I was a really indecisive kid coming out of high school. Like a lot of kids who just graduated high school, I had no idea what I wanted to “be” or do with my life. The thing my parents, especially my father, persistently drilled into my head growing up was “aim for a higher education!”. My parents both immigrated to Canada from Portugal and both had the mindset that going to college or university was a very important and prestigious thing.
I understood why they both had their firm beliefs about post-secondary education because they never had the opportunity or money to do it themselves.
After high school, I went to college to study business. There was no particular major that I was interested in so I thought business seemed like the most neutral and general major I could study. Even though I eventually became drawn to business, I still wasn’t sure. I dabbled in a few entrepreneurial ventures after I graduated college but I also worked every odd-job imaginable while trying to figure out just what the hell I should do for a living.
Eventually, I went back to school… many times. I went back and studied graphic design, English, and Civil Engineering, each for brief stints. I liked all those majors and found them all interesting but I eventually realized I couldn’t see myself doing them in a 9-5 setting.
The tuition and loans racked up and I decided school wasn’t for me. I still have my business diploma and while I did lose a few years and quite a bit of money, I learned something really important from those years of education. A 9-5 job just isn’t for me. Whenever I got home from school, I was busy making money online and developing websites for clients.
I realized the way I was going to make money was sitting in my bedroom this entire time: my laptop.
So then… is a university degree a waste of money? Let’s take a look at some statistics before I make up my mind:
- 70 percent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt averaging $35,200
- It has been estimated that about half of all recent college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree
- One survey found that 70% of all college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in college
- In America today, there are more than 300,000 waitresses that have college degrees
- close to three out of every ten adults in the United States under the age of 35 are still living at home with Mom and Dad
What this data would suggest is that yes, university is a waste of money. But with all the experiences I had during my education and the amount of lessons I’ve learned about the world and myself, I’m unsure I can put a price on that.
At the same time, if I just started as an entrepreneur right out of college the first time instead of going back to school 3 more times, I would be further along in my journey than where I am now… maybe.
Yet, I do not regret my expensive stints in all of these different courses. Business gave me the savvy and knowledge to be an entrepreneur. Graphic design gave me the practical and hands-on skills I needed to be a laptop entrepreneur. English taught me how to write (decently) which is crucial when writing sales copy or even a blog post like this one. Engineering taught me to think logically, a really important trait all entrepreneurs need.
However, there are a lot of people working jobs they hate, like I did, and are currently living with crippling debt as I am. I really don’t think it’s practical anymore to think that university is the first option for everyone right out of high school. I think it should only be an option if you’re looking to become a doctor, lawyer or even an engineer where a degree is necessary to pursue those careers. For people who want to be photographers, business owners, or are even unsure what they want to do, I think it’s really important to not consider university right out of the gate especially since today jobs are no longer guaranteed for graduates.
What do you guys think? Is university a waste of money? Would you tell your kids an education is important? Or would you let them decide whether or not it’s something they should pursue?