Yeah, you heard me. College is overrated. I’ve been to seven years of college. I have a Masters of Information Systems Management. Does having the degree help me? No, I run my own company, so nobody gave me a raise just because I had a graduate degree. Does what I learned while obtaining my degree help me run my business? This is debatable, but I would say not very much, if at all. Am I glad I went to college and have a graduate degree? Definitely, I am, and I actually plan to go back to college some day, but I still think college is overrated. That is, it’s overrated for a LOT of people in this country.
It all boils down to why you go to college and what people get out of it. If your goal is to get a well-rounded education and you’re completely incapable outside of a highly structured environment, then maybe college is for you. If your lack of confidence in yourself is so low that without a degree you would feel worthless and would therefore not even apply for any jobs nor seek any form of income but rather remain immobilized, sitting at home, wondering about the futility of your life, then maybe college is for you. If you have specific plans to do specific things in your life that absolutely cannot be done without a college degree, then maybe college is for you. And if you just happen to like going to college, then there’s certainly nothing wrong with that and maybe college is for you.
For me, the first two reasons factor into why I went to college in the first place, along with me simply never thinking there was any other option. It was just assumed in my family that I would go to college. The second two factor into why I want to go back, amongst other things. Unfortunately, I see too many other people who go to college for the same reasons I went who might be better served by forms of education different than what is found at most, if not all, colleges. I also see a lot of people who don’t go to college and are quite successful in the areas people who go to college want to be successful in, or I see people who went to college but are successful at something that seems to have absolutely nothing to do with their college education.
I’m thoroughly convinced that college is not for everyone, and that many people do not achieve their dreams in life because they’ve had it driven into them that without college, they can’t succeed. While education is, I believe, critical to success and happiness in life, I do not believe our K-12 + college system is anywhere close to the ideal way of providing an education for many, if not most people. Many would be well served by going to a vocational school at age 12. Many others would be better served by self-education or assisted self-education. Many who fail in our systems would flourish with one-on-one mentoring. But somehow we assume that the K-12 + college system is what everyone needs to go through in order to have a credible claim to success and happiness, when many are proving that this isn’t so.
Take web design for example. A good web designer can easily earn $50-60K per year plus benefits. A great web designer can easily earn $100-120K per year. And they can do this without a semester of college under their belt. Nobody…at least nobody I know, cares about a designer’s education. They care about their portfolio. The only question the person doing the hiring has is “Can this designer get the job done?” The same goes for search engine optimization. A person with basic computer skills can teach themselves SEO and get a job making $60-80K, and they could get that education within one month. They might need a second month to get the experience necessary to prove to an employer that they know what they’re doing. A year later that person could be making over $80K per year. Nobody…that is, nobody who cares about results more than show, would turn away an SEO candidate based on the education portion of their resume. Chances are they wouldn’t care much about their resume at all. All they need is evidence to convince them that the applicant can get the job done, and resumes don’t show that kind of information.
“That’s all well and good for web design and SEO, but what about real jobs?” you might ask. You mean in “real jobs” they don’t care whether you can get the job done or not? Unfortunately, if by “real job” you mean a government job, that might be the case. All jobs…that is, any job that has a reason to exist in the first place, exists by virtue of something needing to get done, and academic performance and resumes don’t necessarily mean much when it comes to really getting things done. Experience matters. Verifiable skills matter. Unfortunately our academic system doesn’t provide much in the way of experience, nor does a degree represent verification of applicable skills. The very thought that a person who sits through a business strategy class listening to lectures and reading case studies is ready to run a business is ludicrous. I loved my business strategy class, but I learned more in one week running a business than I did in four months in the classroom.
If verifiable skills are what really matter, then why do we have the current system. We should have a system of certifications–standardized tests that do a good job of measuring verifiable skills relevant to certain jobs. If a programmer can learn enough in six months to pass the certification, why make him sit through four years of college? What benefit does this provide to him, his employer, or society? You might say college gives him a more balance education, but you must bear in mind that you’re obviously wrong. Sit down sometime with a list of the classes you took in college and go through each one and list down what you can remember learning in that class. Granted, this isn’t the most effective way to recall everything you learned, but it will give you an idea of how little you actually take away from college. For a second exercise, think about the things you do in life that really matter to you. The things that make a difference in your life, or the things you care about. Where and how did you learn about those things? Chances are it wasn’t in a college classroom, even when it comes to your occupation. Chances are you learned through experience or self-education, with perhaps a gem of knowledge here and there, faintly remembered from college. Whatever well-roundedness I gained from college could easily be gained somewhere else, and more important than what someone learns during those few years of college is whether a person has an interest in being well-rounded. If they have the interest, they’ll educate themselves. If they don’t have the interest, college won’t drive it into them anyway.
So to all of you who struggle with college and wonder if it’s worth it, I say to you that maybe it is, but maybe it’s not. And if you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll believe this guy. After all, he’s older than me and I think he has a bunch of degrees.