College seems to be the next box to check off on every high school graduate’s “life to do list.” College can be a great asset, but here are 14 college myths that need to stop.
I’m not anti-college. I am currently in college, and love the private college I am at. I believe college can be a good asset if done in a well informed and fiscally responsible way. In other words, I don’t believe that students should just go to college because “it’s the only way to succeed in life” and “they have no other options.”
This post may have a bit more snark than my usual posts, but the sheer amount of college myths and misconceptions (by both students and adults) need to come to a halt.
14 College Myths That Need to Stop
1. College is the ONLY way to financial success.
I had a student tell me that it WAS worth taking $40k out in loans for a degree, even though she acknowledges the profession she is going into has terrible pay. Still, she insisted that going into that much debt was responsible and that college is the only way for success in today’s world.
Society, get a grip. Did we really not learn from the housing market crash? A college degree may have been a valuable commodity a few decades ago, but times have changed. We live in a world with instant information at our fingertips, and especially as Americans, the ability to truly do whatever we want to do with our lives.
If college equals financial success, it is ironic that a good chunk of the most brilliant and successful tech gurus and entrepreneurs in this world never went to college or dropped out of college, debunking the myth that not having a college degree equals doom. (these aren’t including the average successful entrepreneur or person succeeding life without a degree)
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Coco Chanel
- Bill Gates
- Ralph Lauren
- Steve Madden
- Ingvar Kamprad (founder of Ikea)
- Robert Pittman (CEO of iHeartMedia)
- Joyce Hall (founder of Hallmark)
- James Cameron (director of Avatar, Titanic, etc.)
- (See a list of 100 successful, degree-less entrepreneurs here)
Additionally, millions of graduates unemployed or working a minimum wage job (not in their field) show that a college degree is not a perfect way to success.
2. Well, shouldn’t doctors have a degree?/College is the only way to get a good job.
I hate the snarky reply, “Well, do you want someone to perform open heart surgery on you after he learned it on YouTube?”
I’m not anti-college and I fully realize that there are many jobs that rightly require a degree. Still, just because a few professions require a degree doesn’t mean college is necessary for EVERY field or degree.
3. Community college is scary, for dropouts, have no student life, etc.
If the job you want requires a degree, no problem. Still, raking up $100k in debt at a private university is definitely not the way to do it. There is so much emphasis on “finding the perfect college” when the real emphasis should be finding the perfect degree/major.
Community college is SO much cheaper than a private college (community college can be around 10% of the cost of private college). Although you definitely get what you pay for, it irks me when people look down on community college. It’s a cheap way to get easy courses out of the way, to graduate early (to save money), or to knock some gen eds out of the way. Just make sure they transfer before you take them!
A few students I know took their first year or two at community college, and the rest of their years at their desired school, saving thousands of dollars in the process.
4. Trade school is for poor people, high school dropouts, etc.
With everyone applying to college during their senior year of high school, many speciality jobs like painters, electricians, plumbers, and handymen in general are in shortage. Ironically, a person can make an equal or better living with one of those jobs, without all the debt a degree can carry.
5. It’s for your best interest to take out massive loans (plus interest) without knowing anything about money.
The average college graduate with a four year degree has about $37,000 in debt, and the US is over a trillion dollars in debt. Nothing like trying to get a degree to get a better job, only to be enslaved with debt for decades.
I can’t help but cringe when I hear a fellow college student say, “Oh, it’s fine. I’ll just put it on my student loans.”
Loan: (n) a thing that is borrowed, especially money
Most students don’t get out of college making millions, and even so, charging non-essentials (such as an upgraded living space or meal plan, or even non-school purchases) to your student loans is ridiculously irresponsible.
For example, I refuse to spend an extra $300 on an upgraded dorm room next year. Although it wouldn’t be that much, that $300 could pay for three years of web hosting, part of my car insurance, or be invested in some way. (See some of my tips for money management.)
6. You’re a college student. You’re going to graduate and have a massive amount of debt.
Why does college seem to always equal massive amounts of debt in the mind of society? It’s always expected! Our culture seems to be setting up our generation to fail.
