Right around this time of the year, it is always the same thing: pictures of mortarboards paired with colorful (or black) gowns and the faces of ecstatic students. Facebook will probably have a temporary filter for your graduation images. Personally, as an ex-graduate, I know exactly how those students feel. Whether it was one year or ten, you also understand those emotions of accomplishment and pure joy mixed with the feeling of wanting to take a nap.
However, you still have no time to rest because now you must worry about paying back a hefty burden known as student loans. Your glee just melted to exhaustion, and you realize that the ‘happiest years of your life’ are at a screeching halt. After just completing hours of exams, you cannot even begin to think about a financial plan.
I, too, know that flood of concern and even questioned whether college was even worth it. Literally. The endless discussions of rates, fees, and tuition are all too common for soon-to-be graduates. The moment you move that tassel, you are in debt. Do you have a job lined up? Or better yet, a career to go with that expensive piece of paper?
According to a report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, the majority of college graduates hold jobs that are not worth their diplomas. In 2010, of the 41.7 million working graduates, 50% of them worked at a job that required less than a Bachelor’s degree. What is even more mind-blowing is the fact that 38% of working graduates were employed at a place that did not even require a high school diploma.
The authors of that report made a bold statement. They went as far to claim that the United States is over educating people. This poses a serious question: are too many tax and public dollars spent on making citizens graduates when the economy does not require it? Of course, President Obama does not agree stating, “If we do not as a nation increase the number of graduates, then we risk the very foundation of the American dream.” However, the numbers do not lie, so I think the research was onto something.
For the majority of high school students, myself included, going to college was the next chapter in life. It was pretty much carved in stone that I was going, which I do not regret. However, after I graduated, I noticed employers do not put an emphasis on the actual degree or education much at all. Rather, internships and work experience were more substantial for any given position. Was I naïve to have grown up thinking an education came first? My school and my parents always stressed that school was important, and work was second. This way of thinking did hinder me when I was trying to find a position I was interested in, which I did not find until a year after I graduated.
Only a handful of people decide to go directly into the work field rather than attending college, but this has its benefits. I have a friend who completed a year-long apprenticeship with a bank before going to back to school. This guaranteed him a position at the bank upon graduation. He could have stayed at the bank and moved up in his career instead of going back to school. Not only would he have advanced within the company, but he also would not have a pricey loan to pay for an art degree he is not using.
The problem is that employers still use degrees as part of the screening process, even for jobs that do not require one. This creates a problem when it is time for young people to apply for jobs. Just because a person has an unusually high GPA does not guarantee enhanced job skills. Expertise should be viewed as a benefit, but without the diploma, employers are missing these candidates. They are being looked over.
I greatly enjoyed my college years. I am happy I had the opportunity to socialize, study, and transform into an adult. Those years seem surreal compared to reality. As much bliss and fun I had in college, a minuscule fraction of that time was used towards my degree, which was only 15 contact hours. The price tag hardly compares to the result. It is almost a costly privilege I should have thought twice about. If I had the same opportunity again, I could honestly say I may have done things differently.
There are obviously several advantages to jumping into a job or pursuing a career right after high school. Nevertheless, going to college still feels like the most standard thing to do. At least universities are helping their young students focus more on the importance of career information and help guide them to make well-informed decisions. Getting into a top school is not as important as getting a job after graduating from that school.
My degree does not come up in conversation and rarely do employers ask about it. Although it does get me past the initial screening process, it is still my previous work experience that is questioned. During interviews, employers will go as far to ask about real skills such as writing or Photoshop.
If you choose to attend a university, you should consider studying something very practical. If I had the chance to do it again, I would focus on a field like technology and coding. The new generation of children understand computers by the age of 5, if not before. Technology continues to increase so hopefully those future students will know how important technology is in the world.
Psychology does make for an interesting topic at certain times. I do talk about my major in that sense, but it is nowhere near my key to success. The current job I have does not require my degree. To get to where I am now could have been completed with three years of valuable writing experience. Nevertheless, that would have only been achieved through dedication to my job, good networking and knowing the right people, and, of course, luck. The sad thing is even with an expensive degree, I still need to dedicate myself, network, know the right people, and get a little lucky, but of course, that is possible.