As of 2014, Americans alone owe about 1.8 trillion dollars in student loan debt (just in case you were wondering, a trillion is backed by a whopping twelve zeros, and looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000). Along with this fact, the average student is estimated to take about 6.5 years to obtain a 4-year bachelor’s degree, which means that oftentimes, even more loans are required prior to completion, and any other outstanding compound-interest building student loans have an extra two and a half years to mature. And if these facts alone aren’t enough for you to consider putting off college for at least a couple of years—if not all together, here is a compiled list of reasons why going to college may be a huge, life altering mistake.
1. You aren’t guaranteed a job after graduation.
Contrary to popular belief, getting that stiff, watermarked piece of paper that you’ve busted your butt for over the last 6.5 years isn’t always gonna cut it on your resume. I know, I know, but they’ve told you your whole life that getting a degree was the golden ticket to the white picket fence and a shiny new BMW! But, unfortunately, this is the real world and everyone else that went to college and was so hinged on that promise is now your competition, and honey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for young college grads is roughly 8.5 percent—which is 3 percent higher than it was just a few years ago in 2007. Even more interestingly, the underemployment rate has skyrocketed to 16.8 percent—up a whole 7.2 percent from 2007. How the heck are you gonna pay back those student loans working for minimum wage, or maybe not even working at all? Maybe you should rethink paying the big bucks for something that you really can’t afford in the first place and might not ever pay off.
2. At least half of what you’ll learn is a complete waste of money (and time).
They call them core classes and will claim they’re required so they will make you a “more well-rounded individual). However, they’re really just all of the same boring classes you took (and hated) in high school—they’re just harder. Oh yeah, and you have to pay for them. Don’t get me wrong, I know we all love throwing away money doing things we hate and can’t afford, but when the price is, on average, $250 per credit hour, things can get a little pricier than you’d expect. Since core classes take up about 60 credit hours during an entire college career, you’re looking at spending an average of $15,000 on “knowledge” that will be of no use to you in the future, and is essentially just a (non-refundable) weeding process. In 2013, the enrollment count at public 4-year institutions was about 6,838,600 students. Each of these students had to take core classes, which would have totaled to about 102.6 billion dollars worth of useless material. Where do you think all that money went? Of course. It thickened the lining of the administrators’ pockets, and if you go to a 4- year college, you can expect to do the same.
3. You’re probably just going because you’ve been told that you’re a failure if you don’t go.
Since you were old enough to pick up a crayon, you were told how important it was to be a good student and do well in school. It got even more intense in middle school. Threats of not being able to get into a good college—or worse—being forced to work hard at your local McWendyKing well into old-age quickly replaced the taking away of your favorite personal belonging if you got into trouble. In high school, the pressure is laid on even thicker. Gone are the days when your parents, teachers, and friends’ parents ask what you want to do when you grow up. No. Now, “What college are you going to?” is the prevailing question. But, what if you’ve decided you want to get a job to save money, or start up your own small business, or simply relax for a year or so to get things all figured out after high school? Objectively speaking, any of those options would be better than an 18-year-old diving head-first into something they aren’t sure about. But to most people, any of those answers just won’t do. Most likely if you respond with any of those three answers, you’re met with disapproving glances or a brooding “Oh, that’s nice”.
We are told our whole lives that college is the sole key to success. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars (that you don’t have) to get a piece of paper stating that you might know a little bit about something, and you’re automatically viewed as an intelligent, successful young adult worthy of respect. Neck-deep in student loans, working retail, and have no clue what your next move is after graduation? WHO CARES! You went to college!
4. A college degree is not the only way for you to make a happy, successful life for yourself.
As I previously mentioned, in contrast to what most people will have you believe, a college degree is not a one-way ticket to success and financial freedom. Somewhere between preschool and the 12th grade, we were all told to discard creativity and hone-in on our academic skills. Creativity was disesteemed as merely a hobby. We’re told that we cannot make enough money to sustain ourselves by doing what we love, so alternatively, academics were our sure-shot at making a decent living. But here’s the thing: we are living in the age of opportunity, and whether you choose to acknowledge that fact is completely up to you. People your age, maybe even younger (yikes!) are creating startups left and right based on what they love, and they’re getting rich by doing it. Now, imagine if you had that same drive and ambition to take a chance at making a profit from what you truly enjoy. Perhaps if you’d started last year, you’d be halfway there. So what’s stopping you from starting now? Of course, you might fail, you might get discouraged, but just keep trying and see how far your passion takes you without even spending a dime. Stop letting other people define your personal success. Stop listening to people telling you what you should do, just because it sounds good to the majority.
Do what makes you happy, and try your best to make that thing profitable in some way. Save up some money. Think about the choices you are going to make, research how you can achieve your goals, and work on them for a little while before you start thinking of other, more expensive options (like college).
If you haven’t thought things all the way through, college could very well be some of the worst mistakes of your life, and you may regret it for a number of reasons. We are all fed propaganda about how much better our lives will be after we get a degree, and oftentimes this information can be extremely misleading. Think about what you want—don’t just go because you feel like you’re “supposed to”. Going to college without taking a little while to brainstorm what you really want to make of your life (and the odds of achieving them even after you do get a degree) could potentially leave you drowning in debt and a lifetime of regrets with nothing to show for it but a piece of paper.