Should I go to college?

Written by Troy Buckholdt

 

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Should I go to college?

“We should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go.” – Seneca.

Wondering if you should go to college? About 2000 years ago Seneca said this quote. Way back then it was apparent that people often follow others with a herd mentality, even if they are being led in the wrong direction. They find it easier to just follow others instead of using critical thinking skills to make decisions for themselves. 

This mentality of people following the herd when they shouldn’t be is more apparent than ever on the college campus. If you go to any college campus and start asking students why they are in college, you can almost always dig down to an answer that involves them following their friends, parents, teachers, etc. You will find that they probably never even thought “should I go to college”, even though it is one of the single biggest financial decisions of their lives. 

Students have been conditioned to think of college as the default. The be-all and end-all. They have been taught to not even question the possibility of not going to college and instead just do what everyone else is doing and they will be alright. The definition for indoctrination is “The process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically”.

If students don’t critically think about their decision of if they should go to college, then they have been indoctrinated. If you are reading this article right now, then you’re one of the few who haven’t been indoctrinated since you’re critically thinking about this college decision by doing research. 

In reality, there are actually only a few reasons why students should go to college. Everything you’ve been told about college making you more well rounded and preparing you for the real world is great, as long as you don’t care about your future. Here at CourseCareers we provide students with an alternative to college by connecting them with $60,000+ tech sales jobs.

The Only Reasons to Go to College

1) You know what you want to do and it requires college

The first and biggest reason to go to college is if you already know what you want to do and it is regulated by the government to require you having a college degree. 

When I say “you know what you want to do”, I mean you are absolutely sure that this is where you want to begin your career and commit at least the next 10+ years to it. This is very rare, but there are definitely some students who have the knowledge and experience to be able to make such a large commitment like this. 

What you don’t want to do is spend years slaving away in college to work in a career and realize you don’t actually want to do it. You are then stuck with huge student loan payments and the only way you can keep paying them is by working in the career you don’t enjoy. You are either miserable for years of your life just counting down the days until you pay off your loans and can finally do something else, or you kill yourself (Why do you think doctors have, by far, the highest suicide rate?) 

The other thing that matters is that the career you absolutely know you want to do actually requires college. By “requires college” I mean it would be illegal for you to work in the field without having a college degree. The government will put you in jail if you don’t have a college degree. 

People often mistake jobs that are probably easier and sometimes much easier to get with a college degree as requiring a degree. Don’t make this mistake. Draw a hard line at careers that are actually regulated by the government to require a degree such as jobs in medicine, law, cosmetology, etc. 

No matter how BS it might be that some careers require you pay boatloads of money to get a college degree that is probably close to useless in the real world, you still must do it if you want to work in that job. 

Why do you need to go to school and get certified in cosmetology to cut someone’s hair for $12 an hour? Why couldn’t businesses certify that their employees know what they’re doing and customers trust the business to hold that standard? I don’t know, but there’s probably quite a bit of corruption and special interest groups making sure things stay like that.  

What I do know is that you won’t be doing any haircutting or styling if you don’t have that cosmetology certification. In a case like this, you would just have to go to school if working in a salon is what you want to do. 

2) You can pay off the debt easily

Let’s say you are one of the rare students who knows what they want to do without a doubt. You’re ready to commit the next 10+ years to the career and it actually requires a college degree. You’re also planning to take on debt to afford college since your parents aren’t rich or not willing to pay for your college. 

The first thing you should do is make sure you will actually be able to get a job that will allow you to support yourself while paying down your student loans. You don’t want your 10-year commitment to turn into a 20-year commitment and risk having a midlife crisis. 

Take a look at the market for the career you want to go into. Don’t look at the statistics such as average salary since they are often very misleading. Figure out how many jobs there are in the field and what the future looks like for that field. 

Figure out how many people are graduating with a degree in the field and how competitive it is to get a job. You don’t want to be one of the 130,000 people graduating every year with a criminal justice degree who thinks they will get a job at the FBI to only find there are less than 5 potential jobs available on fbijobs.gov

Many people go to college for a career in law without first doing some research. Every law student I talk to thinks they are going to easily get a job and make six figures right out of school even if they are going to a lower-tier college. 

These students failed to see that many of the entry-level law jobs are disappearing and there is an oversupply of lawyers already. They are then stuck with the reality of likely not even being able to get a job and if they do it’s definitely not even close to six figures. 

