Each year around 65% of high school graduates enroll in college, and 40% drop out in the first 2 years. Education has changed; it might be best to go to college if you want to pursue a career where a credibility stamp is a must, like a dentist or a lawyer. On the other hand, if you’re going to become something like an entrepreneur and have a solid plan for success, college could waste your time and money.
The saga of whether college is a wise decision has continued for decades. My parents and their elders always taught me that a degree is a must. College is the road to success and wealth. You’re no one without a credibility stamp – no matter how much unformal knowledge you have.
But, as I got my first serious job 2 years into college, I realized I was not learning anything valuable. College wasn’t teaching me confidence. I never learned how to form business relationships or solve problems in the workplace. I was losing money without learning how to make some.
As of the last quarter of 2021, the national student loan debt is astonishing $1.6 trillion. Over 43 million Americans took up student loans and today owe an average of $40,000. On average, each borrower needs 20 years to pay off their loan.
The equation is simple: 20 years repayment for 4 years of education. So, is it worth it? Let’s dive into the details.
When is college a smart idea
The formation of Harvard in 1636 was the introduction to post-second degree education. However, it wasn’t until 1850 that it became popular, and students flooded the halls.
Since then, many things have changed; there are tons of colleges, community, state-funded, private, and many offer scholarships.
1. You want to pursue a career that requires a degree
Some careers will always require a college degree and even beyond a bachelor’s education. If you’re keen on medicine, architecture, maths, physics, chemistry and want to pursue a related career, a degree is a must.
The college will help you explore, learn, and prepare you for the next step: a medical residency or a Ph.D. research. These are some of the most challenging professions but often pay up well.
Financially speaking, if you pursue some of these careers, your investment in a college education will bring a great ROI.
2. You need discipline
Some people are more disciplined than others, and that’s okay. If you feel like paying for college and following a strict schedule will help you learn better, go for it.
Some people have a hard time learning independently and need to be held accountable. After all, self-learning and informal education are not for everyone.
3. Student exchanges can help you see the world
College can feed your adventurous spirit.
Many student exchanges can help you meet people from different continents, experience different cultures, and even spend a semester abroad!
However, you must double-check if your major and your institution provide this.
4. College won’t set you back financially
Having the means and not having to borrow for your college tuition is something only a tiny percent can enjoy. However, not having the burden of student loans for decades can make you think more rationally.
The average tuition reached $10,740 per year for the 2021/2022 school year. Having this expense covered can really reveal if you want to pursue a college degree.
It’s great if your parents saved up money for your education and you want to go to college. However, you’re not obligated to go to college because your parents have set aside your tuition money.
5. You spend the best years of your life with peers
Education is beneficial and the core reason to go to college. But spending your early twenties with your peers can form bonds for years to come. Many companies were founded by college friends.
For example, Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian co-founded Reddit, Jerry Yang and David Filo co-founded Yahoo, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin co-founded Google!
Why college is not a good idea
A survey conducted by Finder in 2021 showed that 25.5% of college graduates couldn’t find a job within their domain. Another 38.6% confirmed that their current job is nothing close to their degree. Four out of 10 people don’t find worth in their college degrees.
Here are some reasons why you might be better off without a college degree:
1. College doesn’t teach survial skills
Problem-solving and critical thinking a rarely something you can learn in college. But once you dive into the real world, you realize how these skills are essential.
You can’t do any job without facing a problem, and that’s when problem-solving comes to play.
Street smart people have a better experience with these skills as they spend years solving challenging situations. Critical thinking is crucial to understanding how you think, act and work.
You get to meet your weaknesses and strengths and become a better person and worker.
2. Outdated information and learning methods
Learning from a textbook seems absurd when focusing on a major that’s constantly updated with the newest technology and information. Unfortunately, so many classes still teach outdated information, which is the most repelling thing about college.
The whole process of memorizing a script and then repeating it for a grade is ineffective. For example, multiple-choice tests and definition questions might make you a better lawyer, but they are useless in marketing.
Humans learn best with practice, but sadly this method is barely applied in some institutions.
3. You want to be an entreprenuer
Entrepreneurs are not made in college. If you have a business idea in the works, college won’t help you much.
College doesn’t target entrepreneurial spirit. People eager to learn practical knowledge and build their businesses will eventually spend crucial years stuck in college.
This is why so many big brains drop out of college; take Bill Gates.
The ROI is way higher when opening your own business versus paying college tuition.
4. Self-learning is easier than ever
Online courses, academies, open-source libraries, and even YouTube videos can teach you so much. There’s a massive amount of free or paid sources if you want to learn.
In addition, in-demand skills are accessible for self-learning but rarely offered as college classes. University curriculums can’t adapt within a year or two while the job market constantly changes.
Social media marketing is a profession related to communications, PR, marketing, and journalism. However, social media platforms evolve and change up to several times a year.
Digital marketing as a major will teach you the basics but won’t prepare you to create and manage content for Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter.
5. College debt can stop you from chasing your dreams
We spend over 12 years in formal education, so it’s natural to want to pursue some freedom after your graduate college. But if you took a student loan, like the other 62% of undergraduates, you’re in for a tough time.
Paying off student loans requires sacrifice and a lot of work. That’s why it’s crucial to calculate your return-on-investment or ROI.
If you borrow $40,000 to pay for your tuition, you’ll owe the sum plus interest. Then, as years go by and you pay minimum payments, the interest grows, and you’re stuck in a circle.
Will your degree allow you to get a job that will pay off the debt in 3 to 5 years? If yes, then that’s excellent ROI. But if you have to struggle for over 20 years, college is a waste of time and money.
Why is college a waste of time?
College is a waste of time for those who already have a business idea in the works or want to pursue a job that doesn’t require a degree.
First, think of what you’d like to pursue as a major. Then search the job market; how many jobs look for someone with your preferred degree? If the number is low, rethink your choice.
How much is the financial cost of college?
The average cost of tuition, accommodation, and boarding comes to $35,000-$50,000, depending on the state and institution. For example, studying at the University of Chicago will cost you $81,500, and Boston University can cost you $75,000. A bachelor’s degree from CUNY Brooklyn College will cost you $12,000 to $15,000.
Is college becoming worthless?
A college degree is not useless by default. However, the job market is flooded with graduates that struggle to find a job.
College degrees become worthless when they’re not in an in-demand niche.
Lawyers, doctors, architects, physicists, and engineers won’t burn their degrees since their professions demand a college education and degree.
Higher education was always deemed as a gateway to success, a guarantee for a wealthy life. Research shows that degree holders enjoy a more comfortable retirement, with their retirement income being 10% higher than those with a high school degree.
However, today we have unlimited informal education resources that give us great quality knowledge at almost no expense. And bring us more money to invest in retirement funds. So are student loans worth it today?
A relative of mine just got his bachelor’s degree in economics. But he’s been working as a freelance graphic designer for 2 years already, a job that helped him pay for the degree.
Along the way, he realized that the ROI on his degree would be minuscule. So he took up graphic design courses. Free courses turned into profit for less than a year, while 4-year education worth $30,000 turned into debt.
Do you think college is a waste of time? What would you advise your younger self?