Teach your child…A College Degree Does Not Guarantee Your Future

Graduation high school –> go to college –> get a good job


That is the pattern many young people are taught today. It’s the pattern many young people have been taught for a few generations now. It’s instilled in children by parents, reinforced by the schools and solidified by well meaning relatives who begin to ask teenages, “So where are you going to college?”

The assumption is usually that one IS going to college. The question is rarely, “Are you planning to go to college,” but one of “WHERE are you planning to go to college.”

The going to college part is assumed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking college. I attended one. I graduated. And I did get a good job within 6 months after that, making more than most of my peers. So I do not speak out of bitterness towards a bad college experience.

Rather, I speak out of a concern for the overemphasis that is put on the piece of paper that one receives after completing all the required coursework, over and above the skills and knowledge actually obtained and the people met and connections made.

Your child needs to understand, and maybe you need to understand, that a college degree does not guarantee their future.

If the goal is to complete college for the sake of completing college and having a degree, some degree, any degree really, that the whole point of education is being missed.

suit and tieLet me offer a disclaimer here. There are some colleges whose name carry a significant reputation, and through which doors are opened wide – I attended one such school. I will be the first one to say, I got the job I go and made the salary I made as a 22-year-old new college graduate because of the school name on my diploma.


But even in such a scenario, here is what needs to be understood; the degree may OPEN doors, but if your child wants to do more than coast once in a job or career, there must be actual knowledge and skill that makes them a valuable employee. Degree or not, pedigree or not, most employers want TALENT, not prima donnas. Any advantage gained by a fancy degree can be quickly lost if that degree alone is what your child is trusting in for a stellar career.

I went to college like most, because I was told from the time I could understand that I was going to go to college after high school. It was an expectation. It was a “where” question, never an “if.” I also played soccer for the purpose of getting into the school of my choice. It worked. I went. And I had absolutely no vision for making the most of my time there. I did fine in my coursework, received a degree, got a high paying job, and realized that I didn’t even know what my marketable skills where.

During my four years I made no effort to get to know my professors and glean wisdom and counsel from people in fields in which I had interests. During my four years I failed to invest time and energy into classmates in a way that would align us both as allies as we entered the work world. During my four years I was too busy ensuring I covered all of the course requirements that I didn’t venture far beyond those requirements to test my skills and interests and see what direction I wanted to pursue after I graduated.

In short, I was a dumb 18, 19, 20, 21 year old kid who missed out on so much of what University could have provided.

Don’t let your child have a similar experience. Teach your child that the piece of paper is not the goal. That piece of paper is a byproduct of a greater goal – knowledge and relationships.

Now, it is rarely wise to make life choices based on outlying statistics and anecdotes, so I am not advocated that your child drop out of college for the sake of dropping out, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that many have succeeded greatly without that coveted framed paper.

The Facebook story is rather ubiquitous by now, but Mark Zuckerberg and some of his cofounders dropped out of Harvard to start Facebook. They aren’t lacking for lack of a Harvard Degree.

The brilliant Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of college as founder of Theranos and is the youngest self-made woman billionaire.

JetBlue, Code Academy, Tumblr, DropBox, Blogger, WordPress and more were all started by drop outs.

The goals isn’t to drop out of school for bragging rights. The goal is to pursue education and if a formal college setting is the best place to do that for your child, then pursue it full steam ahead. But if they think finishing and holding that diploma is going to guarantee them future success, they are highly mistaken about how our current world and economy works.

Developing skills that are irreplaceable. Always be learning and growing. Pursuing passions that are both strengths AND meet a need or desire in the marketplace. Persistence. Reliability. Innovation.

These are the traits that will increase your child’s change of a career success. There is still no guarantee in life, but employers want skills, not pedigree. The marketplace wants products and services, not entitlement mentalities. Become an irreplaceable employee or an innovative business person and degree or not, your child will have a fighting change of finding a fulfilling career.

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