The REAL Value of a College Degree

The Real Value of a College Degree

There is no doubt that the value of a college degree in today’s job economy is immeasurable.  It is invaluable.

That little piece of paper with some fancy signatures will open up more doors than most people can imagine. It will change the entire trajectory of most people’s lives for the better.

Earning the degree itself, however, is no easy task.  There are YEARS of rigorous studying, tests, and assessments.  The challenge of learning to navigate the politics and administration of higher education is also no easy feat. Toss in the fact that many college students have other responsibilities to balance like jobs, careers, and/or families and earning a college degree certainly becomes a challenging journey to embark on.  Plus, the financial costs of college are nothing to scoff at either!

But of all these challenges to earning that all-important degree, there is one particular challenge that students just never fully understand.  It’s a challenge and a frustration that I hear from my students in my career as an Academic Advisor like clockwork on a weekly basis.  That challenge is…

“Why do I need to take all these stupid, unrelated to my major, courses to get my degree?!  What’s the point!?”

Great Question!

This complaint, of course, is in reference to all those pesky general education or general core courses along the way to graduation.  The Maths, Sciences, History, English, Arts, so on and so forth.  So many students only want to take courses that directly relate to and prepare them for the careers they want to pursue.

This is important, of course, which is why degree programs always will have these highly specialized and relevant courses in the program. What students don’t realize is that all those seemingly unrelated courses have a lot of value. They just don’t know what that value is yet and it’s certainly not obvious.

Once you dig a bit deeper, you’ll often find that some of these boring, stupid, or seemingly pointless courses offer the greatest opportunities to grow and learn the most important lessons of all.

The Real Value of a College Education

As important as that college degree ultimately is, the real value of college is earned throughout your journey to graduation by the challenges and obstacles you overcome.  The point of college isn’t necessarily to make you a subject matter expert in your degree area. That comes with time and practice, and college is just the first step that gets your foot in the door.  The true value of college is making you a well-rounded professional who can process and learn information more efficiently and perform more consistently.

In my professional experience and observation, there is a significant difference in personal development and critical thinking/reasoning skills between college graduates and non-college graduates. It would be impossible to list all the differences, but college grads have a clear advantage in understanding how to learn new things faster, how to overcome adversity and challenges easier, and process and critically think about information more effectively.

They are often more resilient and perseverant, can see more possible solutions to problems, and possess greater soft skills in the realms of communication, collaboration, organization, and autonomy. This difference plays an enormous part in someone’s success in the working world in the college graduate’s favor.

This has nothing to do with being smart or intelligent or any other characteristic that can be more hereditary in nature.  These are all learned behaviors that the pursuit of a college degree nurtures in individuals as they overcome the various challenges along the way. It’s the development of these skills that let college graduates stand out above the rest.

Now the interesting part.  It’s all those general education and seemingly pointless courses that develop these skills the best.

What’s the Point of This Stupid Course?!

First and foremost, all the general education and other required generalized courses help ensure that college graduates have some basic qualifications that are unfortunately lacking for a large part of society. These skills include reading and writing the native language properly. The capability to perform basic mathematical calculations.  The ability to understand the science our world is built on (so we don’t end up going down the Earth is flat route…)

You would think that most people would possess these skills but the truth is that many do not.  There are hundreds of thousands of folks who don’t really understand the English language even though it’s their native tongue.  There are folks who can’t do simple addition or subtraction in their head. That’s why college programs require these courses. It helps ensure that graduates have developed and acquired these basic skills of life, which ultimately leads to a higher level of thinking and development overall.

Discovering the Indirect Benefits

It goes beyond just the directly relatable skills you learn from the courses as well.  These courses teach invaluable soft skills.  They teach organization, communication, time management, resilience, critical thinking, tenacity, just to name a few!

The English courses teach you how to communicate professionally and effectively whether it be a simple email to colleagues or a CEO addressing their entire team.  It can be the ability to effectively draft a business plan to investors or the ability to influence others effectively when in a leadership role.

Other courses can develop your ability to overcome difficult challenges that don’t have a clear goal or finish line. They teach you to be resilient to adversity and tenacious towards reaching your goals. It’s also the practice of your ability to process and learn new information even when it’s not personally interesting to you. Even if you find your dream job, there will be uninteresting and boring aspects you need to master!

One of my favorite aspects of these courses is that they can really prepare you for the reality of work.

That English paper you don’t want to write?  That’s the boring report your boss wanted by 5 PM.

That Science course you can’t see the point of taking?  That’s the incredibly asinine task your boss makes the team do each week.

That History course you absolutely dread?  That’s the absolutely tedious and mind-numbing parts that exist in any job.

Even if a course’s material is not directly valuable to you, it’s these indirect benefits that will help you tremendously in your life and career.

The “Hidden” Benefits of College are Nearly Endless

I can go on for ages with various examples but overall it’s the ability to take yourself to this higher level of being.

It’s all about learning how to learn, understanding how to overcome challenges, and developing the soft skills that will lead to a highly successful life and career. Plus, you will be more knowledgeable in general and who knows when that information might come in handy? (Random Jeopardy appearance anyone? You never know!)

And One Last GIGANTIC Benefit of a College Education

It would be a shame to end this post failing to mention one of the most valuable benefits of the college experience.

The ability to grow your network and make important connections that can last a lifetime.

Many individuals don’t even realize the value this benefit contains… some may even neglect it entirely. However, it’s arguably the most important part of any college journey.

