I often see or hear people discuss a life decision that can be made with the stance that only one decision is correct. You should have children; a certain form of schooling is the best; you should pursue a college degree and the college experience; the cost of college is not worth it in today’s society.
It’s been on my heart for awhile to talk about college, specifically related to whether or not it’s worth it to obtain a college degree and if the college experience is as beneficial as people say it is. In recent weeks, I’ve been part of a couple of conversations related to college that have brought this to the forefront of my mind. Please note that this is specifically related to attending college in the United States, as I know that the educational system is different in other countries.
I received a BA in English in 2011. I still remember the day my diploma arrived at my door. I opened the envelope, pulled my diploma out and sat with it for a while, looking at my name on the same page as “awarded” and “Bachelor of Arts in English”. I felt a sense of accomplishment—the accomplishment of a childhood dream.
I knew when I started college that I wasn’t following a specialized career track that needed a degree. I also wasn’t allowed not to be aware of this; when people asked if I was going to college and heard that I was pursuing an English degree they would ask, “Are you going to be a teacher?” No. “So… what are you going to do with your degree?” I wish I had been willing to say, “I’ll get a job and see where life takes me.” There was no reason to hem and haw about how someone with an English degree can be useful in any industry; how any sort of humanities degree teaches skills that can be used in any industry. My decisions in life had no influence on them, so why did I sweat the answer?
It turns out that the job description for my first job after college asked for an English degree and my degree gave me an edge, but I always thought that was a delightful fluke. It doesn’t always happen that way. Still, I had grown up dreaming of the day that I would have a diploma. For me, it was personally important to obtain a college degree, because it was something that I dreamed of and valued.
There are others who may not have dreamed of going to college after high school. There are others who know that they might not put a degree they’d pursue to use in their career. They value making money over going into debt. For that person, going to college probably isn’t worth it. (And they’re probably making more money than I am!)
You don’t need a degree to be successful and a degree doesn’t guarantee success. Not having a degree doesn’t mean that you’re inferior and incurring debt while pursuing a degree doesn’t mean that you made a bad choice. Let’s let each person make the choice that is best for them and see where life takes them.
And if you’re the one being asked all those uncomfortable questions, do what I have should have done and say, “I’m doing this, because it’s what I feel is best for me, and I’ll see where life takes me.”
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