College is Overrated. Get a job instead.

I just read an article about Peter Thiel and the education bubble. The article describes Thiel’s opinion on the education bubble:

Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper a seductive promise into the ears of worried Americans: Do this and you will be safe.

As a recent college graduate, it doesn’t seem my very expensive BA has earned its keep. I constantly complain about the uselessness of my degree (if I could do it over again, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college) and it’s made even worse by the never ending mantra of my BA becoming a high school diploma; everyone is getting one, and we’re all going to need higher degrees to stay competitive. Bu twhat having a degree doesn’t prepare you for is work, which is what employers are looking for in prospective job applicants. During my four years of university, I probably had one or two group projects. And unlike some of my more successful, or invested peers I didn’t have any mentors, didn’t participate in any internships and definitely wasn’t involved in any real capacity while on campus.

The education bubble is equally frustrating because most students probably don’t even know they’re in one. Several of my peers wondered how they were going to use their majors, particularly those who felt it necessary to have double majors, or double minors. A common question became, “What are you going to do with that?” While the talk of grad school seemed innate to our situation; how else can we get a job if we don’t have a bunch of degrees and distinctions? And I often find myself particularly envious of those whose degrees (like Economics or Finance) practically guaranteed them a lucrative position after graduation (especially if they had internship experience).

Inevitably, the problem with the bubble is largely one of ignorance and denial. When I was applying to colleges, I hadn’t really a clue what I was doing or real concept of how one goes about paying for school. It’s ignorance because I lacked the forethough to educate myself, because others didn’t think there were any alternatives to college. It’s denial because the American education system is deeply rooted to cultural beliefs; that college helps a person advance in the world, that college is the life boat on the Titanic that is life. If you have a college degree, you’re going to be better off than the people who don’t. It’s denial because those truths don’t seem to be existing anymore as post-grad students like myself are suffocating from the debt (and their collectors), are worried that with such a large burden – how does one manage?

The bubble needs to be popped so that if a high school student wants to go to college, they’ll go knowing informed and hopefully able to pay for it.

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4 thoughts on “College is Overrated. Get a job instead.

  1. I agree with you that high schoolers should be better informed. I think at that age, though, it’s hard because there’s so much you haven’t experienced and so much you don’t know. But then there is also so much wrong with the college system. It’s far too expensive, for example. Personally, I wouldn’t trade going to college for anything. I do have my regrets, and those lie in my own participation: I wish I’d been more involved, sought out more experiences, and formed real connections with more people. But so much of that is hindsight being 20/20.

  2. I find this post quite interesting because there has been much talk about the student debt bubble (and the grad school bubble, especially for law students). However, much of this talk is under the radar because no one wants to admit that the shift in the knowledge economy favors workers with experience and not the under experienced/over educated. And, since the premium is obviously experience, it’s become frustrating for new grads to obtain well rounded (and non-dead end) entry level jobs that can guide them into well rounded careers. However, the thing about college is that it does not prepare you for work, you are not better informed and in a large part, your professional social skills develop in a vacuum. And, those three things tend to be the most valuable skills/traits needed to navigate a successful career. Sigh, I could go on and on, but your post touches on a lot of things that’s already being said, I just hope parents and current college-bound highschoolers catch on.

    • The student debt bubble is really frustrating because a lot of teenagers are taking out loans to go to colleges that are getting more expensive every few months, not just years. I think my college’s tuition went out during the academic year and we got letters about it. Students complained, but few people dropped out over the cost. And I went to a school that didn’t offer extensive financial aid, especially in terms to full rides. The best scholarship my school had still forced students to pay for room and board. And THAT was considered a full ride. But I think a gigantic problem is that a lot of students have parents who probably didn’t go to college, so they feel that getting a degree is The Key. My parents were like that, but they were also painfully uninformed about how college works. And we also live in a culture where college is pretty much the next step, there aren’t a lot of alternatives.

      And I’ve often thought about my social skills; they sucked in college, and I was always afraid that that would somehow hold me back in real life. I mean, I’m not a social butterfly or an extrovert by any means, but I didn’t somehow lack the ability to make connections with my co-workers despite the fact that I didn’t have a lot of friends in college.

      But on the other side, I feel like it’s an incredible expectation for college to fulfill all these needs. What would the new college look like? Would we even still need a colleges if the experience that’s most valuable can’t be learned in the structured environment of school? I know in some places in the world like London and Japan, high school is optional. I’m not well versed on the education systems there (though I know a bit about Japan), but maybe if we as a nation can’t restructure education, maybe it [high school] should just be optional?

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