How to Stop Your College Dream From Becoming a Nightmare: 3 Questions Every College Student Must Answer to Avoid a Lifetime of Struggle
Going to college may be one of the best life and career decisions you’ll ever make. It also might be the worst.
I strongly endorse higher education. I believe we should never stop learning, even after graduation. However, young people today are having to make some of the most important decisions of their lives at a time when they are least prepared to do so.
As you read ahead, take note this blog is being written from a purely financial standpoint.
With the price of tuition increasing every year and the job market being as volatile as it is, college is no longer the only road to success. In fact, for many it’s the road to unhappiness, financial struggle, and depression.
I can’t tell you how many friends I have with college degrees who are resentful, frustrated, and broke. Many have been sold on the idea that getting any college degree is a sure bet for career success. But in a time of economic uncertainty, a college degree doesn’t guarantee job safety any more than not having a degree will.
Although college is important, it is not all things to all people or a guaranteed roadmap to success.
To help curb the rising epidemic of college graduates who can’t find jobs in their fields, or make ends meet even if they can, I’ve listed three of my best pieces of advice below to help high schoolers and current college students make the best career decisions possible so they can hopefully avoid a lifetime of struggle that so many others have already fallen into.
Here Are The 3 Questions Every College Student Must Answer to Avoid a Lifetime of Struggle:
1. Is my degree marketable? Lots of young people going to college ask the question “What do I want to do?” rather than asking the question “What is marketable and in demand?”
While its important to do something you enjoy, what you enjoy isn’t always a skill that is in demand. Consumers and companies alike pay for value. You provide value (and make a living) when you can find out the needs of the marketplace and then meet those needs. Those needs are constantly changing and they may or may not have anything to do with the degree you earned in college.
Before dumping thousands of dollars and 4-6 years of your life into a college education, ask yourself this question:
“Is my degree marketable? Is there currently demand for that skill set and expertise, and will there still be demand for it in 5-10 years?”
2. Does the salary of the job I’ll qualify for justify the cost of the degree? I know several good, honest, hard-working people who have their degree, yet they’re buried under a mountain of student loan debt. They owe $50,000-$100,000+ at varying interest rates, yet they work jobs that pay far under the national average. This sucks. It’s heartbreaking and its probably going to take them a while to climb out of that pit. But its reality.
Before going to college have a plan. Know how much money you are borrowing (and at which interest rate), how long it’ll take you to pay off that debt, and exactly what your monthly payments will be. To walk into such massive financial exposure without first calculating the cost is just plain ignorant.
According to a 2014 article by Kyle McCarthy of the Huffington Post, ‘7 million students (out of 40 million who have student loan debt) have had their credit trashed as a result of their student loans and can have 25 percent in penalties added onto their total student loan debts. To add insult to injury, about 60 percent of employers run credit checks on applicants before hiring or promoting, making it close to impossible for millions to get a higher paying job to actually repay these debts.’
Does the lifetime value of your degree justify it’s cost? How long will it take you to pay off?
3. Do I need a degree to succeed at the job or career I want to have?
Some careers require you to have a college degree while others don’t. For example, if you’re going to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or something that requires specialized skills and certifications, then you definitely need to get a degree in that field of study.
However, if you’re not going into a field of study that requires the degree then you need to honestly ask yourself if it’ll be in your best interest to invest the time and money required to get one.
For example, if you are a graphic artist, web designer, photographer, or are of some other trade, more education can definitely help your career, but it isn’t always necessary in order to do well.
As a business owner who hires these types of individuals, I can tell you in all honesty I don’t care if they have a degree or not and I almost never check. I look at their portfolios, the end results they can produce, to determine if that individual can get me the results I want (that’s me paying for the value someone else can give me- read my first point again for more on this).
While there are many questions to consider and the big picture is obviously much larger than this post, these are just a few key questions you need to ask and take very seriously so that your college dreams don’t end up turning into a life-long nightmare.
Question: Is a college degree vital to career success? Why or why not? I want your feedback. Comment below.