Schooling Doesn't Always Equal Success

It’s not often that I get to challenge one’s views on traditional education face-to-face but I always enjoy the opportunity when it presides itself. 

Today I had a conversation with a friend of my roommate’s. We hadn’t met before and we introduced ourselves. He asked me if I was in college, and I told him I was actually working at a startup as a marketing and social media manager. 

To which he, with prevalent hesitancy and caution, told me that in his experience and knowledge in the workforce people who have degrees go on to have much more successful careers and have many more open doors than those of their non-degree-holding counterparts. 

I replied, “I disagree, in my conversations with CEO’s, hiring managers, and other business leaders they have all stated that they have become disappointed with the selection of hires with a degree as many of them aren’t creating value to their level of expectation”. 

He countered, backing up his argument by stating that in the hiring process if a person applies for a job without a degree, competing with many other candidates who do have degrees, their application wont even get a second look. 

Again, I respectfully disagreed. I went on to explain that of course, if two applicants apply both with regular resumes and cover letters, one with a degree and one without, then naturally they will pick the degree-holder. 

But, if the non-degree holder were to apply with a value-proposition, a tangible, applicable piece of work that creates value for the company before they even hire the non-degree holding applicant, better believe that individual is much more appealing. Or even if they can provide real-life examples where they have created significant value. That’s the applicant who is more likely to receive the job. 

He said that perhaps exceptions like that happen occasionally but it isn’t the rule. 

This time he laughed a bit when I said “I disagree.” 

I provided examples of colleagues of mine who are not far in age from me, many of which also opted out of college and now hold jobs initially reserved for degree-holders. 

One of them had been a model, who, feeling unfulfilled, began to pursue coding. She approached an employer when she saw a job opening. Knowing she had no experience in the field, she offered her services for free for a period of time, and if by the end of this trial they were unsatisfied with her work they can let her go. But if she did meet the expectations they would keep her on with full pay. They agreed.

She worked inside and outside of work to learn the job. By the end, she had far exceeded their expectations. She proved she was an asset that they didn’t dare to lose. 

My debater seemed to switch his area of focus when he realized he wasn’t going to win the “employment value” of college. He argued that college gives people the opportunity to discover who they truly are. 

Yep, you guessed it. I disagreed. 

The move from home is beneficial but the environment that college creates is, in essence, an extension of high school. You have a school schedule that tells you where to be and when, expectations are set for you, cliques still exist. 

Him: But college gives you the opportunity to explore what field you may be interested in and you can switch and change your mind. It might take you a few tries but you find it.

Me: For an extremely high fee. Why pay for the experience of “finding yourself” when you can do that by holding down a job, switching careers as necessary, and making money instead of digging yourself into a pit of debt hoping you find that life calling?

Him: See the problem is that people aren’t able to explore who they are at a younger age and become well-rounded people.

Me: Exactly. Interestingly enough that’s what my place of employment focuses on. Students set their own goals, they figure out how to be self-directed in their learning and productivity and they get to explore new things that can turn into a passion. We also implement to Socratic method for students to think about big ideas, question why they think the way they do and use logic in their approach. So we can at least agree that the trouble is with the system as a whole and not just college? 

Him: I suppose we can find some common ground there.