We’ve written on the Praxis blog a number of times about why you should rethink college. One of our most popular articles, by Praxis CEO Isaac Morehouse, makes among other points the case that college no longer signals what it used to and that most people have no idea what they want out of the experience.
The truth is though that just as there is no one reason you should go to college, there is no one reason you shouldn’t. There are many reasons and a young person considering the decision should look through all of them and decide for themselves what they want to do. Here are two more:
1) The stats that say “college graduates make more money than non-graduates” are based on faulty reasoning.
Imagine if we had a society that required all of the best-looking people to go to college. This goes on for years and then one day a group of staticians get together and write a report that claims something revolutionary: “College Makes You Better Looking.” It is therefore concluded by the general public that everyone should go to college.
This is a ridiculous scenario, no? But it’s exactly the same reasoning behind the tired claim that college graduates are more successful than non-college graduates.
Kids today are groomed for college from a very young age. Parents set aside huge amounts of money into tax-deferred accounts, hustle to get their kids into the best schools, drive them to and from academic and extracurricular events, and hire tutors to make sure their kids are able to get into college. My high school even had a motto that said “College Ready” and Mayor Rahm Emmanual recently tried to require a letter of acceptance from college in order for a student to graduate high school.
So as it is now, we have a system that encourages everyone who can read and write decently to go to college. You’ve pretty much got to be stupid or have something wrong with you not to go. When all the smart people are going to college and all the dumb people aren’t, you’d expect to see that people who graduated college do better in life. This isn’t an argument for attending college though, it’s just a simple recognition that smarter people perform better.
Like our imaginary society where good-looking people attend college, it’s not that college makes you better, it’s that the people enrolling in college were better to begin with than the people who didn’t. The stats can’t be trusted because we’re comparing apples to oranges. In order to have some meaningful data, you’d need to take a person who is about to enroll in college, clone him, and then have that clone take a path without a degree. In other words, you’d be controlling for talent and ability. Since we can’t do that, we can’t really rely on the stats to give us a good reason to go to college.
2) There is likely a better path to achieve your goals
I had a conversation the other day with a college freshman who is in school studying political science. He had to take out some loans for this because school tuition is almost $50,000 per year.
“What are your goals after college?” I asked him.
“I’d really like to open a microbrewery with a restaurant, maybe even with some rooms for staying the night and a common bookshelf stocked by me with interesting reads.”
Why is he in school racking up debt and missing out on work experience?
He should offer to work for cheap or free at an upcoming microbrewery, of which there are tons, and get an apprenticeship in how to actually do it.
Maybe he could create a value proposition to do social media work for them. Or he could create a podcast where he interviews tons of microbrewery founders and then writes an eBook with the best info from the interviews. He could use that to land a position at a company. The potential upside here is huge.
Let’s say he got a side job that could make $20,000 per year. Assuming he can live at home like most college students do after they graduate anyways, in 4 years he could save at least $40,000, if not more.
That’s a significant amount of money he could put towards his business idea.
Instead of being in debt in 4 years, which will limit his ability to invest in a business or get a business loan, he’d have 4 years of work experience under a businessman building the kind of business he wants to run and a large sum of money to invest.
He might even get a partner from the business owner or another person in the industry he meets during those four years. Do the two paths even compare?
One path demands that he spends a few more years taking classes that have no relevance to his goals and putting himself into a debt hole. The other allows him to learn directly from people who are living the life he wants to live. It’s a no-brainer for him as it might be for you.
Before you go to college, consider whether you might be able to achieve your goals faster than the traditional 4-year path. You might surprise yourself.