Why College Isn’t For Everyone

College can be a fantastic choice for many prospective students if they have the aptitude and willingness to succeed, and passion for their chosen major. But remember, other options are available to you, such as Internships, volunteering, heading straight out into the job market, starting a business, and many more career paths.

Caveat – I went to college and found it a great experience, both educationally and socially. But this post is about you, what would be best for you, and unfortunately, only you can answer it, but at least we can give you all the information you need to make this fundamental decision.

College is fantastic for those who can effectively grab the benefits it offers with both hands, but keep in mind you have options, lots of them. Although it doesn’t seem like it right now, the decisions you make at this stage of education can set you up for success big time in the future.

Overview

So, the time is coming where you’re preparing your plans for post-high school, but realistically, what are your choices?

Well, you could intern at a great company to build knowledge, do vocational courses, or you could work straight out of school (this can sometimes be a great option, especially if you are more entrepreneurial). 

You could also consider community college, but is it the right option, that is the million-dollar question. 

Related: These are the top 10 U.S. community colleges in 2020

There is a famous saying, college isn’t for everyone, but what does that mean? Is it to scare away potential students, is it saying higher education is unaffordable to many in the US, is it disparaging collegiate institutions, or something else? 

Honestly, we will break it down for you and make sure this question is answered in this post.

So, Do You Need A Degree?

Receiving a college degree
Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels

Well, interesting question, so let’ take a look at this at face value. 

For a long time, there has been a fallacy perpetuated by media and society at large, which states, a lack of a bachelor’s degree means a bleak future. This is not the case in most situations, not all countries have the laundry list of opportunities that you get in North America, and not all citizens have degrees. However, they can still be highly successful in their chosen fields. 

  • Based on 2020 data, 17.5m Americans are currently in college programs. This has been falling steadily, dropping since 2010 where enrolment peaked at 21 million.

Related: College Enrollment & Student Demographic Statistics

The world has hundreds of billionaires who do not have a higher education degree. This includes those who dropped out of college and those who didn’t attend college at all.

Remember that while there are numerous career choices out there that require a degree, e.g., scientific roles, a strong knowledge of scientific principles, mathematics, and logic are generally needed. 

There are plenty more industries, though, where a degree is not an entry requirement, such as working in aviation (pilot, cabin crew), where it’s not as essential. There are numerous case studies of non-degree educated professionals with great careers off the back of their experience and will to succeed. 

So do you really need one?

To sum up, though, degrees are important, and they can offer many opportunities professionally, but it’s not the end of your career if you choose not to study for one, do what’s best for you.

Related: 7 Reasons You Don’t Need a College Degree to Earn Big

Does that mean higher education is a bad thing? Definitely not. Education is really important for every society that wants to progress, and learning opportunities should be taken with both hands. Getting too hung up on study at the higher education level will add to unwanted stress that you don’t need in your life. 

Degrees can open doors and allows you to start a step or two above nondegree-holding individuals in a new workplace, but that’s becoming less commonplace nowadays. 

Society Can Progress Without Everyone Acquiring College Education

New York City Skyline

From the beginning of time (pretty deep right, I know, we’ll get there, stay with me), there were no schools, let alone universities. Society developed to the extent that school was understood to be the best approach for acquiring knowledge, building skills and competencies. 

The first scholars in the world stopped at a certain level of education that our society has now significantly surpassed. Still, they were able to help develop their societies to be able to flourish. 

Currently, we have recorded numerous medical, technological, political, and societal advances, even without half of the human population earning a bachelor’s degree. 

Many people who did not go to a higher education institution have contributed to making their society better and improving our world. Thomas Edison (the guy who invented the light bulb, or so the history books tell us), motion picture cameras, and stock sticker) did not go to college. 

The Wright Brothers, who invented and flew the first known aircraft, did not complete high school either. 

In recent times, we have a host of success stories which include the following:  

  • Bill Gates, Microsoft
  • Steve Jobs, Apple
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter, Square

Most recently Elon Musk has been a pioneer of emerging technologies with companies such as Tesla and SpaceX.

Elon Musk and a picture of Mars

These are just a small sample of tech moguls, amongst other entrepreneurs who have changed the world without degrees. Ideas change the world, not a piece of paper that states you passed a 4- year course. 

Since the world has achieved so much without everyone possessing a college degree, we can do better without stressing its need. 

Related: Why You Should Stop Stressing About Which College to Choose

The fact that people without college degrees have contributed immensely to the developments we’ve seen across the globe clearly shows that college doesn’t have to be for everyone. Human ingenuity can prevail without formal higher education.

