Why You Shouldn’t Go To University

I can already hear your comments.

What kind of moron writes a post called Why You Shouldn’t Go To University on a site called My University Money? This site is all about going to university, and all sorts of tips on maximizing your experience. It’s all about paying off student loans and RESPs and applying for scholarships and everything else for students and recent grads to maximize their finances. I know, I’m a special kind of stupid. Will I continue to keep writing, like some sort of chump? Or will I regroup and change the point of this post on the fly, hence negating my earlier faux pas?

Nope, I’m not gonna do it. Yes, I’ll admit that, for a lot of people, pursuing higher education is a smart idea. These people have a specific idea about what they want to do with their lives, so higher education becomes part of the path to get where they want to be. If that’s you, I don’t want to discourage your path at all. For people like that, university is a smart idea.

But, it’s clearly not for everyone. Let’s take a look at some reasons why you shouldn’t go to university.

You’re A Crappy Student

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In high school, only a small percentage really excel at their studies. There’s an equally small percentage which are really poor students. The rest of us fit somewhere in the middle. There are plenty of reasons why. Some students are distracted by problems at home, or school just bores them. It’s not that they’re stupid, they just aren’t good students. Others would rather chase the ladies (or fellas, depending on a few things) or play sports.

If you’re one of those people who struggles at school, I’m not sure why you’d immediately sign up for more schooling. There are so many students who are pushed into college by overbearing parents, teachers and career counselors who shouldn’t really be going.

I’m a great example. When I hit 18, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. All I knew is that I was sick of school and learning. I wanted to go out and earn some money. So I started working overnights at a supermarket, which was one of the highest paying jobs I could find and still stay indoors. If I would have listened to my teachers, I would have gone onto further schooling, where I would have undoubtedly dropped out.

Further schooling should only be a path to get where you want to be. If you’re going to find yourself, or to experience being an adult, or for any reason besides getting an education in a specific field, I’d strongly suggest an alternative route. Getting your first full time job can be a learning experience without dropping thousands beforehand.

It’s Really Expensive

There are approximately 3,284 articles in the personal finance blog-o-net whining about how much tuition costs. The fact is, with university presented as the only ticket towards getting a decent paying job, costs are only going to go up. If you’re sure about what you want to do, then paying tuition is simply a cost you have to endure.

But what about all those people who go and take degrees that are less useful, like general studies or fine arts degrees? What’s the point of them paying expensive tuition? So they can have the experience of drinking too much at college parties?

Crippling student loan debt is a pretty steep price to pay for a degree that does next to nothing to improve a graduate’s employability. There are thousands of graduates who had to wait until after graduation before they realized their degree qualified them for nothing more than serving coffee.

Yes, people who get so-called useless degrees can throw off the shackles of their self-imposed handicap and get a decent job. But why put yourself in a bad position right from the get-g0? Why make life harder than you have to, unless you’re one of those weird gluttons for punishment (Sexy!).

A University Degree Doesn’t Equal Success

Yes, I know there are all sorts of studies that say university graduates make more than their lesser educated peers. I won’t dispute the results of the studies. Rather, let’s look at the people involved.

Generally speaking, if you’re an ambitious person, you’re going to pursue further education. You want a career that both challenges you and pays well. The path to that type of career generally takes you through some sort of further schooling. So is because of schooling that ambitious people make more than average? Or is because they’re ambitious? It’s the whole chicken/egg argument.

Career Paths Change. Sometimes Quickly.

I know a guy who has a fine arts degree. He took a few years and worked, eventually going back to university to get his teaching credentials. What’s he doing now? He’s a manager at a grocery store. For whatever reason, he decided not to go into his chosen profession. [Editors Note: Some days managing a grocery store looks pretty good]

How many people do you know who have changed their careers, just a short time after graduation? Even the best laid plans have a way of changing. Again, to use myself as an example, I was convinced I was going to become a stockbroker. I started taking the courses I would need to need to make this happen, along with spending some time with people already in the industry. I discovered fairly quickly that success in the financial industry is more dependent on your sales skills than your investment knowledge. So I abandoned that path. Total out of pocket costs? Around $900. You’d barely open a door at university for that amount.

I don’t hate all things associated with further schooling. I just think it’s about time we stop with our views that it’s the only way to accomplish all the things we want in life. Life is a journey with many potential paths. No one path is right for everyone.

 Nelson Smith once made his own dinner, all the way from scratch. He consistently smells like sour cabbage. He has a blog called Financial Uproar and occasionally makes funny jokes over on Twitter.

 

25 Comments

  1. maria@moneyprinciple

    I started reading spoiling for a good fight (with arguments). Then ended up agreeing with you on all points. Your title is misleading, though – it is not ‘you’ but some people. I was never like that – studying is my thing. Now I am learning the rest of life.

  2. krantcents

    I agree that not all people should go to college, but I would not want to screen the applicants. It is a tough decision, but desire should be the first requirement. A compelling reason to succeed is part of any decision.

  3. Melissa@PersonalFinanceJourney

    I used to teach, and I saw way too many students that were there because their parents told them to go or they needed to stay on their parents’ insurance. They would come to class every day, but they never did any work, and they often didn’t care if they failed. You make good points in this post.