Dare to be different: be that person who does NOT graduate with a bunch of debt! Graduating with little (or no) debt takes sacrifice, but it is possible! You. Can. Do. It!
- Consider taking a gap year before college (to work/save money)
- Choose a major in a high growth field
- Test out of things in high school (CLEP is a great option)
- Apply to scholarships
- Go to a college you can afford
- Don’t be afraid of community college
- Have a job (don’t be afraid to sacrifice weekends)
7. Graduating early (or going to community college) means you’re missing out on the “full college experience.”
I absolutely love my college. I love the professors and the students, the gorgeous campus, and the atmosphere. However, I plan on graduating a year and a half early.
I often get raised eyebrows when I tell people that, as well as a few questions such as “Aren’t you missing out on the full college experience?” and “Why are you rushing into adulthood?”
My why? To save $30,000 and (hopefully) graduate debt free.
My schedule has been a little crazy (I took 24 credit hours, while working full time, publishing an eBook, getting said eBook into print, and trying to get into shape), but it has been worth it, considering I survived it all. I learned a lot, had fun, kept my sanity, and saved a heck of a lot of money. This isn’t to brag, but to say it is totally possible!
8. Going to college means you are smart. (and if you don’t go to college, you’re dumb)
Meet Larry Page and Sergey Brin: the founders of Google! We have a vast amount of knowledge given to us free via the world wide web, and yet so many people waste it debating on Twitter and watching cat videos on Facebook.
Ironically, one thing that made this year’s courses easier was about 75% of what we went over in all of my classes, I had learned before: on the Internet.
Success in our education system is not a factor of intelligence, but rather a measure of only one kind of intelligence. Many of the world’s most brilliant minds struggled throughout traditional schooling.
9. A bachelor’s degree is a bachelor’s degree.
A degree in biochemistry or engineering is not equal to an art history degree or women’s studies degree in any way, shape or form.
10. If you don’t want to go to college, you want to work at McDonalds/be a stripper/be homeless/be a loser.
As someone who originally didn’t really want to go to college, I absolutely loathe this stereotype, that has no basis whatsoever!
There are just so many alternatives to a college degree!
11. Taking two years of gen ed classes is a time of “exploring” a new major.
If college is for gaining knowledge, then you shouldn’t have to repeat classes you took in high school (AKA many gen eds). Want to explore the field you want to work? Try gaining hands-on experience in your area! Career centers and your local chamber can be a good place to start.
12. College is like another set of teen years, another bridge before you reach adulthood.
I can’t stress how faulty this is, and how much this can damage so much potential. Why wait until after college? You CAN do great things long before going out into the “real world.”
13. If you have no earthly clue what you want to do with your life, go to college to at least get the general education credits out of the way.
One of the first things people ask any high school senior is, “Where do you want to go to college?” as if college is the next checkmark on a person’s to do list, and that there are no other options.
Peter Thiel is a cofounder of Paypal and one of Facebook’s first investors. To combat this mindset, he has created the Thiel Fellowship, a “scholarship” which gives 20 students $100,000 to quit their formal education and pursue their own business/startup. After receiving backlash from educators, he said,
“I mean, how fragile is the education system when 20 talented people leaving and doing something else is somehow enough to threaten it? My only claim is that not all talented people should go to college and not all talented people should do the exact same thing.
Regarding going to college because of “no other option”, Thiel says:
I feel I was personally very guilty of this [going to college because you believe you have no other option]; you don’t know what to do with your life, so you get a college degree; you don’t know what you’re going to do with your college degree, so you get a graduate degree. In my case it was law school, which is the classic thing one does when one has no idea what else to do.
I don’t have any big regrets, but if I had to do it over I would try to think more about the future than I did at the time … You cannot get out of student debt even if you personally go bankrupt, it’s a form of almost like indentured servitude, it’s attached to your physical person for the rest of your life.
14. A college degree is worth more than experience, hard work, ambition, self-motivation, integrity, wit, responsibility, time management…
So here are my top 14 college myths that I’m tired of hearing! What about you?