Is College For Everyone?


What is Educational Achievement?

Are you (or were you) a good student? Are you the kind of person who always wrecked the curve for everyone else? Was it clear to you from elementary school that you’d be going to a top-ranked college?

We’re you one of the people who had no fear of the SAT? And were disappointed when you “only” scored 1450?

Or were you more like the rest of us, sitting in the back row, trying not to make eye contact when the teacher asked a question, and dreading the unannounced pop quiz?

For most of us, we know which group we fit into. Or maybe it’s somewhere between those two extremes. We have a realistic expectation of our place in the educational world. And we set our expectations for educational achievement accordingly.

Educational Achievement means pursuing the highest educational credential possible for your intellectual level without wasting time, money and effort pursuing a degree that you will either never achieve or never use. It means making the most of what is possible—and most valuable—to you. It’s not necessarily going to Harvard, Yale, Princeton or MIT, it’s finding the perfect opportunity to apply the level of intelligence with which we were blessed.

For your career, there is nothing more fundamentally satisfying than learning a topic that you personally value and for which you are well suited both academically and in terms of interest and aptitude.

Career Achievement Linked to Educational Achievement

At CareerTest.com, we understand that education is one of the most essential decision-making points for successful careers. Education is a key differentiating factor that easily separates people into different levels: high school, Associate, Bachelor, Masters, or Doctorate.

There is also an assumption that the higher the educational achievement, the more intellectually gifted the person may be. But is this always true?

Everyone has heard of the college dropout who goes on to become a billionaire while opening an internet or technology company. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, dropped out of Harvard after only two years. Elon Musk completed two bachelor’s degrees (one in physics, one in economics), but dropped out of his Ph.D. program after only two days.

These modern-day geniuses—with IQs of 155 and 160 respectively—decided to pursue the entrepreneurial lifestyle that values skill, knowledge, vision, dedication, and risk-talking far more than any diploma.

For those of us who aren’t today’s equivalent of Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison, the college degree is often the most valuable expression of achievement.

Is College for Everyone?

The short answer is, “No.” And here’s why: People are different, and different people require different developmental stimulus to reach their highest and best self.

Is College for Everyone? The short answer is, "No."

And here’s why: People are different, and different people require different developmental stimulus to reach their highest and best self.

Should I go to college?

If we send everyone to college without regard to talent or academic achievement, a college degree will have been watered-down to just another form of high school graduation. At the same time, we would have done a disservice to people seeking a non-academic career path.

Think about the student with no interest in academic subjects who is barely hanging on in high school and counting the days toward graduation. If suddenly everyone goes to college, that student is now subjected to four more years of misery (to them) to prepare for an academically based career they will likely never pursue in the real world.

Nothing would be more demoralizing than forcing someone who desires to work on car engines into four more years of math, literature, foreign language, history, and liberal arts.

A better solution is to determine interests and aptitude earlier in a student’s career and channel their efforts and education into a path that makes sense for them, whether that’s college, trade schools, online education, entrepreneurial mentoring, or something else.


The Impact of Your College Major:

For those who do pursue a college degree, the selection of a college major amounts to a critical life changing moment. Choose the right major and you could be set for life; choose the wrong major and you probably wasted four years and $100,000.

Before you choose a major, take the time to do research on educational return on investment. Simply put, ROI is the average lifetime earnings for a selected major after subtracting the cost of the college degree. Some calculations also adjust for the 4 – 8 years of earnings lost while you pursued your degree.

The good people at Salary.com have an Article on degrees worth the money.

Another article from TheLadders.com has a list of the 19 lowest-paying majors plus an intriguing chart that illustrates how field of study matters more than degree level.


“I love” versus “I need”

The two most dangerous words uttered by a student selecting a college major are “I love.” It sounds like this: “I love English literature.” “I love philosophy.” “I love liberal arts.” “I love art history.” “I love psychology.” “I love theater.” “I love anthropology.” And on and on…

A good rule of thumb when selecting a major is to not pick one that could also be considered a hobby. You love photography? Great. It’s a fantastic hobby, and most often a terrible career. You love theater? Excellent! Audition for a role in your community theater, you’ll love it. But theater as a profession? It’s possible, but extremely difficult. The average starting salary for a person with a degree in theater or drama is $26,000 with an unemployment rate of 7.8%.

In comparison, the most valuable words spoken by a student selecting a major are, “I need.”

It sounds more like this: “If I’m going to succeed, I need…” Examples could be, “I need a degree in computer science so I can compete in this online world.” Or, “I need a degree in nursing so I can work in the high-paying medical field.”

There is nothing wrong with loving what you do, but most people would agree that loving a high-paying job with a future is better than loving a low-paying job with poor prospects.


Alternatives to a college education:

If you choose not to pursue a college education, there are several alternatives to help you maximize your future potential. Consider the following:

  • Online courses: Low cost or free online courses through Udemy, Khan Academy or Coursera.
  • Online Development Bootcamps: Consider “Bootcamps” where you can learn to code online, such as this incredible Course.
  • Apprenticeships: An apprenticeship can provide you with paid work experience, classroom instruction and a nationally recognized credential.
  • Trade schools: Many excellent careers can be learned without a college degree. A good trade school can help you become a computer technician, welder, dental hygienist, radiation, therapist, elevator installer, plumber, paralegal, or electrician.
  • Open a business: If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, and the desire to design and launch a new business, running your own shop might be for you. For many businesses, no formal education is required, but you will need drive, determination, and a willingness to take risks and embrace new ideas.

The “Career Decision-Making” Series:

This blog entry is one in a series of Career Guidance articles that we hope will assist you in finding your perfect career. The articles will be released in the following sequence. We hope you find them valuable.

  • Your natural intelligence: Ability to learn and comprehend
  • Educational achievement: Ability to apply intelligence
  • Entrepreneurial assessment: Desire and aptitude for self-employment
  • College majors: What you prefer to study and learn
  • Practical career matters: Career path, benefits, travel and stress.
  • Work ethic: Financial motivation, effort and personal drive
  • Market conditions: Job Growth, job availability and level of competition
  • Career options: Inside/Outside, Mental/Physical, etc.
  • Work environments: Where, specifically, do you prefer to work?
  • Career personality: Careers that match your core personality.
  • Career values: How do your personal values impact your career choices?
  • Career aptitude and talent: What can you do or learn to do?
  • Career interests and desires: What do you enjoy?
  • People preferences: Who would you most like to work with?
  • Job activities: Specific job activities you'd like to avoid.
  • Natural and learned skills: Skills that you enjoy and do well.
  • Elements of career satisfaction: Your specific career satisfaction elements.

Next Up:

Ready to try CareerTest? Check out the next blog post to see our latest promo codes!

View Next Blog »