About College: The parts that are more valuable than the degree



As tuition prices sky-rocket a lot of people have started asking if college degrees are worth the money. In some ways they are, but the degree itself doesn’t mean much unless you’re becoming a doctor or a lawyer. It’s a piece of paper, a line item on your resume, that over half of the other applicants have on their’s as well.

In my opinion, college isn’t really about the degree. Sure it’s the end goal, you definitely want to get it if you start it, but it’s not the most valuable part. The value of college comes in other activities only available on a college campus. And I’m not talking about a social life. I’m not taking about taking another four years before hitting the real world. I’m talking about the resume items colleges offer.

My resume was beautiful leaving college, at least, beautiful for a kid in her early twenties who had never had a full-time job before. That wasn’t the focus though, you didn’t see the part-time work at the fro-yo place, you saw list of college activities and courses that counted as real world experience.

I did layout for the campus news paper for three years, I learned all the design programming that major companies use, I had tight deadlines, and I had a portfolio from it. I was web editor for the campus literary magazine. I did their social media and I designed their website. I learned how to design and run sites on WordPress.org along with WordPress.com. I was able to take unpaid internships and make them count for college credits, so I could buffer the fact that I wasn’t being paid. I did them for multiple types of companies so I could figure out exactly what I wanted to do.

College was extremely helpful for me. I wouldn’t be able to have my job or career path without it, but I don’t think that it has that much to do with my degree. It has much more to do with how I choose to spend my time while I was there getting that degree. If you do the bare minimum to get that piece of paper, that and a line on your resume is all you’ll have.

Is college worth it? Some of that has to do with the type of degree, but whether your college experience will be worth it is completely up to you. So if you’re a college student or a high school student, take this post to heart. Bulk up your schedule and commit to clubs, publications, or organizations. Take any lead that you think will look good towards the kind of position you want. Don’t let free leadership positions pass you by. They’re big, they’re important, and they can help land you a good job after graduation. That’s why you went to college after all.

7 thoughts on “About College: The parts that are more valuable than the degree

  1. live_a_life_less_ordinary says:

    As you probably remember, I’m a teacher, so I definitely needed a degree for my job, and it’s also my job to encourage students to be ready for college (although I also recognize that not everyone has to go to college, and you can build a perfectly valuable life without a college degree – but that’s a different discussion).

    I agree with you… there was much value in my college education besides just the degree and what happened in the classroom. Everyone’s experience is different, of course. For me, I was coming from a very sheltered background where I spent most of my time keeping to myself, and I didn’t really have friends until midway through high school. I didn’t understand how the world worked. I didn’t even know why I was going to college… for me, it was mostly just along the lines of I’m one of the top students in my class, school is what I’m good at, and people with my kind of grades go to four-year universities right after high school.

    I only sent four applications: a very prestigious private university that I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway; a state school that I was pretty sure I’d get into in a town I was familiar with because I had relatives there; and two other public schools I didn’t know much about but had heard good things about. The elite private school I didn’t get into. The more prestigious of those last two was the only one to offer me a scholarship for my grades, and I really liked the feel of the campus when I visited there, so that’s where I went.

    I may as well just name names… the four schools I’m referring to here, in order, are Stanford, Chico State, Cal Poly, and UC Davis. I also feel like I chose those because of distance: they were all far enough away from home to feel like I wasn’t at home anymore, but close enough to go home on weekends if I needed to.

    Had I done my research on Davis and the UC Davis campus before going there, I might not have ended up there, but the longer I was there, it really grew on me. It’s a very unique and unusual place; I think I’ve blogged on that topic before (let me find it… here it is https://highwaypi.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/exit-127-a-very-unique-place/) Being away from home and forced to learn to live on my own was good for me in the long run. I made some lifelong friendships in my freshman dorm, and I learned a lot about myself. I had more of an exposure to people from other cultures, but after I started getting involved with church groups, I also had a place where I belonged, in a way that has never been replicated since. I think also the fact that it was the mid-late-1990s shaped my experience, just because that was such an interesting time to be a college student. Technology and the Internet were just starting to take over normal life, but they served more as a novelty than a crucial part of life.

    So… yes, you’re right. Going to college is a good experience for more than just a degree. Thank you for sharing. (Where did you go? I don’t remember.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • annadownsouth says:

      I went to Guilford College here in North Carolina. It was a very unique place too, a different world from what I was used to. It’s a smaller private college and it has its own culture, that’s for sure. And I agree that degrees are important, but the degree itself doesn’t hold the value of (the super high) tuition for a lot of fields (though in teaching it is certainly needed!) I feel like too often people do the bare minimum in college to get the degree then end up a little loss when looking for a job because so many people have a degree these days. There is so much more to school! I’m glad you agree, it’s really an experience of its own, and a great time to pick up skills that can suit you later in life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • live_a_life_less_ordinary says:

        I’ve stayed connected to UC Davis more than a lot of people I know. I still go back for a lot of football and basketball games, and for the annual open house event (Picnic Day – I’ve only missed two Picnic Days since 1995, my freshman year). I live about 30 miles away, so I also have friends from my life currently who live in Davis. When I’m in Davis with time to kill, I often find myself driving around reminiscing and blasting 90s music. It’s a tricky place to be… sometimes I’ve thought about moving back, because I had such happy memories there, but I know that’s a bad idea… not only because of the way I wouldn’t fit in with Davis’ politics, not only because it’s expensive, but primarily because the world has moved on and it isn’t the 90s anymore, and most of what I enjoyed about Davis 20 years ago isn’t there anymore, or at least isn’t the same for someone my age in 2018.

        Liked by 1 person

      • annadownsouth says:

        Time is tricky that way. It’s good that you’ve at least found a way to hold onto all the good memories by visiting even if you can’t stay there long term. It’s always nice to be able to relive aspects of the past, it’s just when we try to completely recreate the past that we have problems.

        Liked by 1 person

      • live_a_life_less_ordinary says:

        A few years ago (spring of 2014, around the same time I started this blog because I know one of my first posts was about this experience), I was cleaning the garage, and I found a box containing every handwritten letter, birthday card, postcard, etc. that I received between 1994 and 2005. I read some of them, and after that I decided to attempt to track down an old pen pal from my first two years of college. That experience had some interesting parallels with some other things going on in life. A few months later, I started writing what I thought would be a short story about this experience, but over a period of several years it turned into a nonlinear novel (nonlinear because the narrative switches back and forth between the mid-1990s and 2014, plus one chapter of something that happened in 2006). I also tied into the story some memories of my friends from that time period (many of whom I’m still sporadically in touch with today in real life, and one whom I still see fairly often, most recently five days ago), and my story of coming to faith, which happened during that same period. I don’t know if I’m ever going to try to publish it, but it was a lot of fun to write. I told one of my friends that, to me, this story is my love letter to Davis in the 1990s combined with my resigned acceptance that those days are gone.

        If you ever want to read it, let me know. I love hearing what people who don’t know me very well think of my writing; it’s a different reaction from people who were there to see the real-life events that inspired it. And no pressure if you don’t have time to read something that some guy on the Internet sent you… haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      • annadownsouth says:

        I would love to read it! I don’t know when I’ll have time to, so it might be a month or two before I get around to it, but you can send it my way via email at ako1994@gmail.com !
        It sounds wonderful, especially as a writer myself. I think writing things down is one of the best ways to work through complicated thoughts. I always laugh that I don’t know what I think until I write it down.

        Liked by 1 person

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