When I write about college here it is almost always to say that it’s a waste of time. Though sometimes I am scolding myself for caring about getting my kids into a great college given that I also believe it’s a waste of time.

In any case, though, it’s not all that controversial to say that college is becoming useless. Google college wastes time and money, and you’ll get results from mainstream publications like the Wall St. Journal,  the Economist, and the Atlantic.

But increasingly I’m noticing that girls suffer much more from the time wasted at college than boys do.

For starters, did you know that  it’s mostly women taking the GRE?

1. It is disproportionately girls who are obsessed with schooling.

I did a little research. I talked to I was talking to Jennifer Dziura who makes a good living tutoring people for the GRE. She told me that you don’t need a good GRE score to get into humanities programs, but people don’t know that so they pay to get tutoring. Also, women are starting to see that the timing for leveraging an MBA requires you to work very hard in your early 30s instead of having kids. So even though top business schools started accepting women younger than men, they still can’t get enough women.

So now top MBA programs accept the GRE instead of the GMAT so that women don’t have to be intimidated by the quantitative sections on the GMAT. Only people who don’t understand the rules take the GRE. Only low performers who don’t have someone recommending them are taking the GRE. And the only people who truly understand how useless the GRE is are the people who tutor for the GRE.

2. You don’t need higher education to be great at what you do.

I love these plates by Jason Burnett. He is making a living as a ceramic artist and he did not get a master’s in art. Do you know why? People who have something to contribute to the world do not need to take the GRE to prove it.

3. Women are in a time crunch that men don’t experience.

I’m starting to see a bigger picture with women and school. For example, if you are going to do a startup, you need to do it when you’re young and you don’t have expenses or kids or other trappings of adult life.

But women need to start getting ready to get married when they are 28 if they are going to have kids by the time they are 30. Which means that women don’t have time to go to college if they want to do the fun, risky high-flying career stuff before they have kids. Men can do this stuff until they are 40. Or even 45. It just doesn’t matter. But women have a biological clock. So for women, the cost of going to college is much higher than for men.

4. There is no reason to delay adulthood four years.

We know that college-aged kids are perfectly capable of launching a successful startup, and we know that skills for running your own business are not learned in college, so if women want exciting careers before they have kids they should skip college and do it themselves.

5. College is part of a timeline that is too limiting for women.

Women don’t have time to be on someone else’s ladder that requires following a timetable for people who aren’t having kids. Women can’t afford to wade through corporate BS to get to a good spot, finally, in their late 20s, because their career is probably going to take a siesta, or at least a plateau, at that point. So college is a total waste of time for women because it doesn’t open doors for them and it comes at a crucial time in their young adult lives.

71 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I struggle with the idea that 22-year-0lds are ready to build startups. I didn’t know my butt from a hole in the ground at that age. Aren’t you better equipped now to do a startup, at least from a maturity and experience standpoint, than you were at 22?

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I think that may be the truth for many of us that grew up the typical way (go to school, then college, then work, yadayada).

      Which is why almost everyone here is interested in doing something else with their children.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      If you speak to most kids who didn’t waste their time in school or college, you will realize that they are much more equipped than the average 22 year old. Institutionalized education is a form of mental retardation.

  2. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    College is a waste of time only if you are going to have a career that does not require college.

    My career required college.
    My wife’s career required college.
    My mother’s career required college.
    My father-in-law’s career required college.
    My mother-in-law’s career required college.

    In all likelihood, my son’s career – if it is anything like those of most of his family – will require college. Likewise my daughter’s.

    Some people can make a decent living without college, in the trades or arts or entrepreneurship, but most people making a good living required college to get there. Those of us who did so can help our progeny most with careers like ours. Our rolodexes are filled with recruiters and managers who will do us favors, but won’t hire or intern kids with no college.

    Arguing that because some random dude who only has two BAs and a BFA, but no MFA (seriously, did you read his resume? He spent more time in college than most people), can support himself as a potter, women shouldn’t get MBAs is preposterous.

    More women should get MBAs, not fewer. My wife has one, and it’s a big part of why she makes what she does, and why we homeschool.

    More men are staying at home to take care of children (3 out of 6 brothers in my family), and women can benefit more from college and MBAs if they have men holding down the home front. As that becomes more common and socially acceptable – a demographic shift now undeniable – the degree to which women benefit from college and MBAs is increasing, not decreasing.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      I think the point to be made is that those careers that everyone “gets” because of their degrees is only because thats the value and requirement society places on those careers. Technically speaking, you could educate yourself in these fields just as well through self-directed learning, mentors, etc. and avoid the massive school debt. Yes, you don’t have a piece of paper you can show off to friends, family and potential employers but you’re just as “educated.”

    • Jayson
      Jayson says:

      I can only dream that my children do not eventually work in a career that requires college. I’d rather they succeed on their own merits, not someone else’s.

    • Sherry
      Sherry says:

      I strongly believe that MBAs are becoming obsolete and college degrees are on the way out.

      I am a female hiring manager in my late 20s at a trendy marketing innovation company and I would hire candidates without degrees but who had experience (such as failures, honest self assessments and intensity) over someone with an MBA any day of the week. I don’t even care if they have a college degree. The more education a candidate has, the easier it is for them to disappoint.

      My new hires fresh from school know so little it terrifies me and I get to choose from the cream of the crop! Come to think of it, those that come with a few years experience aren’t much better. Everything they do in our workplace is learned on the job.

