Welcome to the College Prep Confidential Podcast
Sept. 13, 2021

CPC Episode #36 - Is College Worth It?

We're talking about the 4 word question every student should ask themselves before ever stepping foot in a college. To find the answer to the question, we've got tips like: Other lucrative options besides going to college The 2 Column Test every...

We're talking about the 4 word question every student should ask themselves before ever stepping foot in a college. To find the answer to the question, we've got tips like:

  • Other lucrative options besides going to college
  • The 2 Column Test every student should do before going to college
  • Why you should measure this "cost" before ever going to college

Psst… I have a secret to tell you. That’s it, come a little closer. College...may not be worth it for you. And that’s what we're talking about this week in Episode 36...Is...College...Worth It?

Ooohhh, just hearing those words out loud, those are fighting words for some people. And for others..they’re a sigh of relief. So let’s dive into it and answer that question...

Over the last 5 years, more people are questioning the decision to go to college. Whether it’s the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, the coronavirus changes, or the general sense that college is not all it’s cracked up to be, college is not a guaranteed part of a student’s life anymore. 

I graduated high school in 1994. And the general, unspoken agreement with colleges was this...college was almost a guaranteed contract of, you pay us x for tuition, and after you graduate with a degree, you WILL get a good paying job in the real world. Fast forward to a few years ago, and No, not any more.

You are not guaranteed a good career out of college. You are not even guaranteed a good salary when you start. The news is saturated with kids with 4 year degrees from good schools who either can’t get a job or get a job with pathetic levels of pay. Having worked in the corporate world for over 20 years, I’ve seen so many talented people get screwed out of promotions, raises and bonuses. It can leave many college graduates feeling trapped and confused about the future. 

On the flip side, I’m reading about some trade jobs and truck drivers getting paid 100,000 or more in a year.  No degree, no 4 years of school. I see People opting out of college for a better work environment and a future that’s not drowning in debt. This includes More and more entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship gets more and more attractive as the job market fluctuates and people want to forge their own destiny.  Back in the day, the general social contract for people like the Boomers and even Gen X was, you go to college, get a job, work for a company or two until you hit retirement age, and then retire.

Nowadays, the game has changed. How do you think a college kid feels staring down 100 grand in debt when he sees one of his peers his age filming YouTube videos or doing video game design and making more money in a month than his parents do in a year? How does it feel to watch a kid who skipped college or went to a junior college building and designing apps in his spare time and making piles of money? You don’t think today’s college students see this? They watch guys like Mark Zuckerberg build FB out of college or people like Bill Gates drop out of school to build Microsoft? And what about eSports. Kids making 6 and 7 figure deals to play video games, like Ninja or run a video game YouTube channel like PewDiePie and make millions.

Don’t think for a moment that all these factors combined, the job market, the lack of job security in the job world, and the entrepreneurial options available, or the ability to build your own brand online aren’t swaying the decision to go to college. Because they are. 

To get the answer to the question, Is College Worth It, you want to examine your Why. As in, why are you going to college? Because your parents did? Because your friends are? Because it’s what society tells you to do? Here’s a better question… Why do you want to go to college. Now why do you THINK you should go to college. But why do you want to go to college. Is it the satisfaction of a degree? Is it for a job or a career that pays well? Or is it to explore your independence? To start your journey from a kid to adult? For a new environment? 

Think about this carefully, because The answers to these questions count. Why? because 4 years down the line, you’ll need to justify the why. The choice to go to or skip college is one of the primary decisions you’ll make in your adult life. And it can change the trajectory of your life, and your destiny.

And the next question is, even if you do go to college, what do you hope to get out of it while you’re there. Friends? Networking opportunities? Wisdom? Before you step foot on a college campus, you should write down the questions I just asked and the outcome you wish to have. Because college means different things to different people. And for some, it’s a waste of time. For others, it’s not for the education...but for the networking. For example, do you know why Ivy League schools are priced so high? Sure, the education is strong. But that’s not why the price tag is so high. Its for the networking. Harvard grads hiring Harvard grads, or using the Harvard name to get your way into interviews you’d never make without it. The college you go to says something about you. On a resume or in a conversation, it’s part of your identity. Whether you want to admit it or not.

You don’t just “go to Harvard” or “go to Yale”. Those schools are part of your identity. You “attend” an Ivy League school. That’s a big mindset shift right there. Schools like this, They provide the master key to the upper echelon of networking. They also act like a Rolex. You don’t buy a Rolex to tell the time. A cheap $20 watch or your phone can tell you that. You buy a Rolex to make a statement or project your values. When somebody wants to learn more about you and your values, The Rolex does the talking for you before you EVER open your mouth. The same thing happens with your college choice. 

You may just be in it for the education only. I chose a small college in a division 3 school because I got money to play baseball AND because they were one of the few schools who had an actuarial science program. So the money and the job prospects drove my decision. 

So when you sit down to decide your next steps after college, or if you’re in college and your pondering your next move, figure out your “why”. What’s moving you to go to college, and why are you leaning towards certain schools? Then ask yourself, are those YOUR reasons or somebody else’s reasons. 

College will be a big step in your life. And if you don’t get a lot of financial aid, you’re already starting off in debt. So the question becomes, is the debt worth it? When you buy a house and take out a loan, you build equity, assuming you can sell the house later for a profit. But a college degree has more indirect measures instead of equity. 

As in, would you have gotten the job without the college degree? Would your network be as strong in your early 20’s without a college degree? What wisdom did you acquire at college, and was it worth the price tag and your time investment. And there’s an important point right there...you don’t just invest money...but you also invest time. For most of you, it’s at least 4 years. There’s a thing called opportunity cost. What did you give up to invest in a certain opportunity. Both time and money. A decision requires an investment, so make sure this investment counts.

What may help is the 2 column test. You take out a piece of paper, and make 2 columns. First column is reasons why you want to go to college. Second column is reasons why you don’t want to or hesitate to go. When you finish, compare those lists. Which list is bigger? Do you see any recurring themes in either list? By writing it down, it forces you to make the reasons count. And it helps eliminate wishy-washy decisions. Look at that list once a day for the next week and see what emotions go through. Does your opinion change from day 1 to day 3 and on?

We covered a lot in this episode. And I want to help you crush college prep. So I put together a list of expert resources for you. Resources like Test prep, financial aid, and mindset. Go to cpcshow.com. That's c-p-c-show.com. If you liked this episode, why don’t you subscribe to stay up to date on a treasure chest of college prep resources and tips? Also, if you enjoyed prior episodes, I’d love it if you gave us a rating on iTunes. Thank you for listening.