For the Last Time, College is NOT a Waste of Time

I stumbled upon this article in which a financial analyst says that college is not worth it because in our economy even a bachelor’s degree doesn’t guarantee a job. He claims “undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing.”

I have all sorts of problems with this.

First off, I don’t know where he went to school but reducing our education to cramming and plagiarizing is more than a bit much. In college I’ve learned how to write, ask questions and research. I’ve been introduced to a variety of different literature, math problems and social issues. Without college I’d be woefully unaware of the world around me.

He continues to argue that a skill-based curriculum is the answer. Yes, that might prepare college students for particular jobs in engineering or statistics, but ultimately this would do a disservice to us. To me, college is about broadening your academic perspective. I would hope that curricula develop our ability to learn and introduce us to new courses that we might not have ordinarily taken, art history, economics, or a foreign language for example. In my opinion we shouldn’t forget about the humanities merely because they don’t directly prepare us for particular jobs. Believe it or not, there is still something to be said for students who are actually knowledgeable about history and philosophy…

And of course the most glaring issue with his claim? That college is all about preparation for the work force. Of course that’s a big part of college, but certainly not everything. College is a place to develop your social skills, make life long friends and generally “find yourself.” Trust me, I know that’s corny but before entering college three years ago I had no idea the kind of person I wanted to be and what I was most passionate about in life. By living in a dorm, rushing a sorority, struggling through science classes, and participating in IMs I have begun to uncover just exactly who I am and who I hope to become.

Can you imagine jumping right from high school into a vocational school, or worse the working world? I switched my major, pursued a variety of interests and still am not deadset on what I want to do post grad. Without college, I’d be buried in some cubicle right now hating my life.

College is also an opportunity to gain some independence without totally being pushed out from the nest. Ever present support systems allow students to hit a stride in their adult lives without risking failure in a big way. Like most students, I started paying rent on my own and balancing school work with a job and extracurriculars — and college provided the perfect environment to start doing all of that. Without the family meals I ate every night in high school, I’ve learned how to cook (you might think this is a small accomplishment but considering the sheer number of lean cuisines I’ve consumed and burned stir frys in my past, I assure you, it’s not). College taught me how to multitask and prioritize, which we all know comes in handy in the work place.

And last but not least?

College IS fun. And a fun, learning experience can hardly be considered a waste of time.

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  1. RCM says:

    Truth. Also, economically speaking, those who earn a bachelor's degree have higher median incomes. So not sure where this economist is getting his info from.

  2. wenwen says:

    That was a really good article. Best article on college candy so far. I always hate how people criticize college
    and college education and at the same criticize the youth today for being lazy.

  3. Someone says:

    Disagree with most of what you said. I do believe that college can be a nice transition for some people but especially with the economy the way it is there are other ways to achieve that. Our society has become so education driven and these universities are making a boat load off of it. Young (and old) students have become so "convinced" (for lack of a better word) that they must go to college that many don't even consider other alternatives after high school. Most of what you stated you gained from college you can also gain from doing other things with your life and not having a "thousands of dollars price tag" attached to the experience. I do believe it is socially responsible for people to make it known that college is not the only answer. The national debt keeps increasing a nice chunk of that is due to government backed loans that many students may never or take for ever to pay off and it just keeps growing. As a college student I feel as though I wasted my time and I have wasted money because I have gained nothing from it that I couldn't have gotten from other means. In fact I have found that with a little discipline and dedication many of the "liberal studies" you mention you can learn on your own through internet research and OPENING A BOOK!!! More technical studies may require some formal education but not necessarily these four year degree programs.

  4. jayjay26 says:

    I do consider college to be a huge waste of my sweet ass time because I didn't get any from it, so I decided to drop college (when I was junior) and do more useful things. Joined the navy reserve, and have my own business; and is all NOT thanks to college education. Heck, going to trade school instead of a regular high school was more useful!

    If I want to learn more about things, there's always the public library.

    1. Leigha says:

      Yes, but good luck putting that on a resume: "Learned about economics from a library book." Uh huh, I'm sure they'll get right on hiring you.

  5. RCM says:

    Chill. I'm not railing on you or your life choices. I'm just pointing out a general trend that has been consistently demonstrated. Likewise, you don't know anything about me, my life choices, or my income, so I don't think you're in a position to make any assumptions.

  6. jayjay26 says:

    Oh no; my actual business is information technology consultation; I do dance in those places to save extra money for retirement.

  7. Miriam says:

    I too am getting really sick of the "college is a waste of time" BS articles. Just because it's a waste of time for SOME people doesn't mean it's a waste of time for everyone. Also, I just love how the authors of these articles are never college students, dropouts, or recent grads; they're always people who went to college decades ago and basically know nothing about what it's actually like. Hint: no "Google plagiarizing" for me.

  8. 412 says:

    No college is a waste of time unless its a good school you will get a job based on the college's reputation not your own. Go back to CMU and play WOW with all the other asians there.

  9. Austin says:

    Excellent article. After discovering my intense passion for learning at Samford University, I have now decided to pursue an academic career. Many of my best friends want to do other things, but they love learning just as much as I do. It's sort of an obsession with the world around you. You cannot stop taking it all in. It's far to beautiful to just call it quits on learning about it.

