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Thoughts On What I Have Learned From College

chin98edwin profile image chin98edwin Updated on ・4 min read

A preface question: How much have you learnt from college or through some other traditional education means and to what extent do you find them useful today?

Let me start with my story.

Diploma

I started to learn coding on my own in high school. In diploma, I get to properly learn a few things and they help solidified my basics. I also get to expand my network by making new friends. Great. I was taught some algorithmic thinking, object-oriented programming, HTML & database basics. My self learning was focused on React, React Native, NodeJS, Firebase, npm, things like that.

There was also an internship but none of the things I learnt so far were relevant to the job scope. I managed to secure my internship position as an iOS software developer probably thanks to my exposure in mobile app development with React Native.

Degree

Moving on to degree, not so great. I didn't pick up as much useful skills as before, assignments were stacking up and there was less time to socialize.

At the same time, I was working part time as a React Native developer for a company. I was exposed to some paid developer tools/APIs that I could not have learn by myself or through college. There was also once I was tasked to add a new feature to a nearly-complete app and straight deploy it to Play Store and App Store. It was a small one tho.

Then there's another internship. Guess what? Nothing I learnt in college were relevant to this one either. I worked as a web developer (using React and ASP.NET) this time.

The Present

This is where I am right now. With two more semesters to go. There's a subject called Agile Development, where we learn how to manage the way we manage things and structure the way we structure things... literally anything but to code with agility. I've been working in three different environments at this point of time and needless to say, I already know how messed up "agile" is. (Disclaimer: it is has its fair share of pros and cons, but most companies today are overhyping it and have mistaken/twisted its concept)

There's also a Final Year Project. None of the things learnt in college were useful enough, my topic was rejected, and the (self-taught) development stack that I proposed for my topic was said to be too simple. Wait, what? So I was never taught anything powerful enough to build a complete and working project, but now I'm suddenly expected to prove what I've learnt by building a flying unicorn and not even my self-taught skills are enough?

What the meow!

Nyan Cat Animation

Doubts

I'm having very serious doubts. The only thing I feel like I've learnt in degree is time management and nothing more. Some of my friends are telling me that I should be thankful that my parents can afford to get me into college and I understand that. But at the same time I'm starting have some slight regrets. I could've spared my parents' money. I could've started working or focus on my side projects and make them a thing or do something useful instead of building some superficial unicorn app that's heavily valued from an academic perspective but may not have any value to the real world.

I studied degree for three reasons:

  1. I thought it was the norm after graduating from high school (at least in where I live)
  2. (because of #1) I thought I could improve myself as a developer and feel more secure... πŸ˜‚
  3. I was afraid of disappointing my parents

I'm from an Asian family by the way. My parents never said anything unpleasant to me or forced me, but I know deep down they really want me to get good education, proper certification and have a decent job because they care for me. It would definitely worry them if I suddenly acted different from everyone else. But as time passes I start to realize that this type of certifications are really not for everyone. Most of these certifications just pave way for individual to work for someone else (eg: office work). Just like how a lot of people about my parents' age are living.

It didn't feel like my confidence increased, nor did I feel more secure when I think about looking for jobs or paying bills. I'm now in that mentality where I'm just scraping by my courses, putting in as little effort as possible into my so called academics and reserving them for my own side projects that I'm certain will be useful to me in the future. There's still a chance they might fail but at least I've tried. I'd rather be happy living a simple life than to earn a boatload of money but living in constant unhappiness.

What Can You Take Away from My Story?

People may tell you to at least get a degree, but I ask you to think properly if it's really what you need and if it's going to add value to your future. There are even articles about Elon Musk saying degree certifications are not necessary.

It's up to you to decide whether to further your studies or to step out and start working early or do your own things and generate revenue from it. If what you plan to do really needs some sort of certification then by all means go for it, but if you want to get a certification for your someone else's sake or just to feel more secure, then I suggest you to reconsider it.

After all, life is like driving a car. People can give you directions out of kindness, some can get mad at you for not listening to them, but at the end of the day you're the one in control of the car and if there's a crash, no one is going to be responsible for it except you.

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chin98edwin

@chin98edwin

A cat that loves to code

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