• Chris Varano

Do you really need to go to College?

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

Have you ever questioned why we place so much value on a college education? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, regardless it’s time that we begin challenging the University education system. The financial burden that students endure along with the pressure and anxiety accompanied with being a full time student has made me realize that the notion that we need a college degree is irrational.

It is well known that student debt is a pressing issue. The total student loan debt in the U.S. has now reached $1.56 trillion, nonetheless, a national crisis (Forbes). We’re all aware that tuition rates are irrationally high, however, because society places so much value on receiving a college diploma, we are still willing to suffer greatly to obtain the diploma. I’ve finally come to realize that myself and others have been conditioned by society to believe that once a college degree is obtained, we suddenly become fully equipped with the knowledge and qualifications that make us “successful”. But clearly, this is just not the case. As a current college student, I believe that the power lies in the hands of prospective students to change the tide.

Online education is one possible answer to this issue. Online degree programs offer students the opportunity to still receive a college degree, but at a much lower cost than a traditional university education. According to Best Values Schools, researchers found that typical Universities charge up $1500 per credit hour, while online degree programs charge students between $100-$400 per credit hour ( Best Value Schools). These informal online education programs may be an effective alternative to a more traditional education. However, there is a more controversial and less popular path that can be explored.

If you consider the amount of knowledge and connections available throughout the internet, we all have access to tremendous opportunities that can transcend our current lives. The internet is a vast network of knowledge and because we have the ability to continuously build connections with each other to share knowledge, we are able to give one another the tools we need to change the world.

Before I continue, it is important to note that I am not invalidating the knowledge that universities provide to the students. . However, the internet’s plethora of instructional videos, research articles and free classes/tutorials contain very similar information that is taught in lecture halls. Therefore, the internet provides an alternate route to obtaining valuable information.

For the sake of this discussion, I am going to call this alternate path the “enlightened path”. I consider this “enlightened path” to essentially be a self-education style in which a person goes through the process of deeply finding and understanding their true purpose and passions. Once a person identifies their purpose, then they can immerse themselves in learning the topics that allow them to optimally create what is needed to fulfill their purpose.

I recently discovered that there is research that demonstrates that on a biological level, humans are designed to engage in self education. Evolutionary Psychologist Peter Gray states, “Education has always been something that children do for themselves, they come into the world biologically designed to figure it out, to learn what it is that they need to learn to grow effectively into adulthood” (Gray). Gray conducted multiple studies that demonstrate that children who don’t participate in traditional education systems have the freedom to explore their own interests and achieve great success in their future careers. Given this information, it seems that the highly structured school system that our society values may actually be hindering our growth and potential.

Considering this “enlightened path” that embraces self-learning, I believe that it is important to look at someone who has obtained great success through exploring his passions, Elon Musk. Elon musk is the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, two companies that are challenging and revolutionizing the world as we know it. With only a bachelor’s degree in economics and physics, his companies are transforming the world of aerospace and automobile engineering, lending himself to a net worth of over $20 billion. It seems almost impossible for a person to be the leader of a company that manufactures rockets from scratch and designs luxurious, environmentally friendly cars without any degrees in aerospace or mechanical engineering.

Elon is undoubtedly a very special person, who admits to spending close to 100 hours a week at the office. Clearly, his success is attributable to how hard he works. However, by spending so much time at the office, Elon sacrifices time he could spend with friends and family, as well as sleep. So why is Elon able to sacrifice his time and his sleep? It’s because Elon understands his passions and more importantly he knows that it is necessary to step outside his comfort zone to challenge our beliefs in order to make change. Elon states, “My motivation for all my companies has been to be involved in something that I thought would have a significant impact on the world” (Musk). It’s important to realize that what makes Elon stand out and separates himself from the rest of the pack is his willingness to follow his passions and his ability to ignore those who doubt him.

Elon is true role model who demonstrates to us the importance of finding and following our passions. Given, the enormous success he has achieved through self-learning and apart from his college degrees, we really need to begin to consider why we keep valuing the importance of obtaining a college degree.

I want to be clear that I don’t think anyone should completely discount going to college. I think the first step in this process begins with finding the answers as to why we value college degrees. Once these answers are discovered we can begin to make significant changes to the education system to enhance self-learning. In the meantime, however, if you have some “crazy” idea that you’re extremely passionate about, follow your intuition! Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you don’t have all of the answers and knowledge at this point in time. The internet can give you a jump start to obtaining the knowledge you need to begin acting on your passion. So, what’s holding you back?

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OMYesA1nQo.

Elon Musk Quote. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.azquotes.com/quote/779431.

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