6 Reasons Why You Should Not Go To College (And 4 Why You Should)

By Crista Tappan - October 08, 2014

Before anyone goes and assumes I'm saying this because I didn't get an education, let me say this:

I have my Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Psychology. I have three academic publications and have attended several Psychology conferences showcasing my research from the last six years. I have been very successful in academia. I feel very fortunate to have an education in a field that I am passionate about and love.

And, unfortunately, I've also been out of school for over a year and realized that no, I don't want to be a Psychologist, and no, I don't want to be a professor (at this point, at least). Although I don't regret it one single bit, I can admit at this point that it's made finding a job a challenge. I'm over-qualified for most jobs, and under-qualified for any that would actually help me pay off my loans. Experience in the field is an important factor that schooling often doesn't provide. When you are out of college and can no longer use the "I'm going to school" excuse, you can't exactly be picky with your choices.

I'm in a lot of debt, and look to some of my friends who skipped college (and thus, debt) with envy. I am stuck in the limbo between deciding on getting my Ph.D anyway just so I can get a job to pay off my loans, or enter the job field and take anything that strikes my interest, even if my degree isn't necessary for it. Our parent's generation probably had several different jobs over the course of their lifetime. Which is completely normal. The problem with our approach now is that going to college puts you on a single-track. It doesn't give you much room for flexibility. Many students decide on their majors when they were only 17 or 18 years old. Who really knows what they want to do with the rest of their lives at that age? You can't exactly skip around and explore jobs in different fields when you paid 80K for a degree in one particular area.

Our generation is divided between those who went to college and are in an obscene amount of debt, and those who skipped college and started working...and have little to no debt.

In the last 8 years, I have learned a few important things about education. The most important being, not everyone should go to college. 

Our parents told us that we had to get good grades in high school so we could get into a good college. That a good college would help us get into a good graduate school. After graduate school we would have a nice shiny job waiting for us at the exit, like a limo driver holding a sign for someone at the airport.

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble but...the plane has landed and nobody is at the exit waiting for you.

The only thing standing at the end of college is the federal government, holding a sign letting you know that you now have six months until you have to start paying back the money you borrowed. Unless, of course, you happened to be a Computer Science or Biology major in which case, you probably will get a job right away.

Here are six important reasons why you shouldn't go to college:

1) You have nothing better to do and you figure you "might as well".
This is probably the worst reason of them all. If you are using college as a temporary fix for not knowing what you want to do with your life, you're in for a tough surprise. Your confusion will probably be there when you get out (along with some student loans to pay back, too). Of course, there will always be those who discover their passions and figure it out when they are in college. There are exceptions to every rule. But generally speaking, 10-30K a year for "discovering" your passions is a very risky gamble you'll be dealing with the rest of your life. You're better off taking a few classes at the community college level for a year or two if you want to play the college field.

2) Your parents tell you to.
Unless they are paying for your schooling, letting your parents tell you what to do after you turn 18 is a straight-shot to regret. Yes, some parents may know their child's strengths and encourage them to pursue a passion that they would be successful at. However, if it's not a choice that you make for yourself, you are risking becoming unhappy with your degree, and debt, later down the line. In graduate school, there are numerous instances when passion becomes vitally important in having the emotional strength to persevere. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have dropped out mid-way through my Master's Degree if I wasn't absolutely in love with what I was studying.

3) You don't want to start paying back your school loans so you enroll in more school to delay them.
This is a sick cycle that unfortunately many people are stuck in. Don't do it.

4) You think it's the only way to become successful.
Wrong. This list of the most successful college drop-outs will change your mind. Or maybe the fact that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg were all college drop-outs. The creator of Tumblr, the 9th most visited website in the world to date, didn't even graduate high school. If you have a passion and want to start your business, do it! Invest that 50-70K into your business rather than an education that you don't necessarily need.

5) If you want to go to school for art.
Before any of you art majors throw your paint brushes at me in disgust, let me say this: your talent can be cultivated in ways that don't cost you an obscene amount of money. Yes, of course, you will learn skills in art school that may help you land a job. The reality is, there are a large amount of artists who never went to college and are just as successful, if not more, than those who spent money on an education. Nowadays, you can learn almost anything through tutorials on YouTube. Don't pay money for something you can learn for free or through a mentor. I have yet to hear about any art galleries or exibits that require a college education. Did Picasso, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Michaelangelo or Monet pay money to learn about art? No. And neither should you.

6) If you have no idea what kind of job you want afterwards.
I made the mistake of spending about six years studying Psychology before I even once thought about what kind of job it would help me get in the end. I know plenty of people who did the same. "Professional Student" is not a job title and will not pay money. Remember that college isn't just a "thing" that everyone does. It's intended on helping you learn skills so you can become qualified for a job you want.

And here are four GOOD reasons why you should go to college:

1) You know exactly what kind of job you want, and a degree is necessary to get that job.

2) You are extremely passionate about the subject matter and the debt is worth it even if it doesn't provide you with a job right away.

3) Someone else is paying for it (i.e., scholarship, your parents, your job).

4) You are going to school for Computer Science, Biology or Math. These fields have an extremely low un-employment rate.

College has turned into something that the average high schooler thinks he or she has to do. I'm here to dispel that truth. College is a choice, and it should never be taken lightly. Explore the world, take a few classes at a community college level, look at the job force and think about what kind of job you actually want.

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  1. While I completely agree with the overall sentiment of the blog post, your reference to biologists is not correct. I think you were trying to use it as a general term for the other medical fields listed, but the only profession in the list you linked to that starts with a bachelors in biology is pharmacy, and that requires pharmacy school afterwards. The only reason why I'm even taking the time to point this out is because I have a biology degree and could not find work in my field. I had it all figured out, become a wildlife biologist and essentially get paid to camp and hike. It hasn't worked out yet. Now I'm considering going back for my masters in the hopes of being more qualified, but not overqualified. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up...but being a dirtbag is getting higher and higher on the list. Anywho, cheers : )

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, Crista! Those reasons for not going to college are spot on. If people are just doing it "just because", then it really is just a waste of resources for them in the long run. That’s why it’s important to consider things while choosing your path. If you think you really have to take a break after high school, then take a year of to check your options. It might let you find the right course or career for you, or you might find a job that you like which doesn't even need a degree. Cheers!

    Valerie Casey @ College Funding Freedom

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