College: the dream many parents have for their children. A higher education is supposed to mean a better chance at high-paying jobs and an advantage over your lesser-educated peers. Sadly, it doesn’t turn out like this for everyone. Depending on your industry, a college education could very well just be a mountain of debt you have to pay off with very little actual advantage over your future.
Despite these obvious downsides often used by naysayers, there are plenty of reasons I wish I had gone to college. Even now, as I approach my 30s at breakneck speed, I find myself considering filling out those loan applications and signing up for some classes at our local community college.
Here are a few reasons I wish I had gone to college.
Some Employers Still Require Degrees for Skill-based Jobs
Applying for work without a degree means having to rest almost all of your chances of getting an interview on your experience alone. Gaining that experience is difficult for someone without a degree. If anything, having that higher education is an ice breaker between you and a new employer. It sets you apart from other candidates with equal or slightly greater experience and gets you in the door with some of those old-fashioned bosses who believe that professionals should have some form of college education.
I’ve reached a point in my career where I believe I can speak (with some level of expertise) to a number of subjects. Unfortunately, employers love seeing evidence of that expertise. A degree helps (sometimes), though it may not always be a requirement.
The College Experience
I work with college students and graduates all the time. They have a common experience that makes for great conversation and it’s that experience that sets them apart from me. I’m not saying that you need a degree to relate to someone with one, but I wish I’d had that experience of being in college and knowing what college students know about how classes work, what the general community of a college campus is like, and having been in an environment that nurtured and aided early entrepreneurial spirit among its students.
Would Steve Jobs have been so successful if he hadn’t gone to college? He attributed much of his personal style to a calligraphy class in which he sat. Bill Gates founded Microsoft out of his dorm room. Mark Zuckerberg’s idea for Facebook might never have come to him had he not been at Harvard.
In these cases, it wasn’t the piece of paper that made the difference for these successful businesses. It was the experience of being in a university that kick-started the ideas behind them.
A Career on Which to Fall Back
I’m currently enjoying being able to write about technology and geek culture for a living. My experience in video and audio production has opened that door for me, and enabled me to accomplish quite a bit in my field. However, if I had an education in a field that has some longevity to it (such as nursing, radiology, teaching, etc.) I would have something to fall back on if the field I’m in now were to suddenly dry up or become a financial hazard.
Chris Pirillo, the founder of LockerGnome, has a degree in English education. While he doesn’t have a career in education at the present, he does have the degree to make that career shift much easier. It’s a good backup plan, and one I wish I had gone to college in order to have.
Regardless of where my career and life are at this point, it would have been nice to have spent my early 20s attempting to get a degree rather than simply spending that time playing games or chatting with folks on the Internet. It might not be too late for me, but for now, hindsight is 20/20.
What about you? Are you attending school now or planning to get your degree? If so, what field? If you haven’t gone to college, would you rule out the possibility of going back in the future?
University by Anna Langova