Why go to College?

A post I saw on Facebook recently got me thinking again about why I’m choosing to go to college. There’s a growing movement against higher education, and many say that students would be better off financially by skipping college and going straight to work after high school. Some people are even getting paid to leave college and start their own businesses. For what I plan to study, Computer Science, most people tell me that I’ll learn more by reading books and working on side projects than through a university.

In my mind, the evidence was mounting against going to college. I’ve always been anxious to get to work and start being independent, and college delays that independence by 4 years. I’ve already been able to make decent money doing freelance work on the side, so I knew I could scale that up to a full time job with enough effort (and eventually use that capital to work on other things). I even thought at one point that maybe I could just go to college for a little while, then drop out after a few quarters and start working full time. The only value I saw in college was the degree at the end, the stamp of approval saying that I was ready to enter society as a respectable individual.

But then I came to an important realization. College isn’t at all about the degree. It’s about the experience. The degree is nice to have, but the real value of going to college comes from actually spending 4 years meeting new people, trying new things, expanding your horizons, and discovering what makes you tick. College is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do all of these things in a completely risk-free way. You don’t have any real responsibilities, but you still have the freedom to learn what you want and do what you want.

I was in a hurry to get to work, but without any real purpose or direction. I have a feeling I probably would’ve gotten bored quickly with what I was doing and regretted my decision to leave/skip school had I done so. At this stage in my life, college is exactly what I need; it will give me time to reflect, introspect, and discover what I really want to do.

What about you? Why did you choose to go or not go to college? Leave a comment below.

3 thoughts on “Why go to College?

  1. For what its worth, I’m speaking as someone who received a master’s degree with the intention to teach. Though I now expect to only do that -at best- as a “side gig” now. My focus these days is far more technical, creative, and entrepreneurial. I am inclined to agree that higher education is an economic bubble right now. I’d rather not be depending on it for a paycheck when it finally goes boom.

    You are correct, that as someone who is interested in computer science, you have no need for a college degree. You can probably just keep doing what you’re doing, learning on your own, and eventually get a nice six digit job somewhere. One of my closest friends from high school only did one semester of college, and he now lives in silicon valley and earns a nice living. Is he an outlier? Yes he is.

    Despite all that, I think the whole “college experience” is well worth having. I entered college because I needed a major change in my life at that time. I was rather bored with my job at the time and was generally disgusted with hometown (still am). College was well worth some important perspective on my life for things like careers, family, religion, politics, and most importantly relationships. My best friends today are the people who I went to college with. Additionally, my degrees allowed me to live abroad for a year and that was quite fun. My only real regret was not doing it right away out of high school. That is water under the bridge.

    If you have freelance skill with computers, you probably are not going to be “dependent” while in college. Honestly, you can probably pay much of your own way if you budget during the summers. If you do go to college, concentrate on making friendships and relationships. There are books to teach you that too. It will be that aspect of college that will probably make the biggest long term difference.

    1. Thanks for the response. I hadn’t thought about the change of perspective that college gives you (changing your environment completely often does that I think) but that’s another great reason to go.

      I have decided to go to college, but I doubt I’ll be able to pay for my education completely on my own (I’m going to Stanford, where the cost of attendance is around 60k/year). I’m planning to contribute what I have to what my parents are paying though.

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