Why You Should Skip College and Create Something Instead

Photo by Monica Henriquez

The essential life steps…or so we have been told.

  1. Graduate High School with good grades so you can get into a well esteemed college/university
  2. Go to college for four years to “secure” your future.
  3. Get a job/career right out of college
  4. Get married
  5. Have a family

You get the picture.

Life isn’t meant to be lived in steps or stages. We all hold ourselves accountable to these standards that are not realistic during this particular time period. Our world has changed so much and what was once expected can and should be altered to fit the growing differences of 2018. Beginning with College.

The first college founded in the American Colonies was Harvard in 1636. Modeled after Oxford and Cambridge two of the World’s oldest institutions Harvard focused on teaching it’s students how to successfully enter the ministry, become physicians, lawyers and public officials. Since 1636 the world of technology has changed everything.

And when I say everything I mean it feels like the world has done a total 180. For example now the economy arguably revolves around what is referred to as the Creative Class. Workers in the arts, culture, entertainment, and technology fall into this category. In the 19th century the creative job market only made up 15% of the economy. Since the 1980’s it has soared. More than twenty million creative class jobs have been established since that time. But think about this. Before the creative fields like writing, photography, film, art, and fashion were considered anything of value people were still pursuing them everyday as their passions. Many viewed these skills as hobbies and nothing more, surely you couldn’t make a living from them. Well, today that has changed drastically. The world is a creatives playground yet we all still feel compelled and tormented about deciding to go to college.

Our non-creative peers and the adults in our life try to understand our point of views and many do, but at the same time they want “security” for us. So they tell us to have a fall back plan. Many creatives decide to go to school and earn a degree they will never use, or maybe they will use it because they no longer have the drive or time to pursue their craft. Some go to school and earn a degree in filmmaking or photography, but is this better than being out in the world and doing things? Making your art, building connections, and finding opportunities that are available in the here and now instead of the future? No it is not, keep reading to find out why.

I agree that especially in the early to mid 20th century college was a great tool to further educate people and give them opportunities that would otherwise have been lost to them. However, in the 21st century it has become an unnecessary and cost debilitating experience that isn’t helping the next generation of emerging creatives grow and prosper. Going to college has become a socially demanded path, the next step in the chase to find happiness.

Today it is obvious to see that commercialism has wormed its way into university settings. With so many options out there schools compete to be different or have that extra edge that will boost their enrollment rates. Prospective students are wowed with luxurious dining services, fitness centers, dorms, and the promise of successful jobs upon graduation. This may have been a sure things 50 years ago, but with all of the people in this world, all going to school, trying to earn a place in the very competitive world of jobs, college institutions can no longer promise us that great post-graduation career.

Here are 5 reasons why you should consider skipping college.

1. College doesn’t get you ready to think in the “real” world.

I substitute teach and I can tell you that the problem does not start and stop with college, the education system in America as a whole is too theoretical and not practical enough. Think of it this way. I graduated summa cum laude in three years from an accredited university. Yet, when I went to apply for the entry level job positions I wanted my knowledge based on the reading material did not make the cut. These companies wanted 2-3 years of measurable experience in the world to ensure that they would not have to hand hold their new employee through the first six months on the job. Yet it’s a catch 22 because to pay for college I had to work 20-30 hours a week like the average student while taking classes full time therefore there wasn’t a lot of extra time to be searching for unpaid work in my desired career field. Think of all the time I could have spent doing something else if I didn’t feel the pressure and push from the world around me to get a degree any degree. I am a millennial and I can tell you how hard it has been for me to change my mindset that I deserve anything in this world. Yes, I worked very hard while in school, but the problem with my generation is that we all graduate with a degree in our back pocket and expect to be given the job we always envisioned with a high paying salary, perks, benefits, and the works. And we want it immediately. Instant gratification is all we think about, and unfortunately this is not the real world, which brings me to reason number two.

2
. College doesn’t always help you find who you are

Granted for some I am sure it does, but for me and so many others my age it did not. I graduated and felt even more lost than before. I felt like a failure for not having a high paying job ready and waiting for me the month after I walked across the stage and threw my cap in the air. Think of all of the colleges that sell themselves to you by making you think that their campus, their community will be the place for you to find the “real” you, and the future of yourself. This is not true because college campuses are not the real world they are a protected world. A world in which we do develop our communication skills, meet many new people, and learn new skills. I spent a year after college working odd jobs, traveling, and seeing the world. I learned more during this year than in any classroom. I was able to discover who I wanted to be and learned to accept the fact that it will not happen overnight. We find ourselves by doing things, developing skills and testing those ideas in the world. The best advice is to not be afraid of figuring out who you are before jumping into a degree. I am a huge fan of the gap year.

3. Passion vs. In demand

Two things fuel our desire to go to college and earn a degree. The first if we are lucky is how much we love something, the second is how in demand that career is. We hear while still in high school be a nurse, a doctor, or a teacher. These seem to be the three jobs that will never go away. This is a scam. When we all go to school to get that “safe” degree we become one of the millions of other students doing the exact same things. We become corporate clones and when we graduate these professions have a vast pool of candidates to choose from but not enough positions to offer everyone. Millenials are the most educated generation in human history, but also the most underemployed generation in human history. And with more and more people earning degrees every year nothing is very specialized anymore. College graduates are the norm no longer the rarity and it’s beginning to show.