The other part to consider is how much money you will make in comparison to the debt you will be taking on. I remember watching a video about a woman who was going to a private school to become a social worker. She was already over $80,000 in debt and would be over $100,000 in debt by the time she graduated. Her expected salary as a social worker was around $30,000 if she could get a job. 

In what world does taking on $100,000+ in debt to make $30,000 make any sense? The monthly payment for the student loan would likely be over $1,000 a month. There would be absolutely no way to survive and pay off the loan. She would be stuck with it for the rest of her life. 

Unless this career is your life passion and you’re willing to throw everything else away to do it, then I suggest trying not to go over one year’s worth of salary in debt. 

3) You want to have a good time and your parents are paying for it

I often hear students say how they are going to college for the college experience. They often throw in something about becoming well rounded or preparing themselves for the real world to try to justify it. 

Don’t get me wrong, college is a blast. College can be extremely fun and a great experience. The only problem is that college costs a lot of money. This college experience is a luxury good for students who have high-income parents paying for it. 

Being a poor student and taking out student loans to go to college for the experience is like buying a Mercedes with a huge car loan and justifying it by saying it will help your credit score. It’s simply a dumb financial decision. Mercedes are for people with money just as the college experience is for students with high-income parents. 

If you do have parents that have some money and are willing to finance your college experience, then have at it. I can’t think of a better reason to delay any sort of responsibility and it sounds good to tell people you’re in college. 

You get respect from people since they think you’re learning important stuff and preparing for a job, and you get to party every day without being considered a loser. This is really good for people who don’t care about supporting themselves and starting a career sooner than later isn’t of much interest. 

There are very few other things you could do that are more fun than college and have your parents be more than willing to finance them. It’s really a win-win if this sounds like you. 

Everyone else who shouldn’t go to college

1) You know what you want to do and it doesn’t require college

Congrats on reading thus far. Perhaps after reading the first reason to go to college, you realized that you are one of the few people who do know what they want to do, but the career doesn’t actually require college. It isn’t regulated by the government to require a degree and you won’t go to jail if you start working in the field without a degree. 

Most of these jobs that don’t actually require a degree are going to be some type of business job or trade. While many people know that you can start careers in the trades through apprenticeships, people still often confuse jobs in business as requiring a degree. 

Just because companies traditionally hired employees who have a college degree, doesn’t mean that’s what’s happening now or what’s going to happen tomorrow. Traditions are fading. Is our economy traditional? Is technology traditional? Are our jobs traditional? 

Nowadays there are multiple ways to learn other than only in college. Your parents grew up in a different era, so them telling you all jobs require a degree is a bit outdated. We now have something called the internet. The strategy for starting careers without a college degree is a bit more complex than I can explain in a few sentences. If you want to learn how you can start almost any career in business that isn’t regulated to require a degree, then download your free copy of The Lean Career.

More often than not, it makes sense to bypass college when starting a business career. However, there are careers that are still too hard to break into without a degree. This is normally where there are high numbers of qualified individuals going after low numbers of jobs.

It’s better to first do your research to make sure you couldn’t learn the material and use the lean career model to get your foot in the door before spending $100,000 and 4 years of your time. 

For example, if you want to work in a marketing job, going to college as a marketing major is very likely a poor decision. This is because any entry-level marketing job I can think of could have been achieved using the lean career model at a fraction of the cost and time. 

Lastly, don’t let any of the statistics colleges throw out about making more money or having a better life influence you. For the most part, they are misleading or are irrelevant to you. 

2) You need to figure out what to do as a career 

This is the group most students are a part of. How many 18-year-olds actually know what they want to do without a doubt and are ready to commit the next 10+ years of their life to? 

Like I mentioned at the start, these types of students who already have the experience and knowledge to make such a decision are extremely rare. Colleges are the only ones expecting you to be ready to make a decision like this. 

Colleges force you to declare a major after your second year and take on an amount of debt which only a reasonable person would be willing to do if they knew they could pay it off. 

Where most seemingly reasonable students fall victim, is when they are lead to believe that college will help them figure out what to do as a career and by their third year, they will be able to confidently declare a major that will lead them to that career. 

This is one of the biggest lies that has been spread around. You’ve probably been told by everyone you know that college is “the place” to figure out what you want to do. This could not be further from the truth. College is a terrible place to figure out what you want to do as a career. 

College might be a decent place to figure out what you enjoy spending your time doing and perhaps developing some hobbies, but it is not the place to figure out what you want to do as a career. 

The first reason college is a terrible place to figure out what you want to do as a career is because college costs a lot of money. Most people don’t have the luxury to spend tens of thousands of dollars with only the hope of finding a career that makes sense to even go to college for. 

