Is There Still a Point to Getting a College Degree?


A graduating senior at Quinnipiac University, Fresnelson Charlestin is less than a month away from entering “the real world”; the proverbial stage of adulthood filled with entry-level jobs, crappy apartments and dry cleaning your one good suit over and over for every business dinner. It’s the anticipated struggle of every young grad out there.

 “If people see a young person these days, they automatically ask what college they go to, what’s their major or when they’re graduating…it’s expected” says the 21-year-old political science major.

Charlestin believes such emphasis on college has become a “cultural thing” associated with American life. “Its seen as, not bad, but just different if you don’t go to college after high school.”

 It may be a norm, maybe even a subdivision of the American dream, but as of late, America’s teens are not buying it—literally. 

In October 2012, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 66.2% of high school graduates were enrolled in a college or university. This is a dip from the reported 68.3% in 2011 and coincides with the increasing unemployment rate among recent grads. Those with a bachelor degree who are unemployed in America reached 12.6% as of 2011. These stats, combined with staggering student loans and a lack luster economy, are not exactly attractive qualities for grads. So, it begs the question, why attend college at all?

A recent USA Today story examined that very question,  citing young entrepreneurs who skipped the seemingly rite of passage glamorized by Old School and Animal House in favor of forming a counterculture. They’ve started businesses, taken apprenticeships and participated in pre-professional programs to get a leg up on the competition.

But don't go reaching for withdrawal papers just yet, collegiettes! Contrary to those routes, Kelly Fincham, Assistant Professor of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations at Hofstra University, reminds students that the success rate of college dropouts deviates from the norm just as much as the group that attempts it. In such cases, she believes its more a result of circumstances.

"Some people clearly succeed without going to college, but nearly every article I’ve read about such success stories shows that they have the kind of self-starter skills that are exceptional,” explains Fincham. “Many of them have dropped out of Ivy League colleges and the connections made at these institutions are invaluable to their future careers."

In other words, the so-called “successful dropouts” were not people who weren’t academic; they just saw the vision of their idea or knew the right people earlier than their classmates, a testament to work ethic and networking.

And, oddly enough, if you don’t have a vision in mind yet or need to practice networking, where can you best hone these skills? In collegeSo, as a lesson in time, utilize your school while you can to find your vision and improve on your craft. 

But, if you are truly determined to deviate from the norm, good luck, and beware the culture shock.