WOW | Coffee Break

How important is a college degree really?

Harshawardhan-ShahaniHarshawardhan Shahani

CEO & Founder – V-Chitra

Is the glass half full or half empty… the above question is a very tricky and controversial topic. The short answer is that not having a degree is going to close certain doors, but you’re going to be the one who has to decide whether those doors matter to you.  The answer may very well be ‘no’.

The debt you incur in college, taken in tandem with the opportunity cost of lost productivity, is likely never to pay off financially.  This of course depends on your institution and field of study.  Engineering, for example, or business from a top-tier business school probably will.  A BA in an arts or humanities related subject will almost certainly not.

The importance of a college degree is pretty much directly proportional to the level of bureaucracy in a hiring organisation.  If you ever desire to work in government or academia, you won’t be able to do it without a degree.  This is also true of many non-profits and large companies.

In my experience, not having a college degree has not kept any important doors closed.  I landed in advertising, where in my last 27 years not a single person across the table ever asked to see my degrees.

I can say that one of my greatest regrets in life is how much time and money I plowed into a liberal arts college, studying subjects that were a total waste. I would encourage you to take any “you have to go to college because it’s how people know you’ve accomplished something” advice with a grain of salt.  You can accomplish things other than college that have greater “foot-in-the-door” power.  If you require the power of a degree, either complete it in the cheapest and least time-consuming way possible go to a top school and study something valuable.  Otherwise, it’s very likely that you’re wasting your time and money.

My best advice to my children is make your passion your vocation. Join a curriculum that hones your skills. At the end of the day, education has to be skill oriented and enhance your knowledge base, because I believe knowledge is power. The stuff taught in college nowadays in my opinion leads to mindless conformity and just isn’t terribly appropriate to a more meaningful and exciting life.