The great lie of the college degree is that it guarantees you a happier life than if you were without it. People go to college with one goal in mind usually: get that education so the job market will be a little friendlier and a lot more lucrative. The reality of the situation is, however, that all a degree does is give you a possible leg up on your competition. And you still might be turned down on a job application. With this in mind, and the fact that the news is constantly talking about the rising rates of loan debt among college students, is an education really worth it? Take my situation for instance. I got out debt free, but my parents sunk x amounts of money into that piece of paper that is propped on the top of my bookcase, next to the other piece of paper that was free but took longer to get. I am of course referring to my high school diploma, which is a must-have in the job market these days. I’ve been out of college going on two months and I don’t have a job yet. So, was my expensive college education worth it?
I’ve actually been debating this a lot lately, whether or not the last three and a half years was worth the time and money, especially the money. Particularly when the job hunt gets to be a little depressing, I wonder.
With my particular degree, the one thing that might have been improved by my college experience is my writing, which is good because that is what I wanted. But that skill is not necessarily going to land me a job. To improve my writing, was that worth the x amount of money spent on my education? Practicality says no. Practicality says that a community college would have been the better choice, learning skills that will actually apply in the job market, and saving a lot of money in the process. But it’s not quite that simple.
The first time I realized that I wanted to go to college was when I stepped onto UNC Chapel-Hill’s campus for the first time. It was for a field trip and I can’t even remember what grade I was in, but I loved the atmosphere. That feeling held throughout middle school and high school, especially in high school when I decided I was going to make a different life for myself, different from what my sibling and cousins had. I wanted the four year degree experience. I loved the school environment and even though I ended up at a smaller school than expected, I thrived on the academic environment.
I look back now and there is not a single thing about my education that I would’ve changed. Other than starting out as an English major, but that’s not my point. Even though I’m at a point in my life where I’m not sure what’s coming next and I wonder if my degree was really worth it, I loved it. Through the ups and downs, failures and successes, I truly loved it. For me, that degree wasn’t just about improving my chances in the job market, it was about the four year college experience. Living in a dorm, eating in the cafeteria, making friends that I had late night movie marathons and late night study sessions, being introduced to ideas that I had never heard of before in my small town experience. In a bad economy, this isn’t practical, but I was lucky. Not just lucky, I was fortunate to have parents who were willing to support me so I could undertake this experience.
Now, they can’t pave the way for me anymore. It’s all on me now. Somehow, some way, I will find a way to put that degree to use. It’s going to take time, but it can be done. Somehow. Some way.