Is A College Degree Worth It?
Does a college degree still matter? Is a degree necessary for success? As more and more companies are dropping their requirement for a college degree, we have to ask if getting a college degree is still a good idea.
The truth is that it depends. It depends on your situation, what you want to do, if you have no idea what you want to do, how much it might cost you, and many other things.
The real question is if a college degree is right for you. That is, if—based on your needs, situation, and interests—a college degree would provide significant value in your life.
In this article, I’ll be posing questions that will help you decide if a college degree is worth it.
Does the field you’re interested in require a degree?
There are fields where a degree is required without question. These are jobs that have always required schooling like healthcare, education, law, ect.
Then there are fields where a degree isn’t technically required, but because the space is very traditional most people will have a degree in that space. These are fields like architecture or finance.
But then there are jobs where there’s lots of grey area. For example, it definitely helps to have a degree in areas like coding, business, design, or marketing, but it’s definitely not necessary.
Why is this true? Areas like coding, business, design, and marketing are the pillars that hold up the start-up world, and start-ups are only interested in getting things done. We can see that the most innovative companies (Tesla, Google, Apple, Netflix) are becoming less and less interested in whether a candidate is a college graduate since a degree is decreasing as a predictor of how well an employee will perform.
It’s these types of positions where you’ll find many people who didn’t follow the traditional path.
If the career path you’re interested in isn’t traditional, you may be able to accomplish your goals without college. There are many online alternatives like Coursera or Flatiron School that provide legitimate skills aimed at a specific job.
Does college conflict with other plans you have?
Is there something else you want to do, that you wouldn’t be able to if you went to college?
If you have something else you’re itching to do instead of college, it’s possible that going to college might cause more of an opportunity cost than a gain in your life.
People often cite Bill Gates as a reason for not going to college. What people don’t talk about is how he received a 1590 out of 1600 on his SAT, he was a National Merit Scholar, and he attended Harvard for two years before he dropped out.
Why am I telling you this? To show you that Bill Gates didn’t drop out because he was a terrible student, he dropped out of college because he had other plans—he wouldn’t have been able to build Microsoft if he continued at Harvard.
Many people skip college because they have other plans like starting a business, learning a trade, or gaining skill with direct experience in something like photography or writing. These are all perfectly good reasons.
Another question to ask is “Would I be able to pursue my goal while still going to college?” It’s very possible to have your side hustle whether it be blogging, music, or graphic design, while you go to college. Again, assess what is best for your needs and situation. College might also not be feasible due to personal reasons, family issues, or health problems.
If you decide you’re not going to go to college, just make sure you have a clear next step. You don’t have to have it all figured out, all you need to know is the next thing you’re going to pursue.
Will it be free or cheap?
How much is your degree going to cost you? Will you have to pay in full or will it be free due to financial aid? Will it be cheap?
You don’t want to go into large amounts of debt without a good reason to. If you’re leaning towards going to college but worried about the costs, well, you should be. Debt is no joke and you should have a good reason to go into it rather than it just being the norm.
If college for you will be free or really cheap, part of the burden is lifted since your decision won’t result in loads of debt. In your case, the costs of college won’t play a huge part in your decision. I was lucky enough to get financial aid in addition to working during the five years I went to school, so I had no debt when I graduated.
If college for you will not be a cheap endeavor, assess your situation closely. What is it that you want to study and is a college degree necessary for your success? If you decide a degree is important for your career I recommend going to a university that isn’t going to bury you in debt.
I generally don’t give catch-all advice, but one thing I can say with confidence is that cutting the costs of college any way you can is a good idea. Take classes at a community college, go to a cheaper 4-year, and apply to grants and scholarships.
College for me was worth it, but I graduated with zero debt. If I graduated with fifty thousand dollars in debt, my answer would be completely different.
Do you have no idea what to do?
If you don’t have any plans, college can be a great place to explore. It provides a setting where you are around like-minded people who are in the same stage of life you are in. That being said, the internet can also be an amazing place to learn and connect with others.
If you can go to college for free or cheap, by all means take the opportunity to dive into that 4-year experiment.
Although college is a great place to figure it out, you don’t want go into debt just to “explore”. The biggest mistake I see people making is completely relying on their degree to make them successful. I think this video perfectly explains what will happen in that case.
If you’re still unsure, you can always take an experimental approach and take a class or two at a local junior college. This will give you a taste without having to commit to college and will put you in a better position to make your long-term decision.
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