Opinion: Consider what education path is right for you

Courtesy of Tribune News Service

In the scope of one’s lifetime, the four years spent in college is a core life experience. Before going to college, students were forced to decide if they wanted to continue their education. This decision is paired with the need to pick a certain type of college. 

With the notable rise of online education classes and the accessibility of information, alternative forms of education are being recognized. The value and purpose of a four-year college is being questioned by both students and hiring professionals.

Many people choose their majors based on the amount of money they will make. According to a 2013 USA Today study, only 36% of the 1.2 million high school graduates polled chose a major that fit their interests. 32% majored in a subject that did not adhere to their passions. 

If you aren’t interested in what you are doing, it is hard to get promotions or stay motivated to work. People choosing majors this way overcrowd job markets and exacerbate the stereotype of someone working in a coffee shop because they can’t get a job with their degree. This stereotype is enhanced by the crippling debt faced by many college students.

As a college student who has changed his major multiple times, I feel the root of the problem is that students aren’t often given the ability to explore their options prior to going to college. Most academic subjects taught in primary schools don’t represent what people do in various occupations. 

It is a difficult decision to switch majors after finding what you want to do because of the high implicit and explicit costs of attending college for extra time. Staying in school longer also delays entrance into the workforce, placing an additional financial strain on students who study for more than eight semesters.  

A lot of people think there is one direct path to success in life; however, by following your own way, you can find more success. Just because someone isn’t following the popular four-year degree plan doesn't mean they aren't furthering their life and career.  

Traditional universities come with a high cost that community colleges, online colleges and trade schools don’t have. Student loans and housing costs are a serious hindrance to many college graduates and their families. 

Alternative education is more convenient for many people who have to pay for their own education. Online college teaches students the same information as in-person universities in the comfort of their own homes. Even if students can afford a four-year degree, the money spent towards college could instead be spent starting a business or exploring a passion.

There is also the ability to get more obscure degrees and learn more specific skills by taking classes online. Skillshare, Khan Academy and Coursera teach people all different types of skills they can apply to their own lives. As the rise of technology influences the workplace, the need for building skills increases and many people are left behind. These online alternatives quickly and affordably teach people skills that can be applied at their workplaces or as side-hustles.

A four-year college experience, such as a bachelor’s degree at USC, does have benefits that shouldn’t be ignored. There is a whole campus experience between each college that differs. Four-year universities have networking opportunities and student organizations, which are experiences that build your resume and connect you to people with shared interests while creating lifetime friends and memories.

If you are working in a creative student organization, you build your portfolio and work on improving your artistry. Bachelors degrees are also more measurable than self-taught learning and are required for many jobs

The debate over the utility of college is fairly subjective. Many people don’t fit the mold of a college student. College is a societal norm at this point, but that standard shouldn’t be only reason you attend college. 

The true utility of college should be determined by your interests on an individual level. If you know what you want to do in life and need to go to college, go to college. If you don’t know what you want to do, maybe take a year off or consider other options.


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