Non-Fiction

College is Worth Your Time

If you have the means to get a degree, don’t throw that chance away.

Some people worry that college a waste of three or four years of your life. This is not a concern only for students; it also weighs on the minds of people who have just graduated and are disillusioned with the outside world. So, let’s examine it.

First, we should address the arguments against it. It’s true: college isn’t for everyone. You might be able to find a job without a degree and it might even be important or rewarding. But you shouldn’t count on it. College graduates are more likely to find work, especially if they have a Masters.

Successful public figures who dropped out of college are sometimes held up as examples of its uselessness. Think Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and the late Steve Jobs of Apple. The sentiment is nothing new; Mark Twain famously said that we shouldn’t let school get in the way of education.

So, why not get into the job market and start making connections rather than screw around attending lectures about Chaucer or going to your local watering hole even though you have just been cold and uncomfortable every single previous time you’ve gone there. Or is that just me?

Andrew Rotherham wrote in Time that the reason you shouldn’t drop out is that Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple would never have succeeded without the many college graduates working in them. Plus, he continues, what about all the college dropouts who didn’t grow up to take over the world?

As an aside, you might infer from this that to go to college is to condemn yourself to work for the truly successful people. That would be a gross simplification. Besides, Zuckerburg isn’t really who you should aspire to be.

Someone with a degree is much more likely to get a better-paying job. This is actually a class barrier; if your family doesn’t have the money to put you through college then you probably won’t get a job with a good wage. The cycle goes on.

Someone from a working-class background who can get a degree will gain a lot from it because of the better wage it will probably secure. Working-class people are generally aware of this. The people dismissing college are the more well-off ones, the ones with less to lose. If you have the means to get a degree, you’re lucky. Appreciate your privilege and don’t throw that chance away.

Having said all that, don’t get the Irish system mixed up with the United States system. When people online from the US complain about their serious college debt, that’s because they’re working under a loan system which has spectacularly failed. Ireland does not work under this system, although the idea is being floated. This would be bad and is why our Students’ Union went to the March for Education.

Essentially, by US standards, a college education in Ireland is very affordable. Bear this in mind if you’re doing any Googling. Don’t compare apples to oranges.

These economic points have been touched on many times before by other writers. They are correct in their conclusions but they miss another major reason college is worth your time; they talk about life as if it’s a purely economic phenomenon.

Put it this way: if you go looking for a job without a degree, you may well find yourself working as a server in a fast food restaurant. There is nothing ethically bad about this work and it’s useful to society. But you most likely won’t have any opportunity for advancement. It won’t be a fulfilling job.

If you get a degree, you’re more likely to land a better job. I don’t mean that you’re necessarily going to be made manager on your first day; I mean you’ll get to work in your chosen field or something resembling it. You’ll probably never have to deal with drunk people in Supermacs at 2 AM.

Making a wage for yourself is necessary for your well-being. Another thing that’s just as necessary is making a life for yourself.

You might worry that adulthood will feature much more and much worse existential dread than that which you experience at your local watering hole. Actually, life generally gets better. That’s partly because a degree will give you job opportunities but mostly because it will give you perspective and context. In a 2012 YouTube video, author John Green remarked that college isn’t about making the most money but about living the best life.

If you’re going to a halfway-decent university and don’t live in the US, going to college will be worth your money. And if you want to live a good life, it’s certainly worth your time.

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