Leveling Up Your Life

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The big question nowadays is whether it’s absolutely worth it to get a college education. During an individual’s high school years, one starts to weigh the options of college and if it’s right for them. With the cost of tuition steadily climbing, it’s a tough question to consider. It all boils down to this – get an education. Not a degree.

This is probably not the answer you were looking for. Are you going simply for the classes offered in your specific major? What will you do with your degree after college is over? What will hold value to you (to employers) after college comes to an end?

The Exception to the Rule

Ok, ok…before you pass any judgement, there are a few exceptions. If your going for anything that requires a specialty license such as a doctor, attorney, architect, etc., then it is understandable that education is of higher importance. There are certainly things you will learn about your particular profession that you would not have access to outside of schooling. Getting a degree shouldn’t be your only goal for attending university.

For those going for anything else, the grades you make are not as important as networking, building connections, and gaining experience.

Both students and parents are only focusing on grades or GPA. They think employers actually care about the difference between a 3.1 and a 4.0. GPA does not measure success – it measures grade points. Employers care more about the productivity, the problem-solving, and the results that employee is going to bring. That usually comes with the employee’s network and experience.

The Fear of Failure

Juniors and seniors in high school today see that they can immediately generate income out of high school and avoid college debt. Although that may seem appealing, today’s economy shows us that those with a college education tend to have higher earning potential. In a perfect world, a student takes on the risk and takes out loans for college in hopes for the high return once they graduate.

What happens when that doesn’t occur? What happens when they can’t find a job…?

More so than ever, college has become the standard direction for kids graduating high school. Parents think that they have “failed” if their child chooses to opt out of college and pursue entrepreneurship, the military, or any other option.

The failure does not necessarily lie within the choice of the child not attending college. The failure comes from the parents who stress education only when attending college. You see, in grade school (K-12), we are told as students what to learn and the difference between right and wrong. You either pass or you fail…don’t get me started on THAT!

“Education”

The umbrella term, “education,” shouldn’t just be focused on grades or class assignments. What does “education” even mean anyway?

The dictionary has two definitions for the term “education.” It can be defined as “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.” But the second definition states education is “an enlightening experience.”

So, why do we base students’ entire success off of grades, research papers, and test scores? What about the experience? A midterm paper holds value to that particular class. It generates your grade, and affects your GPA. But what about the life skills and value that a textbook can’t teach you?

The fact that students should be judged on their grade point average and standardized test scores at all is confusing. Those do not encompass whether they would be a good fit for your company. While being “book smart” holds a steady value in certain industries (like academia), being able to analyze, problem solve, and thinking critically holds far more weight.

Setting the Standard

This comes from real-life experience. College provides one of the best environments to build connections and start experimenting with different real-life working experiences. A large part of the job market is based on networking. The more people you know, the better the ability to reach a broader range of people in different businesses and locations around the country (if not the world).

When it comes to college, the instructional aspect is only a portion of what students should take away from their college experience. Within those years, you should appreciate those moments of conflict, independence, personal growth, and expanding interpersonal relationships. That would be setting a standard far more relevant to employers than term papers.

College students have access to discounted (or free) programs, internships, career centers, online learning resources, and much more. Take advantage of those resources. After graduating college, I did not spend a dime on education until I saw the true value in it. At the age of 26, I started to commit $10k – $30k in mentorships, educational courses, and trade shows.

So I advise anyone considering college to utilize the resources that college provides to gain experience and network more than concentrate on the difference between a 3.1 and 4.0 GPA.