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Christian Vasquez
Christian Vasquez

Posted on

Is College Worth It?

Cover image by Jesse Orrico

It's quite a heated topic, I know. But I've personally struggled to keep up my motivation to go to class and I'm guilty of charge of thinking that college can be a total waste of money and time.

I know some jobs require a candidate to have a degree or it may prevent someone from getting a promotion in some companies, but at the same time, I also agree with the following opinion:

"If a company cares more about a degree than your skills, maybe you shouldn't be there at all".

I would love to read your thoughts on this 🤓

Top comments (25)

lkopacz profile image
Lindsey Kopacz

I quite enjoyed college and wouldn't take it back.

There is a but though.

BUT, you cannot expect it to fix how employable you are. When I was in high school, going to an expensive school was advertised with prestige about the jobs you'll get after college. Most places do not care where you went to school (at least in our field), and the amount of debt students have taken on for this "guaranteed" good job is really toxic IMHO. :(

I think college is worth it. I don't think it's worth going into massive amounts of debt for.

cosmicsausage profile image
Alexis López

you cannot expect it to fix how employable you are

I completely agree with you on this point. You can attend a prestigious learning institution and still be an airhead if you don't put any effort in.

lkopacz profile image
Lindsey Kopacz

Exactly. Especially in our industry how hirable you only marginally (if at all) dependent on your education. I got a Public Relations degree and it's quite beneficial to me as a writer and I don't regret it. But I don't use it at all in my coding job!

cosmicsausage profile image
Alexis López • Edited on

Well, Chris, you personally know my stance on college, specifically when it comes to Computer Science: I hate it. It's the bane of my existence, and I can't wait to finish my degree and leave. I'd never look back. In fact, I'm purposely lowering down my GPA so I don't have to be the one to give a speech in the graduation ceremony, because I'm sure I won't be able to hold back the urge to describe how I've wasted my time and money for just a piece of paper.

Why? Because for as low as free, you can take the same programming course you would be taking in college, and here in DR, you would be learning more than in a college class that would cost you $70 and watch the professor sit in a chair, and tell you to watch videos on Youtube about how to learn a programming language, or what I consider even worse, tell you to give a presentation to the rest of the class while he "takes it easy" (This literally happened a few weeks ago).

I've experienced it personally in more than one class, and not only in programming, but also when taking classes about Operating Systems, Algorithms, System Analysis & Design, etc. Due to mediocre teachers wanting to make a quick buck, I've lost hope in learning anything but Math and Physics.

There are a few more reasons, but this is mainly why I wouldn't recommend college to anyone interested in pursuing Computer Science here in DR.

differentsmoke profile image
Pablo Barría Urenda • Edited on

Define worth.

As I see it, in the modern world we have come to a point where there are two contrasting visions of education's primary goal:

  • Education is what prepares you to get a (good) job.
  • Education is what prepares you to be a (good) citizen.

Though not necessarily opposed to each other, these two visions are often at odds when considering what one gets out of College, how much it costs, if it should be for everyone, should primary education prepare you for it or should it mainly take care of the civic aspects, etc.

I am firmly in the second camp. Doing a job is best learned by doing a job. While I would not argue for the removal of professional skill development from higher education, I definitely think that its main role should be the instillment of civility over the passing down of marketable knowledge, and, to the extend that it does, the way in which the University interacts with the professional world should be by providing critical observation, not by agreeing to prepare candidates in whichever way business finds more profitable at the current moment.

Unfortunately, the way it is currently setup, paying for college without a job prospect is a ticket to bankruptcy, so that puts a very real pressure in the ways a student is allowed to consider their own education.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I went to a small liberal arts school in Canada. The equivalent type of school in the US would have cost ~8x as much and I think the education would have been quite comparable.

I still graduated with debt, but it was manageable and I paid it off quickly.

I was never the most studious student, but college is where I got into entrepreneurship, and it’s hard to say what would have happened otherwise.

So for me, it seems like it was worth it. It depends on the situation you put yourself in.

rohit profile image
Rohit Awate • Edited on

Here in India? No. A complete waste of time and money.

The biggest problem I see is the sheer incompetence of the professors. Their knowledge is laughable. I've had professors tell me that the Web runs on UDP and that C++ does not support multi-threading. They haven't the slightest idea of how to teach, making every lecture excruciatingly boring and a total waste of time since I have to come home and (again) spend time on the Internet learning the same stuff on my own which is far, far more effective and fun.

