College is Still Worth It
Before I begin, a quick disclaimer: I am biased toward the benefits of college.
But can you really blame me? After all, if you spent four years of your life at a university you would likely be biased too. I write that college is worth it not only because it is, but also because I want it to be true.
I, Along with eighteen million students in the United States, have invested my time, resources, and energy into an institution that will eventually give me a degree. I believe that receiving that coveted diploma will strengthen my career, my personal development, and my future.
Others disagree, some with good reason. A quick scan of articles on Medium reveals titles like “Your College Degree is Worthless,” “College is Worthless,” and “More Millionaires Declare That College Just Isn’t Worth It,” among others. We live in a society where self-made entrepreneurs can become billionaires through their own endeavors. We hear stories about university dropouts — like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates — who both left Harvard to pursue their own passions and dreams, becoming wildly successful in the process.
I hate to break it to you, but Zuckerberg and Gates are anomalies.
Unless you are extremely self-driven, with entrepreneurial habits and a propensity to chart your own course, dropping out of college might not be a great idea. College is a time for personal growth and development, and there are many reasons why college is still worth it.
College is an invaluable opportunity for networking
A portion of my time at college is spent in the classroom, listening to lectures and scribbling down notes. But those classes, although an important aspect of the educational experience at a university, do not require the majority of my time. Most of my day is spent with my peers, whether that’s eating meals together, discussing homework questions, or just socializing and relaxing. The community at my university has become an integral component of my education.
That community — the tight-knit group of peers that I spend my time with — has provided a network that will be with my for my whole career. They are the students that I have studied with in college, and they are the students that I will be working with in the future.
And that network doesn’t just apply to students within my major. The community of like-minded peers extends to students studying healthcare, medicine, marketing, music, and psychology, among other fields. I now know students who will be working in other cities, other states, and other countries. I know students who are future doctors, lawyers, physicists, investors, writers, CEOs, athletes, psychologists, and entrepreneurs. In every possible sector, every imaginable field of work, I now have a connection.
As one friend in the business school recently told me, “It’s all in who you know.”
He’s right. Establishing yourself in your career will hinge on who you know. Your own success depends on those connections, and college is an unmatchable opportunity to begin expanding your network.
College is a time to market yourself.
A thriving, successful college will provide opportunities for students to meet potential employers, seek out internships, and eventually find employment. At my campus, weekly job fairs in the business school are a regular component of the academic schedule. Students are encouraged to meet with business owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs, with the hope that those meetings will lead to an eventual job.
College is more than just a four-year opportunity to learn. College, in its truest sense, is a four-year opportunity to market yourself to employers, professors, and peers. And by taking advantage of the resources that an institution of higher education offers, students can begin to market themselves as innovators, collaborators, and leaders.
College provides the chance for personal growth.
Before attending college, I knew very little about my career goals. I knew I wanted to receive my diploma and find a job, but that was it.
College has allowed me to develop my goals for the future. It has given me an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals. And those individuals, by offering advice and giving words of wisdom, have helped me shape and tweak those goals.
As I near the end of my academic experience in college, I am confident in the path I have chosen. My personal and career goals have aligned into a plan for the years beyond college, and I feel well-equipped to handle the requirements of a professional occupation.
Receiving a degree — or just taking a few classes at a local college — should not be limited to students who recently graduated from high school. Everyone, from the mid-career professional to the recent high school graduate, can benefit from college classes.
If money is a concern, consider continuing-education programs at local universities. Many colleges offer free or discounted programs for professionals returning to school. And if committing time is a concern, consider the time that is spent looking for a new job. If you could reduce the job-searching time by attending a college that would help you establish job connections, wouldn’t you be better off?
It’s time for our culture to stop viewing college as an institution of the past. College is still a valuable component of individual success, and the unmatchable worth of attending college will only continue to grow.
© Aaron Schnoor 2020