4. The degree you earn will be obsolete by the time you graduate.

Think of when you drive a brand new car off the dealership lot after purchasing it minutes before. Once you drive that car home you have begun to decrease the value of the vehicle. It’s like that with college degrees now. Our World changes at an alarming and the education system cannot keep up. With careers in communication and people wanting to get involved with social media marketing the textbooks we read become outdated the moment the ink dries on the paper. Social Media is a prime example of the fast paced world we live in and how dedicating four or more years to something that shifts daily is a misuse of time and money that could be spent elsewhere. Writers, Graphic Designers, online marketers, photographers, videographers, and programmers are slaying the game right now and with technology constantly on the rise this will be the case for decades. Creativity, technology, and entertainment are the three main things driving the economy. Yet if you obtain a degree in business/marketing you will struggle to become anything more than a project manager because overtime what you do will slowly become obsolete. With the rate of adaptability people in technology fields must also be incredibly adaptable or they will become dispensable.

5. The only guarantee is a pricey bill

When applying for schools I wanted to get out of my hometown and state, but I honestly couldn’t afford the private “dream” schools that I applied to anyway. So I settled on a state school not even because I wanted to go there but because I felt like I had to get a degree and I might as well do it for less money. I told myself that the money even though 5K a year is so much less than 60K shouldn’t matter much because once I graduated I would find a job that would pay well. How naive was I? The sad part is that most people go into college with that same attitude and assumptions, and most end up going for that private school that puts them over 200K in debt the day they graduate. We think that with a piece of paper we are entitled to the promise that college made us. In reality the keys to a high paying job and success in the workplace come from practical skills like leadership, decision making, people/resource management and real life experience. These things can all be studied in college but only practiced out on the job, and it can be any job. I think so many of us are afraid of settling for a job that we didn’t want in the first place. It’s okay, it’s not a dead end, it’s helping you gain the skill set necessary to approach your desired job and say, “hey, I can do this, this, and this because of this. Hire me.”

The cost of college has gone up over 1,000% in the last 40 years.  The majority of students graduate with some type of debt. I graduated in 2016 and the average student loan debt at that time was $37,172. According to the Student Loan Hero, 44.2 million Americans graduate college with debt. And the average monthly student loan payment for borrowers between ages 20 and 30 is $351. Now add other expenses to this. Car payments for people who do not own their cars, car insurance payments, rent if living on your own, groceries, utilities, gas. Even if you do land a decent paying job what will you be able to save? And for the people who do not find a job right after graduation sometimes the only option is to move home with their parents to save money. Some move back to towns that are not ideal for their respective job markets.

However, don’t let this all make you feel hopeless. Here are a few things that you can do instead of earning a college degree or even after you have earned one and you are trying to secure a job of some kind.

  1. Educate yourself
    We all have the ability to do this, but not everyone has the willpower or drive. Use platforms such as Youtube to watch tutorials and how-to’s in your desired field like web design/development, marketing, business, photography, design, filmmaking, video editing and so much more. Learn as much as you can and keep learning as things change, stay up-to-date and keep evolving. Instead of letting it feel overwhelming for daunting let it excite you and throw yourself into it.
  1. Create Something
    Do you have an art you are passionate about? As creatives we have the whole world at our disposal. Spend a thousand days learning and don’t let it matter if you do anything with that knowledge. When you create something you influence the world around you and you gain the confidence in yourself that is so necessary to pursue a career in the creative industries. You will always be creating/brainstorming and not all of those ideas will work out so it’s important that you know how to let them go.
  1. Volunteer
    If you feel lost and are unsure of where your future should take you then consider volunteering. It’s a wonderful way to give back, do some good in the world, and build your character along the way.
  1. Travel
    Travel is going to teach you way more about the world than you ever learn sitting in a lecture hall. We already discussed the cost of college, you can take a fraction of that cash, buy a plane ticket, book up some accommodation and uproot yourself from your familiar surroundings. You’ll get schooled hard in the subject of life. I learned more about myself in the year I spend road tripping around the U.S than I learned at any point in time during school.  Do you have to plan for this? Absolutely, but will you regret it? No, certainly not. It’s experience and will give you plenty of stories to tell future employers. They may ask, “What challenges have you overcome?” And you will finally have a satisfactory answer that showcases your problem solving skill from the time you ran out of gas in the middle of Yosemite National Park with no cell reception after sunset. I assure you someone will be impressed with how you handled that one. And for us creatives use trips like these to inspire your content. You can always be creating so never let anything stop you from doing that.

So no matter what you do next, stop reading and debating stuff. Take the advice I have given you or don’t, but whatever you do get out there and do something.

Flip house, work on a farm, create a business, chase an eclipse around the world, try, learn, fail, and repeat. Our lives are made up of experiences so go and have the good, the bad, and the ugly. Only then will you be able to confidently say who you are and what you want from life.

Happy Creating Everyone!

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