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Why College May Not Be Worth It (From A College Grad)

by JT

As the college semester wraps up each Spring & Fall and college graduations loom I experience what I can only call, "reality" from my graduating group of interns. In some cases there are tears, in most cases there is anger and confusion. It's the sudden realization that they're about to graduate, haven't found that six figure job, and despite what everyone has told them their entire life they don't exactly know what they want to do with their life! When I graduated from the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities I went through the exact same things...

Imagine being told basically from birth that you can be whatever you want to be & you'll be successful at it - all you need to do is do well in school and go to college. In fact, I remember being in high school and if you didn't go to college you obviously were out of your mind! And it couldn't be one of those "trade" schools, those were looked down upon - it had to be one of those prestigious four year colleges...the truth is that's wrong and each year as college graduation looms that "reality" hits and it hits hard!

I read somewhere recently that the millennial generation is the most educated generation of Americans in history - that's great, but there aren't a lot of jobs out there that require you to apply your knowledge of medieval art history in the real world (imagine if there were, we would all be doing nothing) - there are however, a lot of jobs in the trades...and those skills lead to real world productivity. Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate those that understand theories, spend hours upon hours philosophizing - I was totally that guy in college, but the truth is we could use less thinkers and more doers!

The best advice I've ever been given and have tried to pass to each of my interns as they come through the radio station not exactly knowing what they want to do is this: 

  • Decide What You Want to Be
    • Yes, it's hard to be 18 and truly know what you want to do. Colleges love that you don't know what you want to do, you change your major so many times that your four year degree ends up taking six! If you truly don't know...go out and experience the world. Find your passions, once you do you'll be a better student and a more ambitious person.
  • Set Realistic Goals
    • It's rare that anyone becomes an overnight success; understand that your career goals as grand as they may be, may not be realistic. Don't set the bar low, set the bar at attainable achievements and raise the bar as you see necessary. Remember, not everyone is a leader. 
  • Gain Experience / Be A Go Getter
    • This is the most important - One of the phrases I hear most from recent college grads, "I don't have enough experience". Look, nobody is going to spoon feed you their knowledge. You need to get after it, ask questions, learn as much as you possibly can. You might even have to work for free...yes, make no money just to gain experience. Your work ethic tells a lot about you - if you really want it, you'll find a way to get it. If you don't, you'll slip through the cracks...
  • Accept That You Will Fail
    • This might be the hardest to accept; you will fail. It will happen and it will hurt. You have two options - feel sorry for yourself or get back up and figure it out. Learn from each failure, take responsibility (yes, sometimes it really is your fault) and adjust.
A four year college isn't for everyone, I say that also knowing if I had the chance to make different choices I would have gone to college over and over again - not so much for the education, but for the friends and the experiences. Make a decision that will supply you with the education that is right for you & only you. btw - Forbes has a great list of jobs that don't actually require a 4 Year Degree!
JT