Not Another “Don’t Go To College” Post

Getting a college loan to go to school could be the best investment of your life. A degree can lead to a career, meaningful connections or a new way of thinking you would have been otherwise not exposed to. Also, degree holders earn more over their lifetimes on average than non degree holders, although that gap is closing. 

It can also be the worst. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 25.5 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed, and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau says those grads are burdened with an average debt of $27,000 (up from $15,000 in 2000). Speaking from personal experience, that debt can be crushing when trying to find a job. 

There are literally hundreds of articles on the Internet about why going to college in this economy is a bad idea. I don’t think most of them are useful. Instead, I think prospective students need to take a careful and thoughtful approach to whether college is right for them. I’ve included a couple of things to consider below, hopefully they will be helpful.

Go to college if:

You Have a Clear Objective

Too many college students follow this formula:

  1. Get into college
  2. Pick a degree that sounds interesting
  3. Graduate
  4. Try to find a job

It doesn’t work, and it’s a major reason why students graduate with tens (hundreds in some cases) of thousands of dollars in debt without a job.

A much better approach is to come up with a plan that makes your degree actionable. For example, a small business owner may get an MBA to better understand how to run their business, a history professor may get a Ph. D in European History to teach at a state university, ect.

Don’t get a degree in Business Administration because the coursework is easy, and don’t get a degree in physics because it sounds like it will get you a job. Find a degree that will advance you in a career that you want, or at least find out how you can make your degree get you a job. Become a regular in your university’s career center until you know and can take action on how your degree will advance your career.

Your Ideal Job Require a Degree

I got my degree in public relations because most PR/Marketing agencies require a bachelor’s degree of their entry-level job candidates in PR, English, Journalism or a related field. Jobs requiring knowledge of the hard sciences (doctors, chemists, ect.) fall under this as well.

Many jobs, however, value relevant experience over college degrees enough that having a bachelor’s is not important. When starting out on a career, it may be worthwhile to see what relevant experience can be obtained without having any advanced education. Some careers that most would normally think require degrees, such as app developers/software engineers, actually value experience over a formal education. (If you make meaningful contributions to an open-source project on GitHub, that’s a major gold star on your resume that will beat out most degrees).

 You Are a Self Starter

If you do the above, you are likely already a self-starter. But I put this in here because nobody comes to you as a recent graduate and says “great job with your degree, please interview at my company.” In fact, job hunters are often surprised to see that a college degree is just one of many requirements to get an interview. Heck, sometimes a degree isn’t even mentioned.

Those who succeed after college are self starters, people who take action when presented with an issue before the issue becomes a problem. They identify where they want to go, find out how to get there, then take action until they get there.

You have tons of scholarship money

If you have a free ride to college, you should go. In fact, I say that if you’re going to make it out of college with less than $5,000 in loans, it’s worth it. Even with an unsubsidized loan, it’s possible to pay off within 5 years by doubling what you pay on your principal.

Every single cliche filled article on why college is great (the people you meet, the memories you make, the personal growth you experience, ect.) are true, but those experiences come at a cost. Go to college with a good plan, and don’t get killed by debt.

So far

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it so far, but I think it bears repeating: this term is finally in full swing.

With one week down, I think I have a pretty good feel for how my classes work this term. And to top it off, I’m on top of all my classes. And by on top, I mean taking charge of projects and leading discussions. It’s a pretty good feeling, especially since some of the projects I’m doing can be used in my portfolio.

I’m involved in PRSSA this term, and I really don’t know what to say about it. It’s kind of odd not having a leadership position or having the same amount of knowledge about the group as I had with ISA. Sometimes, I wish I could revert back to ISA because I’m more comfortable there, but I know that going back would be counterintuitive. Besides, there are many opportunities for me to grow as a professional in PRSSA that I’d be foolish if I didn’t go.

