Not Just a Piece of Paper

Lately, in light of the economy and difficulty in college graduates attaining jobs, there has been the question of whether college is worth it or not. People emphasize that you can learn skills without getting a “piece of paper” to prove it. Plus, in today’s world, the attention is back on experience: so even if you do have a college degree, your chances of getting the job you want get slimmer the fresher you are out of college. Even if you have been out of college for a while but have not yet jumped into your chosen field, you will still be relegated to “not enough experience”.

I’ll admit, some days it’s a frustrating, fruitless thought. To be honest, I’m doing well for my age, my experience level. I’m essentially assisting with managing a high-end landscaping installation company, and there’s all the stress, confidence, and proud feelings that go along with that. But I still have days where I am wondering why I’m not working as a writer, or in public relations, or as a social media manager. And every time I apply for a job, I think that Bachelor’s Degree must not mean anything at all.

However, never in those days have I actually regretted that degree.

I think college is like most things in life, it’s what you make it. I truly didn’t want to attend college when I stepped out of high school. I didn’t want to do school anymore. The busy work, the classes I didn’t care about, the homework, I didn’t want to do it anymore. It’d been thirteen years of schooling, and I’d had enough.

Neither of my parents graduated from college. They really wanted me to go, and with not much persuading on my part (and some ideas about what our community college in Stockton was like), I ended up attending Pacific Union College.

Do I still look at my bank account some months and curse my student loans? Sure. But then I just have to remember the people I met, the professors I interacted with, the classes that I absolutely, completely, to the bottom of my heart loved – and I scoff at the money. Hey, maybe I’ll be paying for my loans for another 5-10 years – but I got an education that I appreciate, that changed the way I think, that increased my intelligence, that gave me a better perspective on life. I learned to question, to criticize, to think, even more so than I had already cultivated for myself over the years.

There was Introduction to Political Thought, where I sat in a classroom with 10 other students and discussed political readings and related them to current events. There was pop culture, which included watching popular movies, discussing the meanings of popular film, novels, and events between the 1900s to the 1970s, and I was able to write thoughtful papers about issues I hadn’t been able to explore for a class before, and enjoyed myself doing it. There was Creative Nonfiction, where I learned to find my voice and critique others’ writing in a way I hadn’t experienced before. There was Anthropology, where I learned to think about race, gender, and these other societal constructs that affect culture and people throughout the world. And of course, there were my major classes, where I learned from some really amazing professors about communication with bites of psychology and sociology in the mix. I learned about public relations, writing for different audiences, interpersonal and group communication and how it breaks down, and the list goes on. Ultimately, I went to college, and I learned. That’s something that can never be taken away from me, and that perspective is something that continues my growth and learning when I’m years from the experiences I had.

Sure, college is expensive. Sometimes the piece of paper you receive at the end is a little disappointing after facing the job market for a few years and not being able to even attain an internship in your chosen field. Still, no regrets. It’s an experience you can never relive, and one you can never get from anywhere else.

Did you attend college? Do you have your own reasons for why or why you didn’t attend college? What were your favorite parts of college? What are the benefits of not attending college? Let me know in the comments! 

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3 thoughts on “Not Just a Piece of Paper

  1. Kelli Snedegar (@ksnedegar) says:

    Sam – I love this post!
    Sometimes I get frustrated that I’m not doing PR (or anything resembling what I want to be doing) right now, but I recognize that I’m in a pretty good gig all things considered.
    And I will never regret going to college. (Partially because my student loans are basically non-existent thanks to a great scholarship and having a single parent and a twin sister in college at the same time.) If it weren’t for college, I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends. I wouldn’t have joined PRSSA and gotten such great experience. I wouldn’t have met some truly wonderful professors that I still keep in touch with. Sometimes I wonder what the point of having my Journalism/PR degree is if I’m not using it. But the experience it took to get it? That’s worth it.

    Like

  2. breezyk says:

    Totally agree- I’ll be paying off my student loans for years but I wouldn’t trade my degrees for the world. The people I met, connections I made, what I learned about myself- all so worth it.

    Like

  3. Charleen says:

    I’m torn. I loved college. Absolutely loved it. And I wish I could go back (although that becomes less and less likely every day).

    But… it didn’t really have much of an impact on where I am now, and I’m not just talking about the piece of paper. I keep in touch with very few of my friends from those years. I married my high school boyfriend, which I probably would have done either way (although I guess you could argue that we might not have stayed together if we’d not spent those years apart… I mean, who knows how those years would have been different or what I’d been doing were I not in college). It was a nice transition period for growing up, but that also would have happened regardless of the circumstance.

    So… do I regret going to college? No… but I can’t help wondering how my life might be different if I hadn’t.

    Like

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