A recent email informed me that 2014 marks the 35th reunion of my college graduating class. I won’t be attending, of course: regular readers know I’m a) not a big traveler and b) not really a “get together” kind of guy.
The notice of the reunion did make me think about my college experience. In fact, President Obama spoke about giving everyone more access to a college education. My view though is simple: college was a complete — or almost complete — waste of time it was.
Now, it’s not that I attended a “party school” by the way. My school was, and still is, a respected institution of higher learning. I’m sure yours was too, but let me give you a smattering of courses I took and what I learned:
Freshman Comp — I’m pretty sure we had to read “House of the Seven Gables.” Hawthorne wrote it. That’s all I remember. Netted me a B-.
Intro Philosophy — A big zero. Plato was a philosopher, right? Oh, and I remember the class was held on East Campus. I received a B-. Apparently, I wasn’t very strong in the humanities.
Probability/Statistics — This was in my major. Got an A-. Can recall some statistics terms. No idea how to use them in real life. A-
Decision Models — Huh? Well, whatever: A
Managerial Accounting — I remember this was easier than Financial accounting which I completely sucked at. B.
Intro to Information Systems — Finally, a “skill” course. I learned to program. Albeit on punch cards, but it was programming. B-
Roman History — I took this? A
Coaching Basketball in Secondary Schools — Yes, this was a class. I took it with the entire varsity basketball team. The star player — who was dumb as a post — got an A. I got an A-
State & Urban Finance — Apparently I aced this and yet can’t recall taking it. A
So there you have it. Except for the programming stuff, four years of zilch. And mind you, I graduated Magna Cum Laude and had a double major.
Now, compare this “education” with things I think I’m good at and where I acquired the skill.
Presentations/Public Speaking: I’m pretty good on my feet. But, almost everything I learned was honed either on my High School debate team, being Fraternity secretary, or giving IBM presentations.
Writing: I’d say I’m a decent writer. Not great, by any stretch. But, about 2000% better than I was in college. Learned most of it by doing. Writing for theStreet.com, Foxbusiness.com, etc. Learned nothing from Nathaniel Hawthorne, except to know what BORING is.
Analysis: Or, at least business analysis. I’ll give college a little credit here: I may have at least learned HOW to think about business. But, the real guts came in graduate school and IBM.
So, my takeaway is this: if you go to college to acquire a skill — engineering, music, heck, even pre-med I guess — college is just fine. But, unless you plan to pursue a Masters or Ph.D in your undergraduate major (my daughter Katherine in English), liberal arts is a waste of time. Seriously, I would have been much better off going directly to graduate school, doing case analysis, and then doing the 18 month IBM training.
Now, am I glad I went to college? Of course. Met great people and have good memories. Certainly gave me the all important check mark on my life resume. But, at a cost of $50,000 (in 1975 dollars)? Well, if I had invested that money in the market, I’d have a $1,000,000 right now. That and being a plumber or even owning my own plumbing company, sounds just fine to me.