When I proudly showed my dad my diploma after walking across the stage, he told me not to lose that $200,000 piece of paper. I know he was joking with me but I couldn???t help but to think what was the point of getting my diploma. ??Most high school students are told that their SAT scores will affect the rest of their lives???that???s a lot of stress to put on an 18 year-old. But once we get to college, we are told we need to pick the right major and make the right choices or we won???t get those promised jobs. To these pushers I ask???what???s the point? When college calls for us, should we pick up, or put down the phone?
I did some easy math to put things in perspective:
- College graduates have usually spent about 16 years at school in their lives???4 of those are for the undergraduate degree. When you graduate you???re 22. That means you have spent 72.7% of your life in school and about 18% of your life in college.
- An average private four year college tuition costs about $26, 273/year (not counting room and board). That means you spend about $13,137 a semester on about 225 hours a semester (15 hours a week times 15 weeks in a semester). This computes to about spending $58.38 for each hour of class you are in. That???s a nice job for the professor!
So we can agree that the average person spends almost 1/5 of his life attending college and is willing to spend almost $60 for every hour of college class he takes. This is beginning to sound like an investment. Like any investor we have to see if our input is worth the output we receive.
Let???s look at facts about college graduates. According to the Ecnomix New York Times blog:
- College graduates??? median weekly pay has risen since 1979, while everyone else???s pay has dropped
- Non-college graduates earn at least 17% less than college graduates with high school graduates earning 27% less
College doesn???t look like a bad choice for getting ahead in the world and landing that good paying job. Although you spend a lot, you get a lot out of owning that degree. But it???s not for everyone. For those of you thinking of college, entering college, or attending college right now, I devised five steps to make sure your college investment works for you so you can land that job upon graduation:
- Take a writing class: Everyone says that writing is important and hey, they???re right! No matter what you do in life you will have to write and express yourself. You go to college to get a good job and almost every job requires a cover letter. Why? They want to know how well you can express yourself. Find your voice. Make your writing specific to you so that people will recognize your writing style. You will look smarter and will seem more attractive to any prospective employer???guaranteed.
- Do something different. Take that photography class. Enroll for a business class if you???re into the liberal arts. Go abroad and experience another culture. College is a time to explore and you should really look into broadening your horizons. At the end of your four years you won???t remember all those facts you learned to pass the classes in your major but you will remember that semester you spent in Europe. As an added plus, you???ll have something to write about in any personal statement or cover letter you write for future employers.
- Get involved. You???re in college???the point is to go out and learn how to be a future leader. So put down the Rockband, Modern Warfare, and your favorite movie and go out and join a club that you are passionate about. Don???t worry, every college has tons of clubs to choose from so you???ll find something you like! Do this freshman or sophomore year. Then stay in the club and get a leadership position. It???ll look good on any resume and give you some different experience as well. NOTE: I did not say go join every club and lead it. No. Choose one or two clubs to join and then stay in them. If you join a bunch of clubs then you???ll be spending way too much on the extra-curricular instead of studying or socializing. Which brings us to:
- Socialize!?? Yes I said it. Go make friends. Spend time with those friends. Stay up at least one night until 3 am with them???you???ll bond more than you imagined. Your college friends will become your social network and will remain so for the rest of your life. They???ll help you with connections, life issues, and whatever else comes in your way. Don???t commute and don???t go home every weekend. Yes it???ll be hard at first and yes it???ll get better. If you can???t afford to live at that college then go to a cheaper school. Spend time outside your room. Go to parties and enjoy yourself. Now I???m not saying become a complete party animal, but you???ve got to get out every now and then. Here???s another point of college???to live by your self void of any parents and to learn how to form a social network. You???ll like it once you get it. I promise.
- Pick a major in something you???re interested in. A certain major will not give you a specific amount of money once you graduate. Except for the specialized fields such as medicine or business, you will not dramatically change your job prospects by majoring in English rather than Music. Most of the Bachelor of Arts degrees just train you to think creatively and critically in the world once you graduate. You will find that your internships will train you more in the field you want to pursue than the actual major itself. Your parents may not understand why you want a degree in Music, but they won???t cut you off. Believe me they???ll come around and support you no matter what you do. So don???t unjustly punish yourself by picking a major you think someone else will approve of. Choose a discipline that you want to learn about, and when you???re ready, pick an internship in a career you want to learn more about.
So now I pose my original question: what’s the point of college? College gives you a place to learn more about yourself while training you to live on your own. That???s it. It???s not by any means the end all and be all of any lifestyle. All you get in the end is a piece of paper and some great friends. If you decide that college is not right for you, then hang up the phone and don???t go. If you do you???ll probably regret it. Look at Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. They???re doing great. Go start a new business or travel the world or something. There???s plenty to do in the world so get going! If you do decide to pick up the phone and go to college, then get ready for the ride of your life. You???ll be thrown into a new life with new people all at once. It???s daunting and exciting all at once. And when you graduate, take at least a year off before going to graduate school. You???ll find a job or something else to do. Don???t be afraid of the ???real world???. Remember: you???ve spent almost ?? of your life in school. You know what school is. But do you know what it???s like to live and support yourself? Maybe you should find out!