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Back to School special

Usually, there is such a stark contrast between summer/winter/spring break for me that the transition between the two has been violently turbulent. This term, however, the transition from summer break to fall term has been soft and relatively peaceful.

I guess it’s because I’ve had time to let loose before school started. Between working for ODF and starting fall term, I had a month to kill, and I feel like I really killed it. Between football games, trips to Vancouver (BC!) and hanging out with my friends, I’ve found myself back in the UO/Eugene niche that I’d abandon for 2 months.

And just in time too. With classes starting tomorrow, I need to stay on top of my game in terms of attentiveness and preparation. Where in years past, a sense of restlessness kept getting in the way of me performing to my potential level of excellence, I took my time during break to indulge in that restlessness in order to better focus on my school work and my future career. I now feel more focused and prepared for this year than I’ve ever felt for any school year, and I feel that I need that now more than I ever have.

ISO: An amazing experience

It’s Wednesday, and ISO is practically finished. I had been waiting for two years to be an ISO leader (because I kept moving in my apartment too late), but I’m so glad that I was able to be a leader. I was also fortunate to be paired up with group leaders that were easy to get along with.

Normally, I complain incessently when I have to wake up early mornings in order to be somewhere, but for ISO, it was worth every sleepless moment. There were times when I felt that we were present as ISO leaders for no reason at all, but even when we weren’t needed, I still enjoyed myself.

There was a lot of time for fun. Between the Social Butterfly dance, the picnic, and the various house parties, I was able to enjoy myself more than I normally do.

My ISO group, group 14!

My ISO group, group 14!

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ISO training ends and the true ISO begins

So who would have figured that after telling two of my friends that I was too valuable of an ISO leader to be paired with them, I wind up leading a group with them?

A useful piece of info about my partner on her nametag. Found out she was in my group after telling her that we couldn't possibly be in the same one.

A useful piece of info about my partner on her name tag. Found out she was in my group after telling her that we couldn't possibly be in a group together.

Today, one of our most respected international affairs faculty members led an excellent session on leadership. I was fortunate enough to be given the task of observing a group of ISO leaders complete a project, taking notes on how they performed as leaders. It was an amazing eye opening experience, and I learned a lot about leadership. I’ll probably write more about what I learned later.

Anyway, training ended today and we received our shirts, which are bright red with silver trim. We also signed up for our individual tasks in addition to leading a group of international students.

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Facebook Chat

Man, I used to really think facebook chat was just too creepy to ever ‘make it’ as a facebook platform, but after chatting with a couple of people who are in various places around the world, I see myself using it on an almost daily basis. I don’t log onto AIM every day, but I’m a facebook whore who happens to use it a lot.


International Week and Night is finally finished. It was extremely stressful running the event, but even though I’m glad the work load is finished, I can’t help but feel like a part of me is now gone. No more late Wednesday evenings or early morning chalking.

Last night’s turnout was amazing. For a while, I doubted that anyone would show up, but we pulled through and got a ton of people to come. I was down in the kitchen for most of the day and missed the show, but I was able to take part in the fashion show, so I was able to see the audience.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who came and helped out.

Things are really lovely here

It’s easy to lose track of how fortunate I am to be at school when I have homework piled up high and awaiting my attention. I was thinking the other day how bad I wanted everything to be over, to have graduated and finished college. I was sick of the workload and all my extracurriculars and wanted to be in the workforce and done with school.

It’s easy to loose sight of the fact that the real world throws so much more at people than our little micro-chasm we have at the UofO does. We are sheltered from any sort of real responsibility, save that of being diligent with our studies and paying rent. Where else can we spend a couple hours studying, a couple hours working with a student group, and a weekend hanging out with friends?

That’s not to say I’m not ready for things to be over completely. 75% of the time, my normal motivated self is ready to go out into the real world and get my hands dirty in an actual profession instead of just studying about it most the time, but on days where it seems I’m overwhelmed with work and can’t muster enough energy to get things done, I long for something else.