We don't even have the liberty to just bunk and learn on our own because these professors will force you to attend their sleep-inducing cringe-fest in the name of compulsory 75% attendance. Some of them even go as far as to say something like "If you don't attend my lecture today, you'll never understand this concept!". Ever heard of the Internet? Well, I have a million different sources to choose from to learn the same there.

The entire focus is on getting good grades and any kind of paying job. Ugghh.

I could go on forever but I hope you get the idea.

meelahi profile image
Manzoor Elahi

Is College Worth It?
Dunno. Going to depend on what you want from college.

Is A Good College Worth It?
Yes. And where I am from, good colleges are generally public college, as in almost free tuition. Hence incredibly hard to get into.

In my college, which I consider a good college, Computer Science was taught as Computer Science, not just computer programming. We were taught that a program running is not always good enough, it should also be efficient. Principals like that, and how to look at a problem was the focus, and drilled into us. And despite me being a lazy student, I'd say I retain a surprising amount of it.

I have never once seen a YT video which focuses on stuff like that, and can take considerable time in real world programming for you to internalize.

nicolasguzca profile image

Totally agree with you!

itsasine profile image
ItsASine (Kayla) • Edited on

I think college was worth it as a socially and professionally "allowed" buffer between high school and white collar work, which allowed me the time to figure out what direction to go (My high school was rural -- there was no internet or talk of people working in computers. I needed to get away from that). I also think it would be worth it to someone post-high school age to mark off the checkbox during the hiring process for a large company that requires degrees.

I don't think it made me a better thinker or gave me a better view on the world than if I had taken a "gap" 4 years instead. Like, I took classes that showed me I would hate actuarial science, but I could have learned that by Googling for a while instead of failing Theory of Interest.

So many people in tech have art degrees or math degrees (hi!) that had no coding components at all but check the box to allow them a job as a programmer. Or no engineering degree, but you need a degree to be a software engineer. So I don't think the worth it in the context of the education but moreso 1. you committed to something and did it and 2. it's a metric to allow for judging candidates who all appear equal.

Like, it's hard to go to a 7am class of bs that in no way relates to your profession. It's also hard to go to a 7am meeting of bs that in no way affects your job but you're a required invite in case someone asks you a question. The college degree can be a signal that you can push through the bs to get to a goal, and since most jobs are mostly tedious, that can be an important flag to recruiters.

(Mainly added this paragraph to say I'm not against recruiters requiring degrees -- but I would like there to be thought behind why, and that experience should be seen equal to education if the skill level is the same)

It's a complicated question with complicated answers :)

roger01 profile image
roger-01 • Edited on

Hey Chris,

I'll start off my throwing some light on the subject of knowledge.
Knowledge are facts, information and skills acquired through experience or education.

Now, let's pay attention to the word 'Education' it simply means acquiring knowledge or skills. Coming back to your question, "Is College worth it?". The answer lies in the definition of "College", as I said before We (Human Beings) need knowledge which we acquire via education (that's what college provides) and there's no limit to from where we can acquire education, if we associate education with college then we are just narrowing down the possible ways of acquiring it, in this age we can 'educate' ourselves from almost anywhere, examples can range from watching a youtube tutorial or reading an E-Book, etc.

I've seen most of the people "using" education to "succeed" in this world (i.e. get wealthy by getting a good job by getting more degrees), that logic is fundamentally flawed at it's core, because that's not what the purpose of Knowledge or Education is, education is required so that we understand the world better which enables us to contribute to the Human Race in general.

So you should ask yourself the reason why you would want to attend college, if it's for education and simple acquisition of knowledge and if you like to sit in a classroom and gain information from books, then I'll say it's worth it.

However if you want to go to college to get a good job then I'll say it's a waste of time. One can make more money by educating them self (resulting in savings of time) reading books, articles, just digging knowledge from the world, that will cost less time than college and also result in overall development of a person.

Sorry for the long answer.

I Hope I helped.


rapidnerd profile image
George Marr

Especially in the dev industry I've always found that experience will always outweigh a degree. You could have a PhD in computer science and have minimal experience, whereas you could have no degree at all, be completely self-taught and have more experience than someone with a doctorate. I'm a mixture of both, self-taught for over 9 years and now getting a degree at university. And I love uni, the combination of a degree and experience can be very powerful. I find that uni pushes me to my limits with learning new technology that I could use within the workplace as well as having the assignment due dates it provides a lot of motivation to get things done on time.

