The narrative sold to Gen X’rs over the course of our young lives is that going to college and getting that graduate degree would pretty much guarantee our success in life.
I graduated from high school way back in 1997 and 18 years later (damn i’m getting old) the same story is still being told by parents, teachers, ICDC tech commercials, and pretty much everyone else indoctrinated into the college is key to success ideology.
Given the strong indoctrination, subconscious memes, and general collective conscious of the time, few people, with the opportunity pass up on it. I mean seriously, I’ve heard of people arguing that high school NBA or NFL potentials should forego 4 years of possibly making millions of dollars in order to go to college first. (Now some might argue it would help with their game, but this isn’t the argument of “intellectuals”). I was told by my parents to get a degree right out of high school so that I wouldn’t get caught up with being an adult and not have the ability to go back. I do understand where they were coming from, but thinking back, I wonder how sound that advice was.
Now I’m not saying that noone should go to college, but let me explain why college probably isn’t for most people. If you are thinking about taking the plunge, here are ten things to consider before jumping off that cliff.
1. It costs….A Lot
Uncle Sam aint playin about his money. College costs continue to skyrocket each and every year. Most students opt to use student loans to make up the costs they can’t afford. The average debt for a college grad is around $30,000. This doesn’t include credit card or other loans they have taken out. Keep in mind that this is the average amount. You are on the hook to pay this back, with interest regardless of whether you succeed or not. There are many people with much much higher debt. How much harder is it to start your adult life that deep in the hole?
2) College vs. Education
Most people never really stop to think about the distinction. At the end of the day, all a college diploma is is a piece of paper saying that you completed the coursework and passed the exams. It really speaks nothing to your grasping or understanding the material. Most people go in with the mindset of doing whatever it takes to pass the classes to graduate. They then forget most of what was learned by next semester. Because the focus is on passing and not passion, most grads learn to be great “worker bees”. Unless you’re going in order to learn something that will help develop your passion, then it might not be for you.
3)All Majors aren’t created Equal
A lot of people didn’t (and still apparently don’t) know this, but a Sociology degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. That goes for psychology (in most cases), criminal justice, English, African American studies, history, computer information systems, business, and hospitality (is that a real degree). These jobs are either too low paying, too competitive, too general or just irrelevant in today’s workforce.
4)You probably won’t end up working in your Major
Now this is a very common occurance. The reality is that a college degree is often required if you want to even get considered for a decent job. It MIGHT get your foot in the door. Most jobs want some sort of experience in that field and the million dollar question I’ve heard from most all grads I’ve met is: “How to get experience, if everyone wants you to have experience?” You take that entry level job that’s not in your major and end up moving up from there if you’re lucky. But very often, you end up right there in that entry level E-learning development position letting all of that forgotten Criminal Justice knowledge go to waste.
5)Corporate Life Sucks
You pretty much need a bachelor’s to land that perfect corporate or government job. All those fancy suits, big offices, and nice job titles all seem like fun and games until you realize that post grad degrees are mostly salaried. This pretty much means that there is no such thing as a 40hr work week. Yup, think 60+ hours per week working. That’s a lot of hours. 3 week vacations don’t cut it and higher you go, expect to be answering calls and finishing deadlines on some of those days. Now some executives have it gravy, but the vast majority work their asses off.
You get married, buy a nice house, a couple of cars, have some kids, and don’t forget those student loans….pretty much kiss your free time goodbye. You got the dream…now you gotta maintain it. Smile… Would you like that with or without vaseline? And maybe you can retire someday.
6)Don’t sleep on the Certs.
Recognition for certifications are becoming more and more common place. As an IT professional, I can pretty safely assure that a CCNA with with 2 years of networking experience will land you a 60k networking job much sooner than a 4 year degree in Computer Information Systems. In fact in the I.T fields, getting certified in cisco, microsoft, security, cloud services….etc is more often preferred by employers. Certs are often much cheaper, take less time, and generally give you a much better idea of what you’re doing on the job.
7)Vocational Trades FTW
Obtaining a good trade (not all trades are equal) can land a pretty decent job with a pretty livable wage. They are often hourly, but the overtime can earn you some serious pay. On top of that, these jobs are practical in the real world so you can also earn some side cash if times ever get tight. Learning a trade at a technical school is relatively cheap (often free) and given the right one, you’ll be guaranteed to find work almost anywhere. People in the south will THROW money at you to fix their A.C.’s in the summer.
HVAC techs, Electricians, Mechanics, Plumbers, and Welders are pretty much needed everywhere.
8)You can teach yourself pretty much anything online.
This goes back to the c0llege vs education thing. You can pretty much find books, videos, and audio books on almost much any subject you have interest in. Self education is the order of the day and with the world of information at your fingertips, instant communication with subject matter experts, and fairly cheap computing….one can teach themselves as much if not more than a traditional professor could. Now instead of wasting time on the non related/ pre requisite Trig. and Biology classes, you can now watch, read, and intereact with that coding stuff you were dying to learn… free of charge.
There is a pretty good chance that the founder of your company was either a college dropout or never went. There are so many success stories of people who didn’t go to college and made something out of nothing. Even though many started from meager means, they followed their passions and applied their time coming up with ways to turn their dreams into reality. Technology has made it that much easier to obtain information and reach out to people who can help make that happen. However, it’s much harder to focus when you’re studying 8+ hours a day or working 10+ for someone else.
10)Graduating from college should be a safety net, not the end goal
Unless you plan to major in a degree that actually does require extensive training…i.e.doctors, nurses, dentist, psychiatry, etc, college usually isn’t required to learn a skill. People rarely use the things they learn in class in the real world anyway. This being the case, all of that wasted time and money is pretty much so that you can land a job working to make others richer. You might earn a decent salary, but securing that job will ultimately cost you more than the money you’ll probably earn. Once you get caught in the rat race of making money to pay for things you don’t need to impress the people you don’t like, it’s pretty much all down hill from there. Your time is lost…your soul sold. You wake up some 30 years later. Your kids are grown and you wonder why you never really accomplished anything important. Your job/career should be something that you use to support yourself until you can actualize your dream. Unfortunately, most people get stuck on the j.o.b. (just over broke) stepping stone.
As far as we know, this is the only life we have. Instead of spending all of your time crunching numbers for a corporation or overseeing some institutional process, wouldn’t the world be a better place if you realized your talents and developed them for the betterment of mankind?
….but then again, Uncle Sam ain’t playing about his money.