Your network is the one thing that will secure more jobs, opportunities, and success than all the talent or education in the world ever could.  It’s not easy to grow your network, but thankfully, college offers some of the best opportunities to build it.

It serves you well to socialize.  Every single classmate you meet can be a powerful part of your network down the road.  Who knows where your peers might end up?  CEOs, start-up entrepreneurs, positions of influence, and they might just want your help! At the very least, many of them will become managers or senior employees that can help you easily acquire jobs at the companies they work for.

Another opportunity for network building is college-sponsored job fairs and internship programs.  Get your face out there and meet the recruiters! Perhaps you can land a great job opportunity that builds up your experience and helps you meet some new people in the process. Even if you don’t get a job on the spot, the connection with recruiters can prove useful down the road.

Lastly, don’t forget the value of your professor’s references you may obtain. Other folks in academia may be a help for you down the road, too. College offers lots of great opportunities for networking or even landing that first job in your field easily, but these opportunities can be easy to pass up.  Make the most of it!

The Value is in the Journey

Earning your college degree takes individuals on a long and challenging journey.  The degree at the end is very important, but the path getting there is where you’ll learn the most important lessons.  It’s these lessons that prepare you for success in the real world.  Sometimes even more so than your specialized training in your degree area.

It’s the combination of both these direct and indirect benefits that really let the college graduate shine.  Be mindful of all the lessons you can learn and the value you can gain while earning your degree, and you’ll find success and happiness waiting for you in your career.  Oh, and that little piece of paper, too.

Yours Truly,
– Mr. Happy Work

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Blair
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Blair

The path to success is all about the journey. The ability to overcome challenges and to learn from them. That’s what’s important!

aisasami
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aisasami

I really appreciated going to college! I learned a lot of things like proofreading work, teamwork, deadlines, and learning things I don’t really want to learn (hi, science).

Amanda Rosson
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Amanda Rosson

Really love your perspective on the value of those courses that we don’t think we need in college! Even if we don’t think they are necessary to our major, they are still teaching us real world lessons that we’ll use later on in life.

Kisha
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Kisha

I do agree with you that many of the benefits of college are in fact hidden–or should I say things that don’t show up on a piece of paper, like personal development. I just don’t know if the price tag is worth it though. Seems like there are other less expensive ways we could grow and learn without going into so much debt to do it. And yes, I do have a college degree so I see both sides.

Nate
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Nate

Even though I am an online marketer, I still value the experience of obtaining a college degree. I think it’s not so much the courses I had to take but the journey to get where I am now!

Razena
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Razena

In my family we have graduates as well as an older generation of school leavers who never completed high school. As much as I value my own college education, I have grown up with individuals who overcame challenges and obstacles in their working and personal lives that gave them remarkable insight, communication skills, organisation skills and analytical skills. They didn’t have a 4 year college degree but did manage to have productive and successful lives.

Maartje van Sandwijk
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Maartje van Sandwijk

Wonderful post! I’m almost done with my degree (thank God) and it took a long time. So glad I persevered though 🙂

Woodeline
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Woodeline

This is a great post. My college degree helps me to challenge my challenges. It was tough, I am not the smartest ,I found myself crying sometimes because english is my third language but with perseverance I conquered it all.

Marcie
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Marcie

This is great! I took a lot of boring classes in college and I’ve been surprised how often I’ve used a random fact I learned or understand something on a deeper level because I sat through a boring lecture!

Ching
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Ching

I was SO ALIGNED with your words here and couldn’t agree more about the value of what you learn from the obstacles you overcome. I live in Vegas and work in the casino industry. It was the first time I ever saw job qualifications that said college degree or the equivalent “casino work experience”. I always wondered how that was measured? 🙂

Surekha Busa
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Surekha Busa

I was so excited in taking up my degree when I was in college but after I graduated I am having a hard time finding a job that suits into my qualifications because most of the companies are not really looking for what degree you graduated with. They are looking for the applicants working experiences because they want to make sure that you know how to do a certain job. After a few months, I accepted a job that is not related to my degree but that’s okay because I consider that as a new learning experience that can be added to the knowledge that I gained from my degree courses.

Ana
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Ana

College education plays an integral part in the overall development of the individual. Apart from the knowledge, it changes the perceptive as well as teaches endless life lessons!

Joanna
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Joanna

I believe that teens should stay in school until they are at least 18. If they want to go further with their education then there is uni, but until 18 they are not ready to get out and face the world on their own. I guess school is a little bit of a prep for that.

Amanda Yorton
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Amanda Yorton

When I went to college right out of high school, it seemed you needed a bachelor’s degree to get any kind of job. Then after getting my Psychology bachelor’s, I could even find a job that needed a degree. So I went back for another one, this one in Finance, and I did find a job that needed a degree but then after 9 months of working there, I became a SAHM.

Gladys Parker
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Gladys Parker

I agree with most of what you are saying up there. But it is slightly different for the adult who decided to go back to college (at the age of 40) to earn a degree in a field she was not allowed to as a younger person–Science-I loved it–but it was TOUGH–but I made it through. Unfortunately I never really got to switch jobs and ended up going back to bookkeeping–at least I know that I did it!!

Gervin Khan
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Gervin Khan

In my case, I am a degree college holder. Yes, it helps me to easily find job but the job that I got is far from what I have graduated. Frustrated at first but at the long run I’ve succeeded and learned that the most important part of my journey are those lessons that I’ve learned from my experience and not my degree.

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