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What is your college degree worth?

According to the nature of our society, if a person is to be considered successful they have to prove it.

For some reason, unbeknownst to a large portion of the population, that proof lies within a college degree.

Don’t believe me?

Go on a job hunt and just look at the requirements for each job. A job that used to only require a high school diploma or G.E.D. has now evolved into needing an Associates or Bachelor’s degree.

It has become the common belief that if you want to succeed in life and be able to provide for you and your family, you have to go to college.

Think back to when you first started middle school. Most teachers gave the same speech at the beginning of every class on your first day.

“Middle school will give you the knowledge you need to prepare for high school. High school will give you the knowledge needed to be prepared for college.”

We listened and here we are: college.

We’ve heard most of our lives that college will provide us with the knowledge you need in order to be successful in life.

But will it really?

Will sitting in a classroom, being bored and listening to a professor drone on and on about a topic you really don’t care for help you later in life?

Will having each homework problem laid out for you and a known solution at the end prepare you for the twists and turns hidden in the real world?

In all honesty, I don’t believe it will.

When a student finally graduates from college, they feel like they can rule the world and that they know everything they need to get that cushy executive job. I’ve got some news for you, when you graduate you know nothing.

Yeah sure, you know the theories about how various things work in your specialized field, but do you really know how to apply it in a job setting?

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to various professionals about what they look for in a new hire. The most common response I got was someone who can communicate effectively and has critical thinking skills.

Last time I checked, there are very few classes offered that teach these students how to excel in these areas.

The reason for that is you can’t teach someone a skill that has to be learned through trial and error.

As an engineering major, I and other students in my major focus a lot on the specifics of our fields. How much weight can a truss system hold? How is this certain material going to react with the human body?

We don’t think about communicating with anyone outside of our field. The fact that after we get into our core engineering classes we rarely have a class outside of Holmes Hall, is proof of the seclusion. Not to mention the fact that we certainly don’t solve a lot problems using critical thinking.

We solve problems out of our textbooks with the answers tempting us from the back of the book.

There is only one class in my degree program that forces us to communicate with students with another major and use critical thinking to solve an open ended problem.

One. Single. Class.

I’m sure it’s not just the engineering majors that have this problem.

So should it really be a surprise to college graduates that their degree doesn’t get them that top tier job and they’re actually having to do the grunt work of the company?

Should it be a surprise that they’re not getting paid tons of money right from the start? Should it be a surprise that most college students aren’t actually getting jobs?

For most graduates, that’s when panic sets in. A lot of us fall into the income gap: we’re considered to be too rich by the government to qualify for a pell grant, but we’re too poor to afford college on our own.

Enter the government here to save the day with student loans!

But wait? Who’s that tagging along? Oh yeah, a high interest rate that accumulates over your four years of college that you have to pay back on top of your original loans.

You’re told in order to get a great job with a high income and excellent benefits you have to go to college and earn a degree. When in reality, you get a degree just to start at the bottom anyways and start your real adult life riddled with debt.

Oh, and that whole thing about being able to not only support yourself or a family but still have income to spare?

Get ready to live paycheck to paycheck as you pay off your loans, various bills and buy groceries.

Think you can go through college without having to take out a loan?

Unless you’re parents started a savings account specifically for your education the minute you were conceived, or you’re some sort of a genius, good luck with that.

Getting a college degree is very expensive and while some states have savings plans that parents can get for their children, they rarely cover everything. You’re still going to have to pay out of pocket for a lot of things.

The craziest part is that countries in the rest of the world have loan forgiveness and even free programs with their universities. The United States, not so much.

I know I’ve been bashing the entire collegiate system, but there can be some good aspects to it. Getting a degree does prove that you can accomplish something. Theory is also very important to know. If you don’t understand the theory behind something, chances are you won’t be able to apply any real world applications.

If anything, college teaches you how to survive. Whether it’s surviving a 40-hour course workload with 20 hours of work on top of it or surviving off of $5 for an entire month.

You learn how to survive when living paycheck to paycheck and it makes you grateful for all you have once you finally pay off those loans.

So, the real question here is does getting a college education and degree even matter? In short, by society standards it does, but personally, not really. Everyone is capable of succeeding in whatever endeavors they pursue.

A college degree is just an expensive piece of paper that says I sat in a classroom and “learned” for four years. It doesn’t say I know how to do or achieve something based on my motivation determination, and passions.

So the next time someone tries to judge your worth based on whether or not you have a degree, or even what program you’re in, ignore them. You’re worth so much more than a shiny piece of paper.

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