This is the season of graduation parties. It is a great time to celebrate and support all the accomplishments of our graduates. This time of year has made me think of sharing some thoughts about college and education in general.
Over the next couple of weeks I am going to discuss education, specifically getting a college degree and how it relates to life, work and business success. This is such an important and sensitive subject, I cannot cover it properly with just one article. I will start the discussion today and finish it next week.
I know my thoughts will likely ruffle some feathers, but they are meant to help think through a very important choice: “Is college right for me?”
First and foremost, I am not against college. Let me state that again. I am not against college. I am a college graduate with a double major in business and media communications.
I believe getting a college degree needs to be the right fit with your future goals and aligned with your passions, personality and talents. I do not believe everyone who gets good grades in high school should automatically go on to college. I believe in lifelong learning, regardless of what form it takes. Since you now know my basic thoughts, let’s jump it with some specifics.
Let me start by asking, do we need plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, landscapers and similar services? Absolutely! Do these vocations require a college degree? Absolutely not! They do require some education beyond high school, but not a two or a four year degree.
These jobs are just as important and noble as any doctor, lawyer or executive position. So why does it seem we still insist college is the ultimate key to a successful career? I am thrilled my doctor has a medical degree. I mean that in all sincerity. However, I have never asked the plumber or auto mechanic if they have a college degree. My only question to them is, “Can you do the job and do it right?”
Many people graduate college with massive loan debt and end up working in jobs not in their chosen field. Not to mention getting paid far less than what they expected. Getting a college degree is no guarantee of a well paying career. Many plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics make more money, have no student loan debt and are happier than those who have a degree who are working in a dead end job, while drowning in loan debt.
It seems strange to me how some people determine if college is the appropriate choice. Here are just three things I often hear as reasons or rationale for going to college:
- “If you don’t know what you want to do, go to college find out.”
- “Find out what fields are hiring, are the most secure or pay the best and go to college for those. Your career will be more secure that way.”
- “Everyone in my family has gone to college,” or “My dad is a doctor, so I am following in his footsteps.”
Are any of these alone a good reason to make a huge financial and time investment? I will continue to unpack this extremely sensitive and important issue next week.