There Are Still Significant Earning Opportunities Without College Education

The perception that people need a college education to earn a high salary is only accurate to a certain extent. It is a flawed argument when you look at our entire society and not just a few traditional institutions. 

There are people in different fields of human endeavor earning big without ever having attended college. Some high-school dropouts are even doing much better than many college graduates in some areas. 

Lots of US Dollars

Sportspeople and those in the entertainment industry are good examples of individuals who have made impacts globally and earned lots of money as a result, even though they had little education.

For example, Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd, Real Madrid, and Juventus), for instance, earns a lot more than the most world-renowned professors in the best US Universities at $500 Million. Many NBA players left college to go into the draft early, although some of them finish their degrees later in their careers, although many don’t.

Kobe Bryant (RIP Black Mamba) is another great example; he went to high school to hoop at Lower Merion and was recruited straight into the NBA. It can happen, but you have to fight for your opportunities. Just before his untimely death, Kobe was worth an estimated $600 Million.

Even in the business world, education is not the most crucial determinant of success. There are several successful businessmen and women around the world who didn’t go to college. Michael Dell and Larry Ellison, both college dropouts, are living examples. John Mackey of Whole Foods Market is another excellent instance of this.

Not Everyone Is College Material

Everyone is different, and our methods of learning can differ wildly from one

person to another. This means that a proportion of the population cannot absorb and keep up with college-level education’s speed and technicality and feel more comfortable in a different setting, e.g., community college, apprenticeships, or internships.

 

To add some balance to this post, I would like to share an article from the Washington post that talks about who should decide who is not cut out for college, if anybody has that right.

 

Related: College material or not: who should decide?

 

Several examples of individuals who struggled for several years to be admitted into college programs, only to drop out afterward because they couldn’t handle what it takes to succeed and earn a degree. This doesn’t mean such individuals are unintelligent; it’s just an indication that they are not college material. 

 

Remember, if you do choose to go to college the sheer amount of exam prep required if a mind shift you need to be ready for.

 

In most instances, people who are not college material achieve more in life when they realize this early, leave their major, and pursue careers they are passionate about. Figuring out that college isn’t your forte is hard to make, though, but it is in your best interest in the long run.

Many Undergraduates Eventually Drop Out of College

Why college isn't for everyone

In the United States, the overall dropout rate for undergraduate college students is around 40% for bachelors degrees, with approximately 30% of first-year college students dropping out before their sophomore year.

Many students who struggle to get into college end up dropping out is also a clear indication that college is not for everyone. We see this often, but the blame is often directed at the individual’s for dropping out, but there usually are other reasons that contribute to them leaving university. We like to call the graduation crisis because college is not the best choice for certain students who cannot manage the workload required. 

One of the best statistics the sums up this crisis is that the United States ranks 19th in graduation rates among 28 countries (2019 data) in OECD studies. For a country with such prestige, this number is unacceptable and makes you wonder if college is the right decision to make the most out of your life.

The rate of dropout can seem alarming at first glance. Sometimes students and their parents need to take a deeper look and say, “is this the right move for my children or me”?

College is hard enough as it is, never mind if you’re a student not feeling it or having a hard time with the intense curriculum.

College Education Doesn't Guarantee a fantastic Job

Some people erroneously assume that after graduating from college, it becomes effortless to land their dream jobs. In most instances, things don’t play out this way. It may be relatively easy to get into certain professions with certain college degrees, but there is never a guarantee. As of September 2020, 9.1 percent of recent graduates in the United States were unemployed. 

 

Think about that for a second… that figure could be you, or a friend, who cannot get the break-through they need, and the risk/reward of going to college becomes a bit more cloudy and not as clear-cut as it may have seemed before.

 

Imagine spending several years in college, taking hours of lectures, and completing several complex projects only to find out that you can’t get a decent job with your degree. It’s a sad story, and it’s becoming far too familiar in the US, unfortunately. 

It is always better for students to consider the occupation they want and ascertain if a college education is required for it. If they don’t need a college education to pursue their passions, it is better not to go to college in the first instance. 

 

A Care Aide is a job role, for example, that can fit this mold; even though more college programs are coming out with relevant medical curriculum, experience is way more necessary and the ability too truly care for people. Have a look at job ads out there e.g. indeed.com to see requirements, but I personally know lots of Care Aides without a bachelors degree. 