  10. Katherine says:

    While I agree with you that the college experience is not for everyone, I take issue with part of your argument. You say that “our society has become so education driven and these universities are making a boat load off it”. I couldn’t agree more that the cost of higher education is way too high, no matter if you attend a trade school or an expensive private school.
    The idea I disagree with is that our society is too driven by education. Is there too much emphasis on higher education? Perhaps. But our society is not driven enough by K-12 education. Without a solid K-12 education, people are not able to learn on their own through internet research and “OPENING A BOOK!!”, as you so emphatically put it. Yes, I majored in one of those “liberal studies” at a liberal arts college, so I have a bias. Yes, I am a high school English teacher in a critical needs school in rural Mississippi, so I am passionate about education. I am not an impartial judge here. I believe that without a good education, you are at a severe disadvantage in the work force. And I believe that there is some sort of higher education program out there for most people. But if you can’t read or write well (as is unfortunately the case for far too many of my high school juniors and seniors), it is much harder to educate yourself by simply opening a book. And if you haven’t been taught discipline and dedication in your schools, you won’t always have that drive to educate yourself beyond your high school diploma (if you have one).
    All I am really asking is that you be careful with how you phrase your argument against higher education. I know it is a matter of semantics, but by making a blanket statement that our society is “so education driven”, you come dangerously close to saying any education is not important.

    1. Brownie says:

      Unfortunately not everyone in our society receives a proper education thanks to standardize testing. And no, our society is not education driven because if it was then everyone in our society should be getting a valuable education because government funds would cover most of it. What you say you learned in college you learn once you enter the real world. I've been in the real world since high school, i worked so that I can pay for prom, my HS graduation, and my attendance into a community college. I had enough money to attend a 4-year institute only to find out how much bullshit it all is. A 4-year institution is nothing more than a day care center for students who are too afraid to enter the real world because they don't. All the volunteering, the clubs, and events on campus is meant to keeps students in their safe comfort bubble.

    2. Someone says:

      I wasn't talking about grade school I was referring to higher education. And I agree with you perhaps if more emphasis was put on grade school education and less on higher education many students wouldn't be in the situation that they're in today. It's so hypocritical when you stop and think about it. So many colleges and universities are crying about how students are less prepared than they were in the past but yet that doesn't stop them from increasing their spending every year on recruitment. Obviously I wasn't saying education as a whole was unimportant because I went on to suggest educating yourself. I never said one should stop learning simply because they choose not to go to college.

      Seems like you're describing how the grade school systems are dropping the ball which is something I do empathize with. I was educated primarily in the suburbs but my senior year of high school i ended up moving to the inner city and attending one of the worse rank public school districts in the country. I immediately realized just how much this country is failing it's kids I couldn't believe I was sitting next to people who could barely read a paragraph out of an eighth grade level history book. And wouldn't you know it these same individuals got into college…

  11. Thank you for posting this! I've written my own post in response/agreement here: http://chamwashere.blogspot.com/2011/07/in-defens

    College is so much more than a vacation – I can't believe anyone would even write that. Especially someone who has attended college – if Bill Gross' college experience was a vacation and if he thinks that kids only get in because their parents bribed an admissions counselor…It makes me wonder how he got into school and what he did once he got there. I can tell you, my college experience has not been a vacation. Who would sign on for a "vacation" where you don't get to sleep and have to pull all-nighters studying and stressing over presentations? I'm sorry, but wtf.

  12. Danial Barnes says:

    Very insightful article. A college education does indeed broaden your horizons, shape you into a well-rounded, responsible person, and give you an academic edge. But for those who are not satisfied with this alone, it is worthwhile to note that as attested by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm), those who have the stamp of undergraduate degree programs tend to earn an average of $412 more in a single week than those who only have a high school diploma. Undoubtedly, jobs are scarce, and it’s much harder to get the job of your dreams than it used to be. However, this is an even bigger reason to get that college degree; after all, given a choice between a candidate with a college degree and a candidate without, most employers would choose the former.

  13. anonymousness says:

    There are some careers in which you can't even start if you don't go to college. Try academia with only a high school education.

  14. ToneBone says:

    It all boils down to what you want to do in life. There are some great career options available for those who don't want to go to college, however, the percentages say that many won't end up in them. College doesn't guarantee a great job, but it sure gives you more options to make a better living. I think the people that have been hating on college are those who have majored in fields that are in a declining job market, or even worse, no market at all. Pick the right majors and the right careers and you can never go wrong. The number one thing when choosing career goals is to be realistic.

  15. Excellent article! What I find amusing is how many people seem to this this "college is a waste of time" argument is so new. I heard the same trash 20 years ago when I was attending university. I had a pompous university professor who was forever embittered that she wasn't teaching at a top tier university but rather at a small town liberal arts college who constantly derided the BA degree as an "advanced high school diploma" and how "grade inflation' made the courses meaningless. She conveniently ignored the fact that for many of us, college was something that we had thought was out of our reach, and that we were busing our humps to make the grade. I can't speak for others, but I EARNED my degrees (yes, TWO BAs) through blood, sweat and tears…and I earned them while working 32 hours a week and raising a child by myself! Not bad for a kid from the projects who was told I wasn't "smart enough" for college when I was a high school sophomore. Of course there will always be those who will look down their nose and tell me my education means 'nothing' to them, but I can tell you it means a helluva lot to me and always will.

    1. I think you need to bring down your swear bot a bit… the word for a 2d year student is not a profanity.

  16. While it is good to be well read, and to be skilled at internet research, the cold hard reality is that independent study is considered a meaningless hobby or simply "dabbling." In certain fields, you must have the degree to have any sort of credibility.

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