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Why College Was Worth it for Me but Might Not Be for Others

Is College Worth It?

The benefits of college are highly contested—and it usually seems like people on either side of the argument prescribe one answer to all students.

One argument says: “you should go to college”

The other says: “college is a waste of money”

The nuances of the argument are almost entirely ignored.

I think some people should go to college—others shouldn’t.

I almost left Cornell every single semester I was there.

 

Freshman year I helped build one startup that didn’t work out, then spent time working as a consultant, and then co-founded CoVenture during my sophomore year (but started working on it in earnest in 2013/my junior year).

It would have been easier for me to work on both companies full time without the burden of finals, fraternity obligations, club obligations and the distractions of living amongst an orgy of young adults first learning how to live on their own.

But for me, going to Cornell was worth it. Why? Well… today two of my business partners are Cornell alumn, half of my investors are Cornellians, the other half I met through Cornell connections and I found one of my portfolio companies through a Cornell connection.

My best friends are Cornellians, my east coast family is made up of the family of friends I met in college and I’ve surrounded myself with people who hold themselves to the highest of standards… that expectation is contagious.

It was those ties, those social connections and the level of happiness I achieved at school that kept me there. Cornell will hold a deep and amazing place in my heart forever. But not everyone feels that way about school.

College Probably isn’t For Everyone

I don’t subscribe to this idea that college is a great place to go discover yourself, and so you should definitely go.

It’s true, it is a great place to discover yourself!

But is it worth $200,000? For some people, probably. If your family has the financial means to send you to a really enlightening summer camp that lasts four years then do it. It’s incredible. But those families who do have the means shouldn’t look down on students who choose not to go. Many of those students realize it’s not worth creating a huge financial burden for themselves, their family and their friends—especially if they’re not sure why they’re attending or what they’re trying to get out of extended schooling.

It’s an unpragmatic decision for many to go to college. It hurts futures, shackles people to banks and the government, and forces many into professions they’d prefer to avoid, but succumb to as a way to get out of debt.

It’s hard to argue that a pre-med education isn’t worth the ROI. You have to go to college to become a doctor (thank God) but not every university curriculum produces such a straight forward return on investment.

I think a liberal arts education is especially damaging to many. While some students take full advantage, let a wide-ranging education open their minds and “learn how to think critically” others are permanently damaged to flung into uncertain and burdened futures. Too many of my friends left university, not truly enjoying their education, not knowing how to find employment and driven into a deep depression due to their debt obligation and the social pressure to find a prestigious, challenging white collared job they don’t even think they want.

And this is after graduating from a school generally considered to be a premier institution.

This isn’t to say a liberal arts education is bad either! For some it’s earth shattering, life changing and is the best thing to ever happen. But for others… taking a lot of LSD would have probably been even more eye opening and less expensive.

Have a Reason to Go

 

If you know why you’re going to school, have a clear objective and are ready to work your ass off to accomplish amazing things while there, you’re ready.

If you’re going because you don’t know what you want to do with your life, you’re going to show up, spend a shit ton of money and not do as well as you should have in class.

I think most people, over the course of their lives, will become ready for school. But it probably makes sense for most to skip a year, take a job, experience life and then understand why they are back in class.

It’s also unfair for wealthy families to pressure others into going to school “because they’ll regret if if they don’t.” Or because “it’s just so much easier to get a job with a degree.” Bull shit, it’s easier to become a doctor or a banker or a lawyer with a degree, but we’re living in a world where content rather than social signal are becoming increasingly more relevant in garnering employment.

So in short

Sometimes college is worth it, but not always. Let’s stop pretending there is a blanket solution.

This article was originally published on Medium

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Written by Ali Hamed

[5'9", ~170 lbs, male, New York, NY] My blog posts are meant for early-stage entrepreneurs. They’re usually about things I’ve learned the hard way.

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