College is overrated

A pile of books sitting on a table that have useful information in them about college.

Lauren Vernon

A pile of books sitting on a table that have useful information in them about college.

Alice Cai, Editor/Writer/Artist

College. The official start of adulthood. Acceptance into a good college is the token of high school success. It’s a golden key that will unlock a successful future. That’s what teenagers nowadays are told over and over again.

The idea of college is romanticized, idealized, and perhaps through a consensual delusion, people have accepted it to be the path after high school. College, in actuality, however, may not be as magical as it is made to seem in mainstream culture.

First off, college costs a lot of money. According to College Board, the average yearly tuition of a regular college in the US is $25,620. For private non-profit colleges, that average is $34,740. Ivy Leagues take the price even higher: Harvard’s tuition is $46, 340.

That’s just tuition. After adding fees, room and board, course materials, travel costs, and personal expenses, the total estimate released by the Harvard website is $71,650 – $76,650 for the 2018-2019 school year. That’s enough money to buy four cars per year.

The common argument is that money spent on college is an investment that will pay off in the future when one is able to find a high-paying job as a result of their degree. However, student loans result in debts that often take a lifetime to pay off. Furthermore, how much does college really help with success in the future?

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (data collected from a 2010 American Community Survey), 62.1% of college graduates work a job that requires a college degree, and only 27.3% work a job that matches their major.

Why is it that people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to learn esoteric information that may or may not even be relevant in their future career, let alone get them a career?

A large part of this gap between the price and return of college lies in the lack of content of college education. The argument for college cites a list of benefits–in-depth learning, professional guidance, networking, and social experience.

This argument omits the fact that these benefits are also available without college. In-depth experience is perhaps even better gained through internships and apprenticeships. Especially with the development of the Internet, knowledge becomes even more accessible through scholarly articles, online courses, and educational websites. College lectures are long, tedious, and often filled with esoteric information while learning on your own involves more proactivity, self-discipline, independence, and self-motivation.

The main benefit of college is the networking–the most prestigious colleges are filled with professionals from every field. For most careers, this means way more opportunities–internships, auditions, maybe even job interviews in renowned companies. Really, prestigious colleges are just platforms- it doesn’t necessarily teach people as much as it gives people a place in the higher levels of society.

The question all high schools students should ask themselves is: what do you really want in life? If the answer is prestige, to be part of the top tier class of the world, then college may be the way to go.

However, people must be aware of the brainwashing that mass media puts them through–being at the top is often associated with happiness. But for each individual, fulfillment is different.

The problem with the popular argument–college helps people succeed in life–is that success is completely subjective to a person’s values and dreams. Success really just means being fulfilled, and fulfillment varies across the population. Some people pursue excellence in their field: they want to be the leading neuroscientist or the most esteemed lawyer. Some, however, pursue a more balanced and peaceful life: perhaps just a family settled in the countryside with everyday pleasures as the focus–that is success just the same.

Teenagers are such a diverse crowd that it would be impossible to speak one truth for all. These are the years in which people discover themselves, their values, and decide how they want to live their lives. College is fit for some people and unfit for others.

For teens, who are facing social and familial pressure to go a certain path in their lives, it is important to remember that the ultimate decisions should be based on one’s values and dreams.


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