Why you should go to college, but not stop there.
No one can say—for certain—that by not attending college you will become (more) successful, and no one is saying—for certain—that going to college will make you a megastar in your industry.
College is somewhat essential to today’s life. Certain jobs demand that you have a degree of some sort from an educational institute; this is what qualifies you to work certain jobs. Going to college reinforces the subconscious idea of a person that they are smart, intelligent, and sophisticated. These traits are what companies want in their candidates because it affects how the company works and establishes a “norm.” These traits, however, are not necessarily found in people who attend college, no matter the subject.
Individuals are not framed similarly because one template does not fit all. Assessing people is a subjective matter.
While more companies have started hiring people without degree requirements, it is the majority on the showground that dictates the norm: having a college degree is essential to obtain a job in any industry. However, as the world progresses into adopting a more liberal, lenient approach, companies will start hiring people without degrees. Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that “a college degree is not necessary” to be successful, and behind him stands a crowd of “big” companies that are doing the same thing.
Going to college is not like going to high school. In high school, you learn “the essentials” that help you progress into a designated subject afterward in college. In college, however, you learn certain subjects that help you focus on a career. But what if college doesn’t give you the needed skillset to do your best work? According to Cook, the skills that are coming out of colleges and the skills that we believe we need in the future are different. Among those skills, said Cook, is coding.
Let’s not forget the fact that college tuition is infeasible. It’s easier for young people—who have neither the time nor the money—to look for jobs that require less than a college education. Does that make these candidates any less intelligent, or is the company any less respected?
About half of [Apple’s] U.S. employment [in 2018] was people who did not have a four-year degree.
With the shift to a more flexible approach to employment, young people are finding it easier to get hired at big companies like Google, IBM, and Apple. With a college degree, they would probably be rejected. This shift changes how small companies operate within the bounds of preliminary education.
A Big Waste of Time
Four years or more in college will land you a “respected” degree which is supposed to give you access to high-paying jobs in the industry. If you take the time after high school to learn coding, for example, and apply for a job at Apple, wouldn’t it be a better use of your time? Why waste four years in college when you can skip the whole misery and still get hired in a wide selection of big-name companies?
Besides, when you finish college, you don’t often get the needed skill set for a job. This is why education in most colleges, in most countries, is theoretical education and not vocational education. While it is true that for certain subjects, education cannot be anything other than vocational. They are learning the basics of the “job” after all.
But for those studying primarily in the Humanities field, it’s quite unrealistic to teach theories when the main goal of attending college is obtaining a job afterward. Very few people attend college to immerse themselves in academia. The majority of those who attend college do so to impress employers and add credentials to their resumes.
College is not for learning; it’s for obtaining credentials to work in a designated work field. Most of the students who attend classes are “painfully bored.” College is a waste of time and money.
— Prof. Bryan Caplan for the Business Insider.
If the end goal of college students is to obtain a job that provides for them, then why don’t they learn the essentials for the job, instead of learning subjects that will not help them in their careers? People who want to become programmers do not need college—that is if their sole purpose of going to college is obtaining a relevant job in the industry.
But here emerges a second problem. Some people argue that, while college does not necessarily mean you will become successful in life, it still provides a lifeline. You can go to college and grab a degree with the blink of an eye, and you can try out different things afterward. You can work as an entrepreneur or a freelancer in graphic design, or you can establish a startup in anything you can think of. College can still give you a way out from that if you deem it unsuccessful. You can always step back and apply for a 9-5 job using your degree.
So much potential and talent are wasted in school and ordinary 9–5 jobs. It is important to say, however, that for other people, it’s merely the maximum they can achieve in life. Intelligence and the ability to have this view of life varies among people. In addition, some people—and I’ve met them—simply have no dreams. They want to graduate and get a job to start making money and settle in the life they’ve pictured inside their heads, which is basically the life their parents had before them.
It also varies between societies and cultures. Some people are just raised to believe that taking risks will ruin their life. Once your project or “dream” fails, you’re irredeemable and you’re forever a failure. This is what parents teach their children and the school system perpetuates that idea. It’s easier to follow the norm because it’s what everyone does. It makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong when you deviate from it.
Whether it’s a good decision to go to college is determined only by you. Let nobody tell you what you should do. Colleges are tools that enable you to explore new things in life, but they should never be the only tools as predetermined by society. If you want to work a 9-5 job that requires no degree, then go for it—that does not mean you’re a failure. The very fact that you’ve chosen not to follow societal norms is in itself a success.
When I see people acquire a college degree and then remain enclosed where they can work with expertise, it upsets me. They become a teacher and that’s it: they’re teaching for the rest of their adult life until they retire. Their life becomes tedious, routinely, monotonous. While for some people, all they need to do is sustain their family or pay their bills, it is always possible to keep learning and progressing beyond the boundaries of your major.
- Reading books is a major skill builder. Self-help books, DIY books, analytical and critical non-fiction books, and even novels can up your game. The benefits of reading are unparalleled.
- Online learning can also prove to be beneficial, both in your own industry and other side jobs. Online courses are everywhere; from Masterclass, Udemy, Udacity by Google, Coursera, to smaller amateur sites like Skillshare. Learning new skills and developing your talents is a key element to success. This can also help you find a side-hustle job—some that can even bring passive income.
- Learning new languages is another way you can expand your skills and talents. Duolingo offers free courses in a vast variety of languages. Albeit a lengthy journey, it will prove to be beneficial in the long run.
You can be two things at one time. You can be a lawyer and a programmer. You can be a science teacher and graphic designer. You can be a doctor and a writer. These skills not only give you the (true) feelings of success but can also be profitable.
Societal Prosperity: Doctors or Philosophers?
Schools perpetuate the idea that natural sciences are a better choice than social and humanities’ sciences. This is inadvertently done by attaching high grades to natural science subjects in high schools and universities and reserving the social sciences to low-achievers. While that is not the school’s problem—since a high-achieving student has the ability to choose between natural and social—it does prompt a prejudiced assessment.
Parents and society condemn high-achievers for favoring social sciences. A high-achiever is stigmatized at first if they chose to major in social sciences instead of medicine, computer programming, or civil engineering.
This widens the gap between the two fields. Finding a middle ground between exact sciences and social sciences is not difficult. But to do so, we have to stop categorizing social sciences as alternative options for those who could not make it to medical school. Thus, history becomes an underrated subject for lesser students, philosophy becomes a repulsive word attracting scoffs from “intellects,” and political sciences become a big no-no, because “it promises no career.”
While we still do need doctors, lawyers, engineers, and nurses, we are also in dire need of social scientists, social workers, and social intellects. In 2020—a time where people die every day to street violence, families are torn apart in a continuous streak, and the change of societal norms takes place before our eyes—it is very much needed that the young generations are educated.
“Our rapidly moving, information-based society badly needs people who know how to find facts rather than memorize them, and who know how to cope with change in creative ways. You don’t learn those things in school.” —Wendy Priesnitz.
Tarek Gara is a fiction writer and blogger on politics, society, language, and education since 2017.