Empty College Promises

Failed Financial Opportunities and Life Lessons

Before I go any further, allow me to pose one question:

As a college graduate or student, why did you decide to go to college?

I want you to keep your answer in mind (or you can leave a comment). Although the responses may vary, I believe that there is a common thread that connects our experiences with higher education.

The Life of a Job Seeker

Frustrations can’t pay the bills. Disappointments won’t build my credit. Cynicism can’t fill up my gas tank.

When I graduated, I had one main purpose: get a job. I wasn’t as concerned about building a network of trustworthy connections or developing my skills even further. I figured my Bachelor’s degree would be my point of entry into corporate America. All I cared about was the prospect of receiving a nice paycheck at the end of the work week.

Over the past two years, I spent most of my free time revising my resume, building a portfolio, and figuring out the importance of LinkedIn. I didn’t get a chance to fully celebrate my graduation. In fact, by the time I actually got my degree, I became disillusioned with the university system itself. Was it all a waste of time? Shouldn’t I be working a fancy office job with benefits? Instead, I’m a sleep-deprived employee at Publix, regretting all of my life decisions up to this point. Safe to say, I felt cheated.

The College Dilemma

So my answer to the posed question at the beginning was to get a job. Am I somewhere in the vicinity of your answer?

I think there’s something to be said about the expectations of the previous generation regarding college. As a Millennial, we were told to view college as the only path to follow after high school. We prepare for standardized tests, write essays, and stress over a letter of acceptance. We take the campus tours, sign up for our first classes, and count the days until we are living in a room miles away from home. After a set number of years, we walk across a stage, celebrate with family and friends, and return home with the hopes of a lucrative career waiting on our doorsteps. But for a majority of us that went through college and lived, that is not our reality. In fact, we leave with debt, doubts, and disappointments.

My issue isn’t so much the college system as a whole, but rather the promises of college. I personally don’t see college as a waste of time, but I do think it’s time to make a realistic adjustment in terms of how we perceive college. With millions of confused, college-bound kids being told that college is the primary way of finding success, it leads to a rude awakening when the degree they worked so hard to get isn’t as useful as they thought it would be.

It’s Not For Everybody and That’s Okay

I know this may shock some you, but as a college graduate, I can confidently say this: college isn’t for everybody.

When I first experienced college, I didn’t have much of a plan going forward. I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I was told it wouldn’t make much money. So after I got my Associate of Arts (AA) degree, I thought about pursuing IT as an engineering major at USF. After all, I liked technology and I thought more opportunities would be made available to me after graduation. After three semesters, I realized that I couldn’t handle the curriculum and switched my major to English. Although it was a drastic change, it felt the most suitable.

If you’re a high school graduate and you have no plan set, don’t do what I did and just jump straight into college. I suggest taking a year-long break and figure out what you actually want to do with your life. Work a part-time job, take some cheap online classes, and save as much money as possible. You can even apply for a few scholarships if you want. Make the most out of your free time and it will save you much confusion in the future.

With the Internet at your disposal, there are plenty of other ways to achieve success. A simple Google search can reveal a lot. There’s blogging, YouTube, music, social media influence, etc. Buy some books on Amazon and take some notes. Create a LinkedIn profile and start volunteering for different businesses in order to gain some references. Research the job that you would like to work at. Learn how to create a professional cover letter and resume. Brush up on your interviewing skills. Ask questions. Always be appreciative of the opportunities given to you.

Whether you’re in college, finished college, or decided not deal with college, I encourage you not to get bogged down by the expectations that are associated with college. This is a time of self-discovery and independence. You may not have all the answers or the job of your dreams yet. But as long as you make an effort to forge your own path (whether it involves college or not), you will eventually achieve the success that you are working for.

Failed Millennial Life features thoughts from millennial minds on what real success is and how their failures have shaped or guided them. Share your story.