Most People Don't Work in The Field They Spent Years in Colleges Studying for

Even when students finally land a decent job, some college students are engaged in fields with little or nothing to do with their field of study. A Washington Post article revealed that only 27 percent of college graduates have a job related to their major. 

While many accept that they need to provide solutions for their employers to earn a living, some graduates feel bad about being engaged in roles that have nothing to do with their specialty area. This can create dissatisfaction and many other problems for the employee and the organization.

Student looking at something in the difference as he walks away
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator from Pexels

There are 100’s of degree programs out there, but so many just don’t cut it. Many degrees are just not designed for a lucrative career if that’s what you are looking for. 

What are the most underused degrees out there? Here are a few examples in no particular order:

  • Religious Studies
  • Fashion Design
  • Fine Art
  • English Literature
  • Photography

Now, of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but as a standard, it is challenging for these careers to pay you what you believe you’re worth. This means it will take longer to find your calling. 

The Time Spent In College Can Often Be Put To Better Use Gaining Experience

Where is the sense in spending years in college only to fling your certificate aside and start learning a skill or working at a job that has little or nothing to do with what you spent years in college studying? There is no sense in it at all, though some will argue otherwise. 

The truth is, college can be a poor use of time for many. Spending years studying a subject you will not apply in your career and life is not worth it. You stand to benefit more if you use the time to gain relevant experience. High school graduates can choose an internship in organizations that can retain their services afterward. 

Related: What Matters More: Skills or Degrees?

They can also choose to gain relevant experience in jobs that don’t require college degrees. College graduates can also travel or get involved in volunteering. Anything that can result in gaining relevant experience. 

Experience often trumps certifications in the job market and real life. Developing relevant experience is a better use of your time than studying a subject that will not put food on your table in the long run.

Some Great Careers Don't Require College Education and Certificates

Some of the highest-paying career paths do not require a college education. Entrepreneurship, which improves individuals and their societies, does not require a college education, just one great idea. This is also true for some in-demand skills in the modern world. Web development, software engineering, cybersecurity, digital marketing are just a few lucrative careers that do not require a college education.

 If you can get a great job or succeed at a career without a college degree, there is no need to head to college and spend several years studying and embarking on other stressful activities. College can be fun, yes, but it is not worth the time when you’ve figured out what to do with your life that doesn’t require a college education or certificates. Dave Ramsey’s Ramsey solutions website has collated the 25 highest paying professions you can do without a degree.

 

The internet has also made it super-easy for people to learn things online and build their own skills and abilities without going to college. 

Not Everyone Can Afford College Tuition

Wall graffiti talking about student debt

College is expensive – little wonder, student loans often become a burden for many people when they leave college. In some countries and regions, people have no access to student loans and cannot afford college tuition. 

It’s pretty easy to understand that people want their loved ones to be educated. Still, when college tuition is unaffordable, there is no need to try borrowing money to fund a college education. 

The average cost of tuition and fees at a ranked in-state public college is about 72% less than the average sticker price at a private college, at $9,687 for the 2020-2021 year compared with $35,087, respectively, U.S. News data shows. That average cost for out-of-state students at public colleges comes to $21,184 for the same year.

 

Student debt in the United States is at alarming levels, which has been called a humanitarian crisis by some. Knowing the risk/reward ratio of going to college vs. having to pay back the loan with little escape from it is a decision that people need to sit down and think long and hard about. 

 

Related: U.S. student debt has increased by more than 100% over the past 10 years

Is College a Good Investment

If you are business-minded, you will think twice about going to college when there is various sources of evidence that it will help you earn more in your chosen career or passion across the entire student population. 

 

To the business-minded person, life is all about making investments, and any investment that can’t bring returns is a bad investment.

 

Related: For Many, A College Degree Is A Bad Investment

 

We have seen many people regret spending so much money to get college degrees they eventually found out they didn’t need in the first place. It will be tragic for a 21st-century man or woman who has so much information at their fingertips to make this silly investment mistake. 

Conclusion

College is not for everyone – this is a fact we all have to acknowledge. We have explained ten good points to support this argument. We hope this piece helps many people make the right decision about whether to go to college or pursue other passions. 

 

College can be an excellent choice for people and can bring a wealth of opportunities. Still, this post was all about looking deeper than that and seeing what else is out there and what other occupational paths are available to you. 

 

Remember, we all get one life, and we should live it in the way we want to, not what anyone else tells us. Find something you are genuinely passionate about and go for it 100%. As long as you do this, you should have little trouble finding success, and I hope you reach your goals… no rephrase, SMASH YOUR GOALS!

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