Is a College Degree Necessary?

Thanks to the internet, brick and mortar education at the collegiate level is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  The fact is you can retrieve all the information you need from a smart phone.  Since college degrees are so abundant, they’re almost meaningless, just a box some (but not all) employers check to make sure the number of applications they receive is a lot smaller.  Universities have become, in many cases, nothing more than finishing schools where a privileged few can delay adulthood for four (or more) years and hopefully grow up a little.  For many (if not most students), colleges have become commodities where buying a credential, a brand, and a social network, has become the main purpose. 

The truth is if you’re made it to Georgetown, you’re probably the sort of individual who could quit right now and do well in whatever career you choose (minus those who are professional victims). This is because you likely have the self-discipline, mindset, and behavioral traits necessary to succeed in life (unless you're majoring in the grievance studies).  Unlike in times past, you don’t need to attend a university to become a thought leader or rise to the top of your chosen profession.

And then there are the MOOCs.  For those not yet aware, MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course, for which anyone in the world can register and take part in.  In some ways, those who do are getting nearly as much as those sitting in the classroom, minus immediate access to the professor and a $7,500 bill per course.  

Let’s not forget about Khan Academy and YouTube either.  Both offer videos and presentations covering pretty much everything you’ll learn in the classroom.  The only things MOOCs, Khan Academy, and YouTube are missing is the ability to issue a credential and the opportunity for discussions with real-life peers, though you can easily arrange the latter if you wish, and we wouldn’t be surprised if in the next ten to twenty years one or more of these platforms started issuing diplomas of one type or another. 

What this all means is that you really don’t need to be at Georgetown to get the information you need.  A computer, tablet, or smart phone, and an internet connection is sufficient.  But unlike the autodidactic individuals using them, as a Hoya you’re paying a ton of money.  So why are you doing it?  We would argue four things: 1) the experience, 2) the credential, 3) the brand, and 4) the social network. 

The credential and the brand come with simply graduating.  So we want to talk here about the experience and the social network. 

First, read our Ratio Studiorum and check out our Bucket List.  They both discuss how you can enhance your experience while at Georgetown and get the most value possible out of your time on the Hilltop.  The key is to take classes that will strengthen your critical thinking and communication skills, build a useful foundation of knowledge in the field you want to work in, help you better understand what it means to live life well, and ultimately, assist you finding personally rewarding and remunerative employment upon graduation.    

Second, study hard, especially your first year, so you develop good habits that will stay with you your entire time on the Hilltop.  It’s also important because while you may not be interested in graduate school now, in the future you might be, particularly since it’s almost become the new bachelors due to the scourge of credentialization.  Graduate education is required in certain professions, especially the farther you advance in them.  In addition to work experience, grad school tests, and essays, admissions officers will be looking at your undergrad transcripts to see if you can hack the course work (unless you're a member of a designated victim group), so don’t mess them up.  

But don't go to grad school right away unless you want to be a professor, lawyer or doctor. Get work experience first, and then consider graduate school, but only if after a serious analysis you see the benefits as outweighing the costs and you have a guaranteed job to return to once you're done.  Otherwise, skip grad school, or check the block with a degree you can attain while working.  A grad degree is worth less than a B.A., and scholarships and grants are less plentiful, so there's no point in foregoing income for two or more years to do it when you can retain that income and earn your master's part-time.

Third, make an effort to do some internships or get a paying job beyond waiting tables on M Street or working with campus security.  There is nothing wrong with the latter two as both build character and a lot of other things (such as reminding you how privileged you are to be at Georgetown), but try and get a summer internship or two where you can get some professional experience that will increase your chances of finding work before or relatively soon after graduation with either the company you interned or within the same field.  Recruiters will look a lot more favorably upon you if you have some relevant experience under your belt.

Fourth and finally, and just as important as the other three points, is don’t neglect your friendships.  There’s a good chance you won’t remember much of what you studied.  But you will remember the experiences you had with your college friends who will be closer to you than those you left when you graduated high school.  These friends will be there to help you these next four years when you need it and will be there to lean on and celebrate with far into the future.  Studies have shown having a large social network increases happiness and wealth, and your four years at Georgetown will probably be the last time you’re in an environment so conducive to building one.  Whatever you do, don’t waste the opportunity.  Stay friendly and be positive with everyone, even the idiots you meet.  No telling when it may pay off.

In the end, optimizing your four years at Georgetown is entirely your responsibility. 

Make the most of it.