The College Debate (Part 1)

It is 2019 in America and the common sense idea that college is the ticket to success is being questioned.

I was born in 1986, smack-dab in the middle of the millennial birth years.

Growing up, school was all about preparing for college, which was the gateway and major obstacle to a secure and fulfilling career. The idea was to do well in school in order to get into a good college in order to get a good job. We’ve all heard it before.

It turned out to be a lie though.

The bachelor’s degree has become very diluted throughout the decades. What once was a mark of elite education is now what a high school diploma was a few decades ago.

There are so many people that have the damn degree, that there is a surplus of education in the job market. So now with so many more competitors in the competition to be among the best educated, the task has become exponentially more difficult.

And even then . . . just because you’re the most knowledgeable doesn’t mean there’s a market for your knowledge. Or if there is, it doesn’t mean that market is one you have interest in.

Now don’t get me wrong, bachelor’s degrees can be extremely advantageous if you’re interested in studying a field with big market demand like computer science, engineering, or nursing . . . or really anything with fairly specialized knowledge and a decent job market.

The thing is that not everyone has a passion for working in one of the in-demand careers. Those who happen to, really luck out; while those who happen to not, are likely to struggle greatly in their transition from school to career. That’s definitely what happened to me and many people I know.

I was naive. I wanted to work for a non-profit working toward transforming our social and economic paradigms. Well . . . it seems like common sense now, but there’s not a ton of funding for that type of work. Now, I didn’t think about how much funding there was for that type of work when I was in college. I just figured that since I’m so passionate about that work, I was bound to be given an opportunity by a like-minded organization.

At this point you already know that things didn’t work out how I had expected. Not even close.

I tried and tried to land a job that would lead me toward what I had envisioned, but eventually, after a little over seven years of being rejected, I said “enough is enough” and embarked on another route.

I came to the conclusion that the non-profit sector wasn’t the route that was going to get me to where I want to get. Though it seemed like the most direct route, my experience demonstrated to me that I needed to find an alternate path.

In my case, that alternate path is financial planning because it allows me to utilize both my analytical orientation and desire to help people within a field I happen to find very interesting. Though it’s not my dream career, I nevertheless envision myself thoroughly enjoying my job due to my satisfaction from learning more and more about finance, teaching valuable lessons to clients, and helping people in ways that will concretely improve their lives.

That’s the path I came to. Others have come to other paths that better suit who they are. We all have to figure out how we can best adapt to that real world that is out there. Just or unjust, rational or irrational, right or wrong, it’s the world we need to navigate through. So in this clearly non-ideal world that we live in, it’s no surprise that our strategy will often have to be non-ideal in order for us to succeed in our objectives.

So college or no college, we need to figure out what we want to achieve, what the paths are to achieving those goals, and what the realistic likelihood of success is for each path.

I’m grateful for what I learned in college. It’s something I would never want to give up. But I’m grateful for the intellectual development it provided me; not the preparation for work and life.

The thing is that college can be valuable in different ways. It can be valuable for personal development, intellectual development, career development and so on. What sucks is when you expect it to be valuable in a certain essential way, and it’s not. So it’s essential for us to know what we’re getting and what we’re not before we sign up.

That clarity has been lacking for a quite a while now. And this has created a tremendous social problem. Now a ton of people feel cheated, lied to, and way too many are struggling economically.

And yet regardless of this social catastrophe that we’ve gotten ourselves in, the high schools still continue to promote the same tired, inaccurate narrative about college.

We continue to lie to our youth.

I ask you to please help disrupt this dangerous false narrative.

We know better as a society. And teachers must know better as well. I mean . . . it’s hard for me to imagine that they actually don’t know better.

I believe it’s the pressure to conform within hierarchical, bureaucratic organizations that keeps teachers promoting nonsense. Most of them know better deep down inside. It’s just too scary for them to speak out. The possible consequences are so bad that they don’t dare take the risk.

But if the teachers aren’t willing to put their quality of life on the line to disrupt the false narrative, someone is going to have to if our society is going to evolve in this enormously important area.

I hope that person is you.

One thought on “The College Debate (Part 1)”

  1. What is important to understand as we re-examine our education model and society as a whole, it is quite reasonable to conclude that everything was set up and designed with economic interests in mind, that is, the original goal and intent was to create a wealthier society. Of course, we all (for the most part) understand at this point that wealth does not equal happiness and wellbeing, but of course, this sentiment and understanding has not permeated our educational systems to the degree that the old-model (go to college, graduate, get a great paying job) is threatened. Indeed, to have millions of students go to college, spend tens of thousands of dollars, accumulate debt, work hard around the clock after graduation to pay off that debt, and keep the cycle going, can be said to be beneficial for the economy and therefor wealth generation.. However, I would argue that having our educational system focus on raising young people to be virtuous, committed, and contributing members of the community, would result in more happiness and wellbeing abounding and although it may seem doubtful at first glance, an ultimately wealthier society..

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