How College Failed Me
By: Vincent Monteleone
I’m not a psychiatrist; I’m not a psychologist; hell I’m not even a writer; I’m just a regular guy who has a regular guy’s opinion. As a kid you could dream anything and truly believed that one-day in the real distant future when you grew up that you could achieve that goal. Unfortunately we then actually grow up and “reality” sets in, you get to do one crappy job that you went to college for till you retire or die, whichever comes first. Only a very lucky few get to hit homeruns or score touchdowns to pay the bills. The overwhelming majority of us are forced to, as Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club put so elegantly, “Work jobs we hate to buy shit we don’t need.”
In high school we are pressured by college advisors to decide what we want to be for the rest of our lives at 16-17 years old, this way we could pick the school that would in turn determine our futures. We would hopefully get into this school by how well we did on some four-hour test, that tests you on exactly zero things that will matter in the real world.
Now suppose you are one of the lucky ones who scores high enough to get into the college you want to attend. Being accepted into the college allows you the privilege to send them tens of thousands of dollars per semester for the honor to go to their school. The money you spend on tuition is an investment into your future, but this investment does not guarantee you a single thing. If you brought the investment of a college education into the shark tank Mr. Wonderful would laugh in your face and say “But how am I going to make my money back?"
Society makes us believe that only people who receive college degrees can be "successful" and get a good job. Tell society that you are supposed to be successful when you have six figures worth of debt and are underemployed. Can you ask for a refund on your tuition? Can you get the four years, and in some cases more, added back on to your life? That is what we call opportunity cost which is never properly taught through the many years of education we are put through before we are lucky enough to go to college.
Opportunity cost is simple it is what you need to give up in order to do something else. For example you can work at McDonalds full time for $7.75 an hour for four years or go to college for $25,000 a year. One will earn you $64,480 and the other with cost you $100,000. That means your opportunity cost to go to college over working in McDonalds is $164,480. And who knows within that four years you might work your way up to assistant manager.
In all seriousness a 16-17 year old doesn’t look at it as a business decision or as in the example above a $164,480 decision, because they aren’t trained to think that way. You know why they don’t think that way, because they were never taught the concept of money. Sure they know that a pack of cigarettes cost $12, but they’ll still buy a loosey from someone for $1 without knowing they are giving that person an amazing 67% return on their investment.
Phrases like opportunity cost and return on investment will draw you a blank stare from the vast majority of high schoolers. If you ask them what they expect the principal on their student loan for college to be they will be confused as to what Mr. Johnson has to do with their student loan. It seems right that when people are about to take out what most likely will be the second biggest loan of their life, that they have no idea about money and how it works. They don’t know simple things like what compounding interest is and the difference it makes whether your loan compounds bimonthly or monthly.
You all heard your parents and grandparents say it to you, go to school study hard get good grades so that one day you can get a good job. The goal for everyone who goes to school is that when you are finally done going to school you can get a good job. Regardless of what this job is or what field it is in this job will pay you money. All the while kids can understand Pythagorean theorem and tell you that the c in a^2 + b^2 = c^2 is the hypotenuse, but they have not the slightest idea of what a 1031 exchange is and the tax benefits it provides.
I realized this one day upon getting close to graduating college when the safety net of being a student was about to be ripped out from under me; I haven’t been taught anything tangible that I can take with me to one day be a better man, better husband and better father. That’s a horrible feeling to be feeling upon completing the supposed biggest accomplishment of one’s life. I was then a pissed off college student and am now a pissed off college graduate.
The day I became a pissed off college student was during my last core class which was a science class. I was zoning out thinking about how this stuff will never apply to me and how real little I knew about the real world and how to get ahead. I was thinking about getting caught in a life living paycheck to paycheck and how would I ever make enough money. I knew very little about money and how it works and I went to a school known for business and was graduating with a business degree.
I skipped my next class and walked to Barnes and Noble and made a pledge that I am going to spend most of my free time self-educating myself. So I picked up a book titled “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki and couldn’t put it down. “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn” was a quote from the book. That day was the biggest learning experience of my life, college teaches you how to be an employee not the boss. College teaches you how to be a good soldier wake up early go to work put your 8 hours plus in and go home. Get your paycheck spend the whole thing on a house, lease payments of cars you can’t afford and designer clothes. You want more money work harder and make your boss more money and maybe you will be lucky enough to get a raise for a fraction of what you made him.
College specializes you into one small field and turns you into something that you must be for the rest of your life. For example, if you go to school to be an accountant you are an accountant till the end of time. You can’t just decide to be a teacher in a few years, you made your decision on what you would be when you were in high school. But I thought college promised to make you a well-rounded individual? I did too.
It actually did the exact opposite by specializing you into a distinct industry. Instead of teaching you a little about a lot, it taught you a lot about a little. Knowledge is power they say, correct, yet it is one of the easiest resources to obtain. I am not an accountant yet I just hire an accountant to help keep my books in order and I have the knowledge of accountancy for a small percentage of what those accounts earn. Having computer trouble I just hire a computer technician to help me with that. If I want to know about anything, I can just pick up a book that someone else spent years researching on and read it in a week and have the same knowledge as them. The most important knowledge you can have is knowing when to inquire the services of someone who knows more than you do.
Ignorance is not bliss, ignorance allows you to be taken advantage of and put into a never-ending cycle of never getting ahead. People think that money is the answer to their money problems, but that is not true, “Money without financial intelligence, is money soon gone” – (Robert T. Kiyosaki). There is a reason why people who hit the lottery or get drafted in the NBA lottery go broke; because they have no idea how to handle the large amounts of money they receive due to ignorance.
The school system has failed us all; sure I am smarter and became smarter with each year of schooling but in what? I put in countless hours of studying in Chemistry, Calculus and Shakespeare in the hopes of becoming what every college promises “a well rounded individual”. School has failed me and continues to fail us all and keep us stuck in the middle class that gets further and further away from the rich.
Think about it, who was the last big success that graduated college? Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? Mark Zuckerberg? Jenny Craig? Michael Dell? Ray Kroc? Henry Ford? Walt Disney? Andrew Carnegie? They all did not graduate from college and I think they turned out okay. Thomas Edison founder of a company that we all know today, General Electric, also did not graduate from college. He was even called dumb and thought to be stupid by many of his teachers growing up.
School takes the individuality out of us and makes us believe that mistakes are bad and that we are stupid for making them. The greatest inventions in our lifetime have come from someone making mistake after mistake and learning from it. We all learned how to ride a bike by making mistakes. No one was taught to ride a bike. There is no book you can read that will teach you how to ride a bike. You simply need to make mistake after mistake until you finally learn how to ride a bike.
Making mistakes and learning from them is what makes us human and brings out the best in each and everyone of us. College teaches from the book and turns you into someone that doesn’t think outside the box because it is frowned upon. Some of the best businesses came from outside the box thinking, but us college graduates will never be the owner of those businesses. We will be stuck working for those outside the box thinkers for a modest wage and counting our pennies till the day we die because that is what college taught us to do.