  4. Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

    Awesome line “I don’t hate all things associated with further schooling. I just think it’s about time we stop with our views that it’s the only way to accomplish all the things we want in life. Life is a journey with many potential paths. No one path is right for everyone. ” I agree. There is more than one path. I myself did not go the typical journey. I actually started working full time first while on a college wait list and then learned what I really wanted to do and where my strengths lied. Then I went back to school at night while working full time. It was hard work but I am much more successful than I would have been since I have work experience I wouldn’t have had the other way.

  5. JP @ Novel Investor

    Great points. To often college is viewed as the end all be all for success. I’m all for higher learning but it’s simply not a prerequisite for success in life.

  6. femmefrugality

    Couldn’t agree with you more! I put off my education for a while because I had no way to pay for it. And I knew in my field I wasn’t going to come out making enough money to pay ridiculously large loans. Now I’m doing it without any loans. Anxiety free.
    Oh, and in a lot of places, I bet that grocery store manager makes more than a teacher would, anyways.

  7. Aaron Hung

    Yeah I thought that graduating college would get you a good job and set for life, am I so wrong. There’s so much more than that.

  8. Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think

    I just read a few disturbing stats about student loans in Kiplinger magazine. They were so upsetting I took a picture of them and texted it the photo to my friend. I think it’s worth sharing here. So…here goes.

    “By 2014, 15% of 2012 grads will walk away from their loans. Only 40% of all loans are being repaid. With joblessness for 20 to 24 year-olds around 14% – 9% even for college grads – that will only get worse. At the same time, loan volume is climbing, expected to rise 10% in 2012.”

    This information is particularly unsettling when you have so many people going to and going back to school who shouldn’t. Who’s gonna foot the bill for all that unpaid debt?!

  9. Teacher Man

    Probably the same people that footed the bill when people bought houses that were too big, and banks bought derivatives that were too large… Yay! Ron Paul makes more and more sense to me on a daily basis… and I’m an Obama fan!

  10. Teacher Man

    This is the sort of real experience that youth need though, not hiding behind philosophy courses until they are forced to confront the world (holding a sizeable student loan to boot!).

  11. Teacher Man

    I definitely agree KC, but applicants should begin to screen themselves. Desire to learn is admirable, but you don’t have to go to university or college to learn about something your interested in (one might argue it’s not even a very good way).

  12. Teacher Man

    Nelson has this effect on people Maria! You have to brace yourself at first, and then you strangely end up nodding your head…

  13. Teacher Man

    If you calculate in the opportunity cost of five years of education (150 credit hours for my degree), and the real cost of tuition, it takes a long time to make up the difference on a teacher’s wages. If you factor in a person investing all of that original advantage, it is almost impossible.

  14. B

    Hi

    You make a very valid point with university studying.

    I guess the point of going to university, apart from learning useless stuff (like what you have mentioned in your post) is to network with one another and make plenty of friends from the range of your comfortablity. I would say that overall its much more than just the technical aspect of learning.

    B

  15. Teacher Man

    We’re on the same page there B.

  16. The Jenny Pincher

    I think one of the hardest things is that some people think they have to decide their future right after high school when post people have no clue what they want to do. Many people just go to college because it’s expected of them by family members, it’s what their friends are doing or it just seems like the next logical step, even when it’s not for the reasons you bring up in this post.

    I was listening to the radio the other day and they were talking about a program where students were a part of a program to become entrepreneurs instead of going to college, They were given funds to pursue a product or service they believe will help change the world. I found that very interesting (in a good way) because young entreprenuership is definitely not something commonly encouraged today.

  17. Barb Friedberg

    I believe technical schools and vocational insitutions don’t get enough press. AFter all, electricians, plumbers, HVAC, and other trade occupations are recession and out sourcing proof and very suitable for the right person.

  18. Amanda L Grossman

    I am a lover of learning! I came out with approximately $36,000 in debt and considered it a fantastic investment. But you are right–it is not for everyone. I am glad I made the right decision.

  19. Teacher Man

    I love learning as well, but to be honest, I’ve found that when I can self-direct my own learning by reading what I want, and talking to really smart people on my own terms (instead of paying thousands of dollars to do it) I learn at a far more efficient rate, and am much more motivated!

  20. Teacher Man

    Could not agree more Barb. There is a massive deficit of these guys all over Canada, I know that much.

  21. Teacher Man

    Entrepreneurship isn’t encouraged, yet it’s “easier” (more accessible) than ever before in this global economy, and our national economy needs small entreprenurship more than ever as well. The system is busted big time. If we try to “out-China” China, we will continue to lose, plain and simple.

  22. Squirrelers

    Good post. I agree with your assertinon that career paths can change quickly, which is why it’s important to be flexible and adaptable. Having said that, you also make a good point about choosing the right degree – why make it harder on oneself from the beginning by choosing a low-opportunity major?

  23. Teacher Man

    This is a lesson I really preach to high-school students these days!

  24. Emma Tameside

    This article is fantastic. I’ll be passing it on to my sister who’s currently under-going the Clearing 2012 process for University. She hasn’t secured a placement yet, so this will definitely be a good read for her!

    I’ve been trying to convince her to take a gap year to really work out what she wants to do. She seems pretty adamant though that University is for her, and seems to have a pretty concrete path.

  25. Teacher Man

    Glad we could help Emma!

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