Only bad thing is the fees. Paying £9000+ a year isn't fun.

nicolasguzca profile image

I went to school in Colombia for Computer Engineering in one of the best universities in the country, and I am doing my Masters on Software Engineering in Spain. The cost has not even equaled one semester of collage in the US!

If you are accumulating +50k or more on college debt, is definitely NOT worth it. I did enjoy my University time (I love studying and doing research), learned a lot, but do I think is 100% worth it? No.
I work with some very talented people that didn't get any university education and in my opinion are way better engineers than me. I also know people that have graduated from MIT and suck badly.

It's all about you.

mmarinez20 profile image
Manuel Mariñez

Hey Chris hope you are doing well,

Like many others here, I agree that it really depends on what you study, but for a software engineer as long as you have internet , a decent pc and determination I dont see the worth on it. College has it's pros, you get to know people, you are able to participate in some community events, you are able to set your very own conference ( wink wink ;) ) and I would add teamwork but as for my experience with teamwork in college is, leaving all the work to a single person is not exactly teamwork. And that's not even mention the debts you might end up having.

umogslayer profile image
Vladimir Bayrashevskiy

From your perspective having a degree will give you:

  1. You learn how to learn there
  2. You learn the basis to understand some of the hard things to start learning (i.e physics, mathematics etc.) which you might need to use later.

From business perspective, your skills is what makes you usefull right now. But company would like to predict if you will be usefull in the future. And a formal education gives them "insurance" that you are able to learn new things in a timely manner.

What I'm saying is, formal education is insurance for you and a company hiring you, and it opens new opportunities for you (like in these companies that require an education). It's up to you to decide if it's worth the effort.

ghost profile image
Ghost • Edited on

I loved university.

I don't miss the intense status-anxiety, especially among post-grads, where there were some seriously bitchy jealousy dynamics ("he's lecturing?!? But he's only got a master's..." or "first year students are always so lazy" etc).

And plenty of personalities who took refuge in academia because they lacked the empathy or EQ to get jobs in industry, to be honest.

However, I found it a joy to sit in lectures with real live professional computer scientists who I admired, to have morning tea in the lecturer's lounge (yeah they were cool and loved having bushy-tailed students wanting to pick their brains over things at break time, believe it or not). To browse the literature in the library (I actually read Turing's papers, or tried to).

We had a lecturer by the name of Prof. Tad Takaoka, who would challenge us with things like optimizing heapsort by 15%, or Dijkstra's, and we would lose perspective and go on this nutty chase. I remember doing an all-nighter then charging upstairs to his office at 9AM - TAD IS THIS IT? No, you missed this case.. heady stuff man, good buzz.

There was diversity too, way more than in industry.

It was super expensive and took part-time jobs to stay afloat and minimize debt (it was all on me), but it was a force-feeding of some heavy concepts I couldn't have taught myself. I'd do it again (maybe not at this age though haha).

cheetah100 profile image
Peter Harrison

Hi Christian,

I wrote 'Is a Four Year Degree Worth It' a few weeks ago which addresses this question.

The question of whether it is a waste of time and money depends on what you study. Some things require a four year degree, such as engineering. But software development in my view is not the same.

The main argument for a degree is that it proves you 'can think'. But does it? Actual code and geek credentials are far more valuable. If when you come to apply for a coding job you can point to real systems which you have developed, and show the source, you will have far better evidence of competence.

Of course large organisations with HR departments that are in principle incapable of evaluating such things might specify a degree. Their loss.

I'm not quite saying a degree has no value, only that it is not the golden path to riches that it once was, and there is a divergence in payoff between various majors. Don't make the call on what is easy because no path is easy.

konstantinklima profile image
Konstantin Klima

I tried learning programming on my own after having a career crisis during my second year in hotel management school, before switching to the Faculty of Mathematics where I currently study CS. It's not that I couldn't learn to code by myself, but it was rather that I felt lost in the sea of information. I'm still lost when it comes to all the new tech, frameworks, etc. but at least I feel like I'm building a foundation upon which I can branch out.

This, I think, is the best thing about college - it gives you a starting point. It might not teach you the bleeding, cutting edge of tech. But it will give you an overview of the field, of the things that have been perfected waaay back in the 70s (or before, even). You'll understand char encoding, memory, P-NP, algorithms (and if you are lucky some math behind it all). And that can be invaluable and spare loads of pain afterwards I think.

Again, I'm not saying you can't get that and much more by yourself (and I won't even begin to compare the ROI and value of it because where I live school is virtually free), but I think that for a lot of people the guidance is very much worth it.


Thank you.

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