Conventional wisdom states that if you want to be successful in life, you have to get a college education: a key to success. Who could argue with the rationality and logic of such an assertion—after all, the best jobs are reserved for those with degrees, MBAs and PhDs, right?
Then there’s the social aspect. Between meeting new people, experiencing new things and partying your face off, college is probably one of the most important formative periods of your life.
But with all that said, is it definitely the right thing to do once you graduate high school?
I don’t believe it is, and in this article I’ll argue that for all but a small minority of steadfast and self-assured kids, going straight into college after school might actually be a big mistake.
The Cost Factor of a College Education
According to a report regarding college education by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), the average cost of attending college in the U.S. is around $30,000. This is a staggering figure, and puts a huge financial burden on all but the most affluent families. In many cases, students must borrow to finance their college education, which immediately puts them on the back foot financially once they graduate college and enter the workforce.
The money issue is more important than ever given what’s happened to the economy over the last 7-8 years, and many academic institutions have responded by reducing their fees in an effort to ensure that college education remains accessible. This is a commendable and welcome gesture, but even so, investing in a college degree is a major commitment which shouldn’t be entered into just because it’s “the done thing”.
The truth is, most high-school graduates have no idea what they really want. Your values, ideals and perspective at 18 will likely have changed a great deal by the time you reach 28, yet you are expected to make huge commitments—both financial and vocational—at an early age. The more you invest in your college education, the more you’ll be shackled to the career you choose. Don’t fall into that trap before you’re ready.
The Billionaire Paradox
What do Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson have in common? Two things:
- They all have more money than you
- None of them have a college degree
Yes, you could probably find just as many of examples of wealthy individuals who did complete their college education. But either way, it’s clear that formal education is not required if your goal is to become unbelievably successful.
In fact, I would argue that the better your academic credentials, the more you’re restricting yourself. The top students in, say, law and medicine might get the best jobs and salaries, but this won’t shield you from a heavy workload and long hours. And because expectations are so high (both your own and those around you), you can forget about having any doubts about whether you actually enjoy what you’re doing.
If you’d only channeled all that effort and energy into cultivating your entrepreneurial spirit, imagine what you could’ve achieved?
Conclusion: A College Education is Not a Key to Success
If you’re determined to cure cancer, have a passion for writing or want to immerse yourself in the world of technology and gadgets, then by all means pursue an education in those fields. But for the majority of youngsters, the first 3-5 years after graduating high school should be spent exploring your personality, discovering your talents, travelling around, and figuring out who you want to be.
If at some point you decide that a university degree is necessary to forge the career you want, then so be it—at least you’ll know what you’re getting into, and why. But we should not be peddling the default “school > college > job” model as a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody. For most teenagers, it’s impractical, untimely and not necessarily the best way to get started on the path to adult life.
What do you think — should college education be a given, or is it better to “find yourself” first? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!