7 things colleges are afraid to tell you and what you need to know

A college degree used to be all you needed…

Notice I used “used to” because the truth is that things have changed.

In the 60s a college degree meant you could write your own ticket. It was a commodity of sorts and it all but guaranteed you a safe, secure job.

Those without one often found themselves being the first victims of job cuts, my father being one of them.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us as my father was forced to take a chance on a job that took him to the Far East (to the Philippines to be more precise) and that decision changed our fortunes forever.

It wasn’t always easy but in the end it all worked out.

For me, growing up overseas college was never even a question, I was going. It was just something that we did.

Luckily (and I do mean luckily) I got into Pitzer College in 1992 and 5 years later (I took a year off) I graduated; becoming the first Shepherd graduate from college. It was one of the proudest days for my parents.

Looking back though, I suppose I should have noticed something was up.

Despite entering the Internet boom many graduates from prestigious colleges were waiting tables because they couldn’t find work.

Today, with 22 years under my belt in the education industry and years of study I see the world differently.

I look at college as a viable option, but not a necessity.

Some of my clients actually think I’m anti-college but that’s not the case.

What I am against is investing 4 years of your life and a sizable amount of money and not getting much out of it. Kids today have been taught that college is something they must do, but if you’ve ever been to a college campus you’ll know that most students spend more time partying and enjoying life than actually acquiring skills to be used in their careers.

Now I’m not against having fun; quite the contrary, but when it’s such a big investment I wish more kids would take things more seriously and take advantage of all college has to offer.

For example, the professors are there for you. Yet most never get visited in their offices after hours.

That’s crazy, it’s one of the simplest ways to improve your knowledge, and at the same time, pretty much guarantee yourself a better grade.

The other that I can think of offhand is all the activities that are available for free such as lectures and musical events. They are worth their weight in gold and often times more valuable than the lessons themselves.

The thing I have against college is that I believe it’s a model based on the 20th century world; the industrial age.

Today, as you’ve heard me talk about it before, change is moving at breakneck speed and colleges are struggling to keep up.

What’s worse is that the price of education has risen dramatically in the past 20 years and yet, the quality has stayed pretty much the same, except for maybe some nice, pretty new buildings to swoon students.

Today, I am of the opinion that you can achieve the same level of depth in many subjects by simply using YouTube…it’s FREE…and MORE INTERESTING.

Talking about this shift with my wife and a few clients I have come to the conclusion that colleges aren’t coming clean to students.

They want to keep things going because the system works…for them. The problem is it doesn’t work for all their students.

It reminds me of bookstores not wanting to move online, Kodak not wanting to accept digital was the wave of the future and musicians not putting their music into MP3 format for fear of it being downloaded illegally.

The fact is that it’s out with the old, and in with the new and I believe that the college system will undergo incredible change over the course of my lifetime.

And all of that brings me to my “7 things colleges are afraid to tell you:”

  1. Costs are exploding.
  2. Outsourcing is big and jobs that used to be commonplace are being moved overseas where the labor cost is cheaper
  3. College degrees used to set you apart, now they are commonplace
  4. All majors are not created equal
  5. Some jobs don’t require a college degree
  6. Graduating doesn’t mean mastery in many majors
  7. Calculate the ROI

Costs are, for lack of a better word, out of control. $55,000 A YEAR for some private colleges…which translates into $210,000 for 4 years and that’s not including incidental expenses, nor further education. Unfortunately outsourcing has taken away many of the jobs that used to be available for college students.

All you students and parents out there take note – college degrees are not special in today’s world.

There are people in Indian and the Philippines who have double masters, speak 3 languages and are willing to work for one third of the price. How can you compete with that?

A college degree does not set you apart from others today; it’s NORMAL.

It’s up to you to differentiate yourself from all those other college students out there by getting other qualifications or work experience.

As for choosing your major, choose wisely.

A degree in chemical engineering will likely help you more in getting a job than a degree in East Asian Studies or philosophy. Take the time to think about what you want to do AFTER you graduate and then choose the major that will give you the best chance at acquiring that job. Don’t expect a degree in literature to land you a job with the city council.

It’s also important to remember that some jobs don’t require a degree, so it MIGHT be better holding off spending all that money and using it for something else.

I say might because it really depends on your family’s financial standing and what your long term goals are.

Another thing to bear in mind is that just because you have a degree in something doesn’t mean you have mastered it.

Take me for example, I majored in psychology and I honestly can’t tell you must about what I learnt. I never used it, I just chose it because it was easy. It’s something a lot of students tend to do and it’s a mistake.

Finally when it comes to ROI (return on investment), I’m talking about how much more you’ll be able to earn from going to college versus how much you’ll spend.

For example, if it costs you $100,000 to get your degree but then are able to only earn $500 more a month than someone without one that means it’ll take about 10 years (with salary increases) to recoup your initial investment. If that’s a good trade off, do it…if not, think how else you might be able to invest that $100,000 (ie. dividend yielding stocks, real estate).

One final note, I would like to say that college was one of the best experiences of my life and think it’s something people should most definitely consider.

But with rising costs, the economy tough and the Internet at our disposal, we should think carefully before making such a big investment.

Invest wisely,

Adrian Shepherd

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