College is a waste

by gbsmith4

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 Year
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-

Sophomore Year

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-

Junior Year

Roman History — I took this?  A

Senior Year

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,, 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.