If you’re an American either preparing for college, sitting in a college classroom right now or navigating your way through post-grad life, I’m sorry to say this to you, but college is dead. Let me tell you why.
First, I know that my parents (and many parents) will feel troubled reading this. They spent their entire careers saving money for their children’s college funds, had huge relief when they were finally accepted into good schools, and proudly sent them off at the eager age 18. “They’re going to get great jobs one day,” every parent said. “This is what will set them up for life.”
And in some cases, those parents are right. If your child is going to be a doctor, it’s probably best that they receive a degree before performing surgery on people. I also wouldn’t want my lawyer to learn his or her expertise on Twitter, so it’s best that that person will attend law school too. But otherwise, when looking at today’s most profitable professions, the expansion of the online world and the nature of today’s university system, the truth is pretty apparent: college is one huge, embarrassing waste of time.
When I was 18, my parents proudly sent me off to college as an “International Studies major with an emphasis on Peace and Conflict Resolution”. That’s right, they were sending a white girl from northern California to the state of Oregon to learn how to solve the Middle East’s problems. If this isn’t the most entitled, backward and ignorant thing you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.
Clearly, I didn’t end up solving the Middle East’s problems in those four years. I graduated just like everyone else in my class: without a job, without apparent skills and without any sense of direction. The only advantage I had was that I was moving to Israel in the coming months, and there was nothing in the world that could distract me from that excitement.
Unlike the tenure professors in Eugene, Oregon, Israel actually taught me a lot about the Middle East. I also became exposed to the world of digital marketing and quickly learned a practical set of skills that put me on the career path I am today.
Even my friends who did study digital-oriented subjects in college (media, marketing, journalism, etc) weren’t able to apply those skills to real-life success. Just like everyone else, they couldn’t even get a potential employer to read their resumes. Why? Because they sat in classrooms for four years learning about theory, not about practice. Millennials don’t need theory - they need skills that they can learn today and execute on tomorrow. As Gary Vaynerchuk famously says, “Don’t be a student, be a practitioner.”
Most professors who “specialize” in online-oriented subjects fail to thoroughly prepare their students for relevant future jobs. It’s not purposeful or malicious; it’s simply the nature of today’s college world.
With the digital world being so new and evolving so quickly, it is impossible for a college department to ever keep up. I can guarantee you that if you’re taking a course in social media marketing this semester, it’s already outdated. Platforms, trends, algorithms, and paid media solutions are changing every week, and ancient, politically run college departments adapt too slowly to ever keep up. Instead, professors teach the same thing year after year regardless of its relevance.
I took a mandatory writing class in college that taught me how to write a five-paragraph essay. This class cost thousands of dollars. I remember wanting to scream to the professor, what about writing a compelling resume that will actually get noticed? A powerful article pitch that will get accepted to a well-known publication? A negotiation letter when asking for a raise? How about anything that actually matters?
Luckily, my writing skills improved from practicing them and studying the art of writing on my own, not learning how to write a five-paragraph essay for a semester straight. We learned the exact same thing in middle school, anyway.
In the past two years since I graduated, I have taught myself more about digital marketing than I learned about anything in college. I didn’t take a single test, sit in one overcrowded lecture hall or pay a dime, yet I still created a meaningful, fruitful career for myself. In order to get here, I found a mentor, took online free courses, followed industry leaders, read books, read relevant publications, and practiced, practiced, practiced. As I delved further and further into the marketing world on my own, I realized that a lot of industry influencers got to where they were the same way that I did.
Here’s the truth: 98% of what you learn in college today can be learned on your own time, on your own budget, and on your own terms. In 2016 with everything that’s available to us, college just isn’t necessary anymore. The “American college dream” is a broken, outdated business that has branded itself very well over the years. But, the truth is coming to light. College is done.
So, ask yourself now: what are your career goals? What did you go to college to learn? Maybe accounting? Math? Business? Non-profit work? Political science? Art history? Journalism? Dance? It doesn’t really matter. Today’s most profitable industries aren’t looking to hire those with a certain degree - they’re looking to hire those who can produce results. And let’s be real with ourselves: what do you think will get you there the fastest?