Higher education is being put through the ringer in the toughest evaluation its had in decades. Students, parents, teachers as well as journalists, economists, scientists, politicians – everyone is questioning the value of college and it all boils down to one question:
Is college worth it?
Obviously, for us at Admissionado the answer is a no-brainer. Yes. Yes all the way. And we could tell you how people with bachelor’s degrees earn 75% more than those without, or how the value of a college degree will only continue to increase as the professional economy evolves, or how all those stories about jobless, indebted grads (while we’re sure the anecdotes are real) only represent 3% of all college grads between 25-34 years old.
But you knew we would say that. So instead of telling you what we would say, I’m going to talk about… me.
My name is Tiffany, and I am a college graduate.
Quick rundown: I’m first-generation Asian-American, which means I was good at math and played the piano. A joke… but true. I had perfect grades, high test scores, and a long list of unique extracurriculars, all of which earned me admission Early Decision to Brown University.
My parents had encouraged me to apply to University of Illinois – “a good school and it’s practically free!” – but I knew it wasn’t for me. I never felt like I fit in at my big public high school. On the outside, I was everything I needed to be. I was top of my class, captain of the cheerleading team, board member of clubs from A to Z. Inside, I was uninterested and indifferent. For me, high school was easy. And that was the problem. It was too easy. I wasn’t being challenged. I participated, I discussed, I learned… but did I grow? Probably not as much as I could have.
When I got to Brown, I knew I made the right decision. As expected, the professors and classes were stimulating and thought-provoking. I was forced to solve problems that had no real solution, have opinions and defend those opinions no matter how unpopular, and asked to question my own ethical value system.
But for me, college was about the people. I remember sitting in my first seminar, thinking that everyone was so much smarter than I was. I was impressed, intimidated, and curious. I wanted to see how I would stack up with everyone else, who I would be. And it was exciting. Challenging. Most of all, inspiring. We questioned each other, pushed each other. Being at Brown was the first time in my life that I felt really excited about… my own potential. People had been telling me my whole life about my “potential,” but college was the first time I really tested it.
I graduated from Brown with two degrees – a bachelor’s in international relations and another in economics. After graduating, I pursued work in education for development, that is using education initiatives to drive social and economic development in “third world” countries. I’ve worked for several different education NGOs in four different countries, partnered with a few government ministries of education, and I even went so far as to get my master’s from the London School of Economics to enhance my expertise. So if anyone can rattle off statistics about the benefits of education on measures of employment, health, and happiness… it’s me.
But even now, knowing what I know about the hard stats, when I think about the value of my own college experience, it always comes back to the people. And that’s a metric I never found in any UNESCO or Public Agenda report. The people you meet in college – they become one of the most professionally and personally influential networks you’ll ever build.
Looking down the list of Fortune 500 companies, I can name someone working at practically every one. My classmates have been featured in major publications as entrepreneurs with millions of dollars of venture capital, notable up and coming screen writers, future Emmy-winning producers and financial whiz kids. These are the people with whom I learned how to think, how to write, and how to communicate. I proved myself with the best of the best (and to a lot of employers – that’s worth something). These people continue to be my inspiration, and I can’t imagine who I would be without them.
Was college worth it? For me, absolutely.
I credit my degree for giving me the skills and the network that has moved me ahead in my career, even as I changed course. I was better prepared to handle the uncertainty of a career transition and better equipped to pick up new skill sets. So yeah, I loved college. #YOLO
To say that college is an investment in your education is too narrow. You’re not just investing in education; you’re investing in your potential and your ambitions. You’re investing in skills that will last you a lifetime and an automatic perpetual membership to an amazing network of people. And it doesn’t have to by an ivy league school; whatever school is the best school for you will be more than worth the investment. It’s true that a college degree cannot guarantee success. But in today’s economically stunted, politically tumultuous, completely unpredictable world… nothing guarantees success. To give yourself the BEST chance you can to be successful, there is no better avenue than education. Period.