Robyn McIntosh, a student recruitment officer for MSVU, works with transfer students at the Mount.

According to McIntosh, transfer students are so focused on their program and career goals that they don’t require much recruitment. Most often, previous degree holders will actively seek out information about the program they have in mind during other forums.

“Fairs for graduate students see transfer student interest from previous degree holders,” said McIntosh. “They may be interested in returning to the classroom, but do not want to pursue graduate level work.”

This sentiment rings true for me, and most other transfer students to the BPR degree as well, I assume. I feel proud that I am a part of a class of students known for their drive and determination.

Brooke Stephen is also one of these students. She came to the Mount after completing a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and one year of a masters of business administration at Dalhousie University—and her ambition is clear.

“I definitely feel more motivated to succeed because this is my second undergraduate degree,” said Stephen. “With my second degree, I felt I had the information and experience necessary to really make the right choice of program for myself—the one that will be most beneficial to my career goals in the long run.”

Megan Tonet, a Communications Advisor for the RCMP and an MSVU BPR graduate, was one of these students as well. The program was suggested to Tonet by a good friend over an ice cream cone, after she abandoned her original plan to become a teacher.

She remembers feeling concerned about entering a new university environment after four years spent in the St.F.X. community (her previous alma mater). However, aside from a moment of weakness the night before a statistics exam, she never doubted her decision to enroll in the BPR.

As she already learned how to “be” a student in university while studying history and english at St. FX, Tonet was able to focus her attention on gaining the skills necessary to succeed in a career in PR.

“I was more excited than anything to tackle courses that seemed applicable to a future job,” said Tonet. “I wanted to graduate with a skill set I could apply in the real world.”

I didn’t see myself as a PR professional, originally. Neither did Stephen or Tonet—and I find that reassuring. I did pursue another degree before coming to the Mount, but it does not hold me back; it showed me what I do not want to do with my life. It also provided me with an academic foundation that allowed me to take full advantage of what the BPR has to offer.