Is college worth it?: A millennial girl's (of color) guide to higher education.
Let's cut to the chase. My answer is, "YES". It was worth it - for me (with an emphasis on the ME). Now mind you, my loan repayments haven't kicked in yet. I'll probably need to revisit this blog post in 6 months when that first withdrawal hits. Until then, let's talk about higher education. Last week, I celebrated the end of my Master's program at the University of Houston. It was a crazy, two-years of group projects, 40-page papers, class presentations and hair-pulling. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you're thinking about going back to school:
It's a new dawn, it's a new day.
Let me be clear. You absolutely do not need to go to college to be successful. I don't say that lightly, but it's true. We live in a time when you can type anything into a YouTube search bar, make a playlist, and become an expert in whatever topic you find interesting. The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we learn. If you have the discipline and self-directedness to teach yourself, then do it. It doesn't take a degree to start a business, but it does take a willingness to learn in ways you may not have considered before. We're millenials. We've taught ourselves more than the world gives us credit for. Go out and do it.
All that being said...
Higher education often gets a bad rap. A lot of it is their own fault. Bad PR and increasing tuition doesn't help their cause. However, I gotta say...hearing people assume that college is "a complete waste of money" or "won't help you get where you need to be" or " won't give you common sense" bothers me a little because in the end, those conclusions are reductionist in nature. They paint a picture in black and white when there is far more gray area to consider. Simply put, college is what you make of it. It can be a complete waste of money or it can be a solid foundation on which you build your entire outlook on life. Here's what I got out of higher education:
- an oppportunity to build lasting relationships with people in the same industry as me
- a structured approach to learning the theory behind my career choice
- a chance to meet and work with a diverse group of people on real projects for real companies.
- access to scholarly works
- opportunities for service learning
- an increased desire for critical thought that influences my outlook on a majority of things.
For me, each one of the above items was worth my college debt. There's one specific reason why. Keep reading.
It only matters if it matters to you
In 2012, I started to work towards my Master's in Communication. By week three, I knew it wasn't the program for me. I wasn't ready to go back to school, and the program wasn't right for me. I didn't care about anything I was learning. It didn't matter to me. So I quit. I beat myself up about it, but really...it was a genius move. I saved my money until I found a program that worked for me. Going to college for the sake of going to college is a big mistake. BIG - especially if you're footing the bill. And that's the gray area. Too many people are shelling out coins to attend programs they only THINK they care about, or because someone in their life told them it was right to do. You have to find what works for you. For me, it was a master's program. For you, it might be a 90-day, online course. Only you can figure that out.
For colored girls...
Here's a footnote for my girls of color specifically - we are the highest educated group on the planet. That in and of itself does not make us elite or "better than". It does, however show me how hard we are willing to work at success. School is hard, and the further you go, the harder it gets. But don't feel like you have to be something you don't want to be. Don't apologize for wanting more, either. If going back to art school will help take you to another level, do it. If you need to understand how to run a business, get that MBA. If your online boutique is killing it without all that, I applaud you too. We are scholars. We are creators. We are lifelong learners. You do you, and continue to shine.