From the moment we first enter preschool, our modern education system is geared towards sending kids to college. It’s more like an industry than a comprehensive means of teaching, and a school’s merits are usually judged on the basis of how many of its alumni manage to get accepted into college. When I was suffering through exams and teenage angst during high school, I remember how many of my teachers told me that things would be better once I went to college. There, they said, everything that was warped in my life would straighten itself out, and I would enjoy the best years of my life. Everything, from my exams to my UCAS applications to my volunteer work, was engineered towards getting me there. So it’s unsurprising that, once I’d actually made it, I found the experience disappointing. The reality could never have lived up to my expectations.
The fact of the matter is that college simply isn’t for everyone, and higher education isn’t going to solve everyone’s problems. Getting a university degree should be considered one option among many, not as the only one that doesn’t lead to failure. In fact, the harder you examine the issue, the more clear it becomes that we should stop indiscriminately encouraging everyone to go to college.
1. The cost
I’m pretty sure that this is the first downside that graduates can think of: the money. It’s no secret that going to college is unbelievably expensive, even if you’re lucky enough to enjoy a system where fees are paid for you. According to a study by the College Board, which examined published tuition fees for 2017, attendance at a state college in the US will total around $9,970 for state residents, and $25,620 for everyone else. Meanwhile, attendance at a private, non-profit college will total around $34,740. In the United Kingdom, things are no better, and the average cost of attending a university will total around £9,188 annually. For some people, the eventual financial benefits of obtaining a degree will outweigh this steep cost, but on the other hand, many other graduates will endure years of debt due to their costly loans. I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate being told about the cost of university beforehand, so they can decide whether or not they should actually just spend the time that they would have otherwise spent in university making money.
2. You’re not guaranteed a job
It used to be thought that a college education was a fast-track to getting a job, but sadly that’s no longer the case. The current economic downturn in the Western World means that the job market is experiencing something of a prolonged drought. In fact, a recent poll conducted by The New York Times revealed the depressing statistic that, as of 2017, only 53 per cent of recent college graduates in the United States were employed full-time. Not only that, but approximately half of the jobs these graduates had didn’t require college education at all. It’s clear that recruiters everywhere are finding it hard to discriminate between what, to them, appears to be a deluge of homogenous graduates.
3. It could limit your experience
What a lot of employers are looking for is a candidate who can take on a lot of different roles, who has plenty of experience, and who stands out from the crowd. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of university is that it limits your experience, by keeping you in the same place, dutifully studying and learning, for three/four years minimum. You might find that employers will be more impressed with someone who, in that time, has travelled extensively, has plenty of experience in full-time employment, and who has the spare time to culminate hobbies and focus on self-improvement, rather than exam results and essays.
4. Fewer and fewer people are learning trades
It’s a shame that many people are turned off from apprenticeships. Being an electrician, plumber, decorator, or any other form of trade, can be pretty damn lucrative, and if a very self-sufficient form of employment and skilled workers are always in demand in any economy. Okay, so maybe your career won’t be quite as open-ended as a graduate’s, but it’s a good way of hedging your bets so jobs won’t be so hard to come by. Not only that, but your working experience will also provide you with a mentor; someone who will attend to your needs alone and guide you through your learning process, far more than any overworked lecturer could.
5. College may not be the best time of your life
Many people remember college as the best time of their life, and get extremely nostalgic about their time there. But was that really down to their degree? Their experience at an institution? Or has it got more to do with the fact that people enjoy the independence and the self-sufficiency that most people attain at that age? If you go into college expecting every minute to be perfect and blissful, you’re going to be let down badly by the reality. You don’t need to be a student to enjoy your youth, have a full and active social life, or to educate yourself. All of those things can be achieved of your own volition. I had a miserable time at university until I stopped treating it like I’d been given a Hogwarts letter, and more like what it was: a lot of hard work and stress that was a means to an end.