I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and it’s time to post about higher education. Some of you older people already know this, but because I hope younger people are reading this blog too, I feel like it needs to be said.
Your degree is worthless in itself.
That’s right. The piece of paper that says you spent thousands of dollars learning things and has the seal of a university on it is worth absolutely nothing. You can’t sell it on ebay to recoup the $80K you spent on it. You can’t even pawn it off to recoup 10% of that amount. The $80K value is in yourself. In your future. Graduate into the great blue yonder, young’uns!
It seems like an easy concept to grasp, but I’m amazed at the number of teens and grads who don’t understand this. They think that just because they spent $80K on a piece of paper that they deserve, will get, or shouldn’t be denied opportunities to work. That isn’t how it works. The value is the knowledge you have, and if you skated through college just to get A’s and B’s (or C’s) and hoped to scoot out of there and into a comfortable 9-5, forgetting everything you’ve learned in your classes immediately after the final, you’re going to find yourself in trouble.
The undergraduate college experience is still worth it if you commit yourself to being a learner, not just a college student. It’s worth it if you internalize crucial, special skills that other people graduating won’t have. Those students will be snatched up quickly by an employer. And in just a few years, the knowledge will pay for itself. It’s not the degree that pays for itself. Because, remember, the actual piece of paper is worthless.
Networking is an important variable in this equation – with your professors and with your classmates. These are people that give you opportunities in the future, or recommend you for an open position. You owe everything you know to your teachers and classmates – especially in a creative field like design, music, or writing where ideas and collaborations are created with those around you. They should be your number one resource upon graduation. You can’t discount their importance. People who slip quietly through their classes unseen without making friends, speaking up, and contributing to their institution of higher learning will be in for a rude awakening. That guy who always raised his hand in class but got C’s will be getting the job over you and your straight A’s. Unfair? I don’t necessarily think so.
If there was an apocalypse and everyone’s degree was washed away or burned to ashes, your only tool is that noggin’ of yours. Your knowledge and ability to contribute is worth everything.
Keep this in mind when you’re choosing your field of study. And, if you’re taking a chance on a soft skill like communication, art, or German polka history that won’t necessarily translate immediately into an entry-level position, don’t go to an expensive school for it. And, by golly, find a way to pay cash!