Should I Go To College? This is a question which rankles with many students today. When you finish school it seems the standard. You go to college, get your degree and then get a job in that discipline. Simple, really. However, life rarely goes to plan. And in an age where most have a 3rd level qualification, college degrees are no longer your competitive advantage in the recruitment office.

In hindsight, many feel their degree seems like a waste of time. But was it? And as everyone returns to school and colleges across the country, this question will be a key determinant for their future.

What Do The Business Oracles Say?

In Silicon Valley, degrees won’t earn you respect. Instead, you’re met with a frown, grimace, and maybe just a hint of pity. The Valley view degrees as evidence of your indoctrination into an education system which doesn’t allow you to think for yourself. You’ve been thought to do things a certain way according to someone else’s instructions. You lack any form of individual thinking and problem-solving. You’ve been institutionalized and zombified to think just like everybody else. Creativity rarely correlates with high achievement in the education system.

Steve Jobs dropped out of college. Bill Gates never finished college. Larry Ellison…Richard Branson…Paul Orfalea… The most successful people across vastly different industries usually seem to share commonalities in one key area. They never finished college! Many openly profess it as a gigantic waste of time. Here’s a selection of some of their commentaries on the matter:

“There’s no need to even have a college degree. What is education? Your basically downloading information and algorithms into your brain. It’s actually amazingly bad in conventional education… It shouldn’t be this huge chore. You’ve got somebody standing up there lecturing people and they’ve done the same lecture 20 years in a row and they’re not very excited about it. I think with a lot of things there’s no point even learning them.”  - Entrepreneur - Elon Musk

“The A students work for the B students. The C students run the businesses. And the D students dedicate the buildings.” - Entrepreneur - Paul Orfalea

“Learning should come from making mistakes and learning from them. Not punishing them because you’re teaching people not to make mistakes.” - Investor - Ray Dalio 

“Education is very good at training people to do the same things that we’ve done over and over again.” - Entrepreneur - Peter Thiel

On a more positive note, Mark Zuckerberg feels its well worth the time believing that it presents a great opportunity to learn and broaden the mind. He left college early but then went back to finish his degree.

“College is this magical thing where you get to explore new things and meet new people.” - Entrepreneur - Mark Zuckerberg

Is College Really Worth It?

Different career paths have different needs. If you want to be a doctor then, without doubt, you need to go to college. Unfortunately, there’s no other legal way of learning how to cut somebody open and operate on them. Want to be a teacher? You need to get a teaching degree. Not just any teaching degree but one from a respected college as teaching is an industry dictated by status and educational performance. Certain jobs require a degree to gain entry. That’s just the way it is.

College is primarily seen as an insurance policy. We pay a certain amount of money a year toward an education which will increase our employability and hopefully give us a decent job. According to the US Department of Education’s College Scorecard, college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetimes than people without a college degree. In some career fields, a degree is the minimum expectation and many job listings in the corporate world list requirements of at least a 2.1 degree in any discipline.

Contrastingly, the business world is increasingly questioning the value of the degrees colleges are churning out. Graduates are exiting without real-world experience and entering a rapidly changing business world. Skills quickly lose their value and adaptability and constant learning is respected more than past accomplishments. Silicon Valley question colleges return on investment both for the individual student as well as businesses.

Evidence also does not support colleges grounds for self-satisfaction. Despite falling unemployment, many college grads age 22 to 27 are stuck in low-paying jobs that don’t even require a college degree. The percentage of young people in America languishing in low-skill, low-paying jobs is 44% (a 20-year high).

My Experience As A College Graduate

I never knew what I wanted to do when I finished college. Those who do are the exception. Even within these exceptions you rarely see their eyes light up when they proclaim they want to be an Accountant. But this direction helps them and it’s even better if this aim is rooted in an area you’re passionate about. If you already know what you’re passionate about and what you want to do and you don’t need college to do it then there’s no point wasting your time with college.

Plenty of online learning platforms exist for you to learn it all without the college fees. Then just get real-world experience. Work for free if you have to. In the end, the business world doesn’t care about your degree. They only care about what you can do for them. And if you don’t have a degree, you better be damn good at what you do!

For the rest of us its the long winding college road. Pick a degree which is valuable to the workplace such as in Business or a degree where a skills gap exists such as in I.T. When you graduate the degree does act as a sort of insurance policy for your future. For me when I graduated I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work in Marketing and spent a few years working in retail until I found what I wanted to do with my life.

In my case, the degree was beneficial as it acted as a platform of knowledge in marketing which I quietly built on through books and online learning. Then suddenly I realized I was good at it and when you’re good at something you enjoy it so marketing became the career route for me. This is how a degree can help. It provides an anchor of knowledge that you can come back to.

Go Forth and Do What You Want

Otherwise just do whatever the hell you want and enjoy it. The business world won’t kneel before your degree and God won’t give a shit either!