Everyone knows that come spring time, all of our Facebook news feeds evolve into the same celebratory theme. Endless photos of long black gowns, proud parents, and diplomas bring us back to our own memories of graduation just a few years prior. Those all consuming feelings of pride, excitement, relief, and happiness all rush back at once, along with the especially disappointing feeling of the best years of our life being over. With all of the excitement, there’s still a small part of you that thinks of the student loans that you now have to pay back. But, it’s your graduation day, and all of the adrenaline drains your ability to worry about anything else.
As we approached the ceremony, so many soon-to-be graduates were talking about their never-ending university fees and the truth about where their first post-grad paychecks were going. It got us all thinking about the same question: was college even worth all of this headache?
A report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity concluded that many of the jobs that college graduates get after school are not financially worth the cost of their diploma. Of the 41.7 million employed college graduates in 2010, about 50% of them had positions that didn’t require a bachelor’s degree, and 38% of those surveyed had positions that didn’t even require a high school diploma.
The report even went as far as to say that the United States could potentially be overeducating its citizens. This makes us all wonder: is too much money going towards producing graduates that America doesn’t need? Although President Barak Obama recently said that “If we do not as a nation increase the number of graduates, then we risk the very foundation of the American dream,” the report could actually prove otherwise. College was always an obvious expectation and step in my development, and I don’t regret it at all. However, what it took me a long time to learn was that other 18-year-olds around the world were taking this time to work as an intern instead of just jumping into school.
They were getting real experience. I, on the other hand, had this ingrained idea that education came first, and once I graduated, I could focus on work. This was an idea that my school and family had always instilled in me. Due to my lack of work experience, other graduates who had taken the time to gain practical skills had an advantage over me. It took me one year after graduation to realize what it was that I wanted to do. Talk about a waste of time.
Maybe those who take the career route before college are onto something. Before going to college, a good friend of mine had a 12-month internship that guaranteed him a job after college. Had he stayed at this high-level firm instead of heading to college to get a useless arts degree, he could have potentially advanced within the company and avoided the stress of paying back loans on a degree he’ll never use. Unfortunately, many employers still use college diplomas as a screening process for applicants, even for jobs that don’t require advanced skills. What employees seem to misunderstand is that, hiring someone with a perfect college GPA has no reflection on their abilities to do the job well. In fact, many of the qualified and experienced applicants get looked over since they took the time to gain the skills instead of going to college.
When I look back on my college years, I have fond memories of making friends, exploring, and finding my true identity within a bubble that’s nowhere near reality. It was very fun. But there was so much free time outside of classes that I now look back and wonder if all of that money was worth it. If I had the choice to attend college over again, I’d certainly think twice about it. I no longer see it as a hard-earned piece of paper, but an expensive privilege I probably could have done without. Although it’s becoming more common to explore other options instead of college post-high school, university is still the most socially acceptable path.
Over the past several years, parents and educators have tried to support high schoolers in making educated decisions in regards to their college educations and careers. As someone who attended a school that was only interested in getting students into top schools, I experienced this as well. Now that I’ve graduated, it’s interesting for me to see how many people ask about my degree. Yes, it’s helped me get through the first round of interviews with potential employers, but beyond that, they mostly ask about my experiences. In fact, even more than experiences, they’re interested in my actual skills, such as writing or Photoshop. If I could go back to school now, I would choose a major that’s more practical, such as coding or tech. Yes, I could go back and learn it now, but the reality is that children become computer literate by the age of 5. I’m so incredibly envious that by the time they’re ready to choose a career, they’ll understand technology’s importance in today’s market.
Although my degree in Psychology has made for some interesting dinner conversations, it’s had nothing to do with my professional success. Where I currently, work, I do not even need a college degree, and with an actual skill, such as writing, I could have been offered a higher level position. Of course, succeeding without a college degree would have depended on several factors, such as networking, discipline, and luck. But even with a degree, I have to practice these habits on a daily basis, so ultimately, it didn’t make a difference. Succeeding without a degree wouldn’t have been simple, but I’m now certain that it would’ve absolutely been possible.