This is an investment and it is considered a very risky investment. When you don’t have much money and you invest large amounts in the form of debt with extremely high uncertainty, I’d say it transitions from a risky investment to a stupid investment. 

The other very important reason college is a terrible place to figure out what you want to do as a career is because the material you learn during your first two years is irrelevant to real-world careers. 

Just because you like math doesn’t mean you will like careers that involve math. For example, let’s say you learn that you really enjoy history during your first two years. What kind of career do you think you can get as a history major that will pass our previous tests? Not many… 

I knew a girl that enjoyed her writing and English classes during college. This made her think that she would become an English major. I then pushed her to actually research jobs she could do as an English major. She quickly learned the type of jobs available in writing isn’t what interested her. 

There is nearly no connection between the types of classes you take during your first two years and the real-world entry-level jobs that are available. 

A much better way to figure out what you want to do as a career is to test different careers. You identify a career that interests you based on your goals and skills. You then learn what’s minimally required to get your foot in the door. You then test and see what that career is actually like. 

If you find that you don’t like the career, then you figure out why that is and use that knowledge to make a better decision on what the next career you test will be. If you want to learn more about this raid testing cycle to quickly and efficiently figure out what you want to do as a career, then download and read The Lean Career for free. I go in-depth on how to apply this testing cycle. 

3) You want to have fun, but your parents aren’t paying for it

What if you do want to delay the responsibility that comes with adulting? Perhaps you want that college experience or you want to travel the world, but your parents aren’t going to finance it. 

Most people fail to realize that there are many ways to delay “getting a real job”. The first way to have fun and live it up while your young is to get the college experience, but not pay for it. 

Pretty much everything that makes up the college experience can actually be experienced for free. No one is stopping you from living on or around a college campus. You’re allowed to hang out on any public college campus and make friends. 

You can also walk into any lecture and listen to it without anyone likely saying anything. You can go to the school library or even eat in the school cafeteria. You might not even think these parts of the college experience are fun, but the good part is you don’t have to experience them if you don’t want to. 

If all you want to do is hit up all the college parties, then do that. Perhaps you’re really into sports and want to go to all the college football games, so do that. When I started my career in tech sales at 18 years old, I was living on a college campus and going to frat parties every Friday and Saturday night. 

There is nothing stopping you from experiencing as much or as little of the college experience as you like. The only difference is, you won’t be spending your time in meaningless classes and going into debt. You will be financing this experience by working some easy, low responsibility job. 

By living like a poor college student, but not having to pay any college expenses, you should be able to support yourself working as little as 30 hours a week. This gives you a lot of time to spend having fun or experimenting with different hobbies. 

What if you wanted to travel the world, but your parents can’t afford to pay for study abroad? What you probably didn’t realize is that traveling and learning about other cultures is accessible to almost anyone. 

Studying abroad is really just an excuse students use to convince their parents to pay for their traveling, or they take out student loans to afford it. How does living in Europe help you learn accounting or english? I really have no idea. 

What I do know is that if you can’t get your parents to pay for you to travel the world, then you should not under any circumstances, finance it with student loans. There are countless ways to explore the world by starting with little to no money. 

For starters, if you want to go to Australia, you could save up a couple grand for a plane ticket and get a job working on a farm. This is more common than you probably think. A Lot of young people from all around the world finance their backpacking adventures by working on farms. 

When I was in Thailand I spent quite a bit of time with a 19-year-old girl from Belgium that just came back from spending a few months in Australia. She told me crazy stories about how she made the equivalent of $15-20 an hour picking fruit there. 

She talked about how most of the fruit pickers there where people age 18-25 from seemingly every country in the world. She even told me stories about some of the crazy things they did which I can’t repeat. 

You could work so many different types of jobs such as basic labor, tourist guide, receptionist, etc. It’s not hard to find something that could at least give you a place to live and food to eat while meeting some interesting people. Here is a list of 40 ways to work and travel.

Perhaps you want to travel in the country? You could use the same approach of traveling to a new city and working there for a few weeks or months and traveling again. Rinse and repeat. 

If you want to cover more ground in less time, then you could even go homeless with no money and hitchhike across the country (I did this). In just a few months you could go to nearly every state and have a pretty crazy story to tell. 

Something else that a lot of people overlook for having fun and traveling is the military. Join the military and have the time of your life. Trust me, these people like to party. 

In Summary

The world has so many options other than college to accomplish whatever it is you want. Don’t less society pressure you into following the herd where you ought to not be going. The world is your oyster. 

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