On November 4th, i’ll be graduating (again). One year on and it’ll be a certificate saying ‘2nd Class Honours Degree in IT Management’ or something to that effect which will render last year’s degree redundant. But with all this talk about the value of the degree and whether or not it’s all a con, what do i think now that i can reflect on 4 years in college and two degrees?…
Should you go to college?
One problem any graduate faces is that they lack experience. Some can’t get experience because they’re over qualified for entry level jobs. So many argue what is the point of spending 4 years in college when you could be out there getting experience and living in the ‘real world’ of work, rather than the classroom. Valid point.
My answer to that is if you’re the type of person who’s arguing about the value of a degree and shooting people down when they defend college / degree courses then maybe it isn’t for you. That’s fine, but you then put yourself under pressure to (a) get real world experience in something (b) work your way up the ladder in whatever that may be. Can you do that without a degree? Sure. Will you? I can’t answer that, but if you look at the volume of people now coming back in to education having left school with the ‘F*** college’ attitude, that would suggest people don’t have as much drive as they’d like to think and that when / if things go wrong, there isn’t really a safety net or a plan B… people come crawling back in to education maybe not with regret but certainly with more respect for it than they did in their youth.
The argument is often rolled out that all the great entrepreneurs, musicians, artists etc… never seem to need education to succeed. Again that’s true, it’s fact… but are you one of these great people? Doubtful… if they were so common nobody would be looking for jobs, they’d be making their own… so for me the whole ‘Should i go to college?’ debate is one that everyone needs to think about… it depends on the person and how much drive and ambition that person has but the last thing you want to do is not go to college then lose self confidence and end up regretting that decision.
If i had to do it all over again, i’d probably still go to college here… i said it at the time, but it’s the ‘sensible’ choice. Doesn’t mean it’s the right choice, it could be the wrong choice for some people, but for most people it either opens doors, gives them peace of mind or helps them to decide whether they want to spend the rest of their lives working in a certain area.
What would i do differently?
This is a tough question because it’s basically asking me to criticise myself but first of all, like i said above, i’d go to college. Would i do the same course? Probably not although i would do something very similar (in IT, only with more business / entrepreneurship… possibly more programming too). As for college work / assignments, i wouldn’t put in any extra effort but i would try to kick start some projects early on in 1st or 2nd year. I’d also put in a bit more effort in to learning web programming languages & databases. I still don’t really get them, they’re still a bit scary, but i know enough to understand them 🙂
On a side note, I think all colleges should force students as part of all courses to work on cross-department projects… IT & Business, IT & Music, IT & Nursing… doesn’t matter what the department, students should be told to go away & create something that improves the world and given a large amount of time to complete it and given multiple mentors, ideally not lecturers… business leaders or owners or doctors, gardai… Force students to work together on projects in different groups and involve the local community – it’s the most rewarding type of education for students, knowing that they’re possibly creating real world value rather than academic value, but that’s my opinion.
Will i go back?
I won’t be going back to college to complete a masters or PhD any time soon, that’s for sure. I’d probably need to be pretty well off and have plenty of experience before i’d consider going back. I’d also need a reason. That said, i probably could see myself doing a masters part time at some stage. I like to be challenged so although the thought of a long thesis doesn’t sit well with me now, in time i’ll more than likely build up the hunger to pursue it. But it could be 10-15-20 years from now, i don’t know. I’d also make sure i have a thesis topic well prepared and thought out before i return – knowing you have to spend a year writing and researching *something* was probably the single greatest mental challenge during my time in college. I can write, i can think, i can work in short bursts and get through assignments easily but that was a different ball game… one i actually did quite well in, but one i’d want to be much more prepared for if i were to undertake it again in the future.
I’m out of college now about 4 months and still busy working to get a start-up ‘up’. If it all works out in the end, i’ll be employing quite a lot of skills & experience from my days in college but it’s much too early for me to reflect on whether college was a smart move or not. In any case, it has given me confidence in my ability to hack it with academics and peace of mind that should things not work out for me at any stage in my career, i have some kind of formal qualification recognising some kind of talent / intelligence / work-rate. Ideally though, i’ll never need it to fall back on 🙂