Today, having a college degree is more important than ever. In fact, many students are going back to school to couple their bachelor’s degrees in order to advance in their careers. But at the same time, it does not necessarily mean what it used to. This should not diminish the value of post-secondary education, as it is vital to making one’s way in today’s tough business and economic climate.
The main problem is that many of us still abide by myths that may have once been truths, but really no longer apply to the college graduate of today. What follows are just a few common myths about college, dispelled.
Myth #1: College is too difficult.
In high school, most of us remember hearing horror stories as to how difficult college is. However, most people who graduate high school, if they apply themselves, will have no trouble getting a college degree.
This may not be the case, of course, if you wish to pursue a career as a doctor or lawyer, but general degrees are not as difficult to obtain as one might lead you to believe. Those who did well in high school, and have a diligent work ethic, should not have too much trouble with most undergraduate courses.
Myth #2: Majors matter.
Picking a major is one of the hardest things for most college students to do. They feel that the major that they pick will define how they spend the rest of their lives — workwise. This can be a huge dilemma for a young adult that really has no idea at 18.
The problem is that this is too often not the case. There are about as many different majors as there are personality types, and there are not enough niche job areas to employ everyone within their major field of study. This means that, unless you plan on pursuing graduate education, you should not expect to necessarily work within the field you studied. For many college graduates, one’s degree is simply a foot in the door for a decent professional job.
Myth #3: Student loan debt will be easily repaid.
We all hear the news stories about how wages in the United States have stagnated and there hasn’t been much real growth when accounting for inflation. This is a harsh reality that many graduates must face, as the costs of higher education have continued to rise, as real salaries, scholarship opportunities, and funding for post-secondary education has been on the decline.
This leads many to need student loans to supplement the costs of their education. Many graduate with significant student loan debt, not realizing just how large monthly payments will be, trying to eke out a living on a paltry entry-level salary. It is important to remember that a student loan is a loan against your future earnings — so make sure your future earnings can afford it.
Myth #4: The job market is ripe for college graduates.
This is a big myth in all but a few choice areas of study. More and more people are going to college these days, and the growth in the job market is not enough to provide good-paying jobs for all these graduates.
This means that many graduates will find themselves searching longer than they might expect for that first job, and as noted above, starting salaries are not as high as one might expect. It is essential to start networking in college, and try to get your foot in the door by internships or other opportunities.
Myth #5: You’ll do something relevant to your degree.
This isn’t to say that you will not have a satisfying career, but for most of us, we should accept that what we end up doing for a living may have nothing to do with what we studied in college. Most of us will go into the professional world in some capacity, and a rare few will do something that is relevant to their degree. The rest of us will have to be satisfied with the jobs available to us.
College is becoming more like a high school diploma — an expensive high school diploma. In order to get a decent job, a college degree is often preferred if not required. The myths associated with a college education held more true in days gone by. A college education is part and parcel to a successful career life, but it is helpful to go into the experience with a clear understanding of what to expect.
Readers, what are your thoughts on a college degree these days? Do these myths still apply? Is a college degree the new high school diploma?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.