      If you want your daughter to make good money, encourage her to take an MBA and she can then go work in a bank or be some cog in a machine. If you want her to have an interesting and fulfilling life where she only has herself to applaud for how she achieved her successes (without wasting her time/your money) encourage her to take on internships, start companies and just get out there.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        If you work in a “trendy marketing company,” than you haven’t even _met_ the cream of the crop, let alone got to hire them. If you’re the top of your class in neuroscience at MIT, you don’t apply for work at a “trendy marketing company.” That’s for English major dropouts and other articulate hipsters who see 50K as a fortune in PBR and fixies.

        My wife finds her MBA-enabled career interesting and fulfilling because she gets to play a role in strategic direction of one of the top science-based companies in the world. Unless you’re a founder, you don’t get to do that without college.

        As to the shriveling ovary horror story at the base of this thread, when my wife was approaching thirty she had nothing to her name but student loan debt, credit card debt, a crappy job, and an old car that really belonged to her parents.

        Then she met a graduate student from a poor and broken home who knew how to make long-range plans.

        Thanks to leverage, direction, intelligence, and, yes, an MBA, fifteen years later she has two kids, a big house, a stay-at-home husband, and an excellent career with astronomical compensation (as in, 50K would be a nice bonus for hard work on an important project).

        For young ladies wondering how you get to the top and have kids too, here’s her map:

        -Go to college. Have fun.
        -Marry the kind of guy who can figure out how to come out of a PhD with seed capital instead of debt.
        -Learn about financial leverage, how to save and invest, and wipe out your current debt or refinance it at lower rates. You should never pay more for money than you earn with it.
        -Send your new husband into the work force, where he can be the primary wage-earner for a decade.
        -Get your MBA while you’re both working, and have your first kid while getting your MBA.
        -Double-team it for a few years to get on firm financial footing and find the right career track.
        -Have him leave his career right as yours takes off, so he can take care of the home and children full-time.

        When I was a child, I slept in an unheated attic where a glass of water would freeze by my bedside and rats would sometimes lay on top of my sleeping bag to keep warm. I just hired an architect because I don’t feel we’re utilizing our third floor to its fullest potential.

        There are a lot of different definitions of success or paths to success. Some of them don’t require college. Ours did (as did, I will note again, that of the potter whose work is pictured in the original posting).

        Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a baby girl and future CEO who needs some snuggling.

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          thank you for giving an example for a non-linear life – and a unique solution. I also do not quite understand the general adversity to college – if you want to become a fashion tailor or a potter or a cosmetician or whatever, then you don’t need to go – right choice. If you want to do something which requires more book study – yes, sure you should go. But college is not something “handed to you” – it is something you can shape. You can triple major in business, chemistry and chinese, you can start research in your second year and find a mentor on your own, you can shape your class portfolio in a way which serves where you want to go. You can choose not to take the easy anthropology class, but the most challenging one. There is a large supply of mentors in many different areas – packed into a small space for you too choose from. Sure there are some required classes you might not enjoy – but there is so much more. You can, if you want to, do a lot of self directed learning, projects, community engagement. Why is this a bad thing? But there are no guarantees in life, and getting a college degree is not a guarantee for getting a job.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            red- I think the adversity is because people are getting useless degrees and I think the U.S. has literally reached the trillion dollar mark with student loan debt. These college grads are working temp jobs with no benefits, part time jobs, or entry level jobs that don’t require a degree; and defer their student loans forever by going to community college part time.

            Only a small portion of these kids study in the STEM or other fields where a degree is essential to get a job. So in the case of the kids who have all this debt (I’m not arguing who is at fault with this or who is to blame) their time would have been better spent doing internships, working low paying jobs to start to get experience, going into a trade, or starting their own business.

            As far as MBA I would expect an employer would pay for that if it was essential. I see this happen all the time. Company hires *employee* and *employee* is having company pay for his MBA from Harvard WHILE paying his salary. Not too shabby.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          While not as eloquent as your advice, my mom’s advice was 100% spot on. She told me to marry a nerd. I did, he’s a space geek, he makes GOOD money, enough for us to live in one of the most expensive cities in the nation and afford for me to still stay at home and homeschool, travel, invest and we do live a good life. This couldn’t have happened without his *bachelors* degree in Mechanical Engineering.

        • Jessica
          Jessica says:

          Great post. Really interesting t read about your life and the fact that women in their 30s can Still do big things and come out on top.

          As for MBAs going into marketing, that doesn’t make sense to me either. Some studying MBAs in early 20s are delaying getting experience….and the poster is right, marketing is a young persons game which makes the extra years of education a strong deterrent for someone in her position.

          My hubs entered advertising after college and was earning over 130k by 25. If he had stayed in for an MBA, at 25 he would probably have been on more like 50-60k (from lack of experience and specializing)…

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        In my experience with SV startups they want the top 1% of applicants. If you don’t have a top 5 school on your resume it won’t get looked at unless you get an employee to refer you and even then that doesn’t mean you will get an interview; you have to be extremely special if you don’t. How do they know the top 1% of applicants? School, GPA, projects, extra-curricular anything like that. But I can’t proclaim to know how marketing companies operate, and I really appreciate your perspective Sherry!

  3. Isabelle
    Isabelle says:

    I think women waste much more time by dating losers or men/women they know they don’t want to settle down with than they do by going to college. If you are smart about your romantic pursuits, you can do college or whatever else you want at the same time and still have kids and a career. The problem is when you spend those 4 years of college randomly hooking up, or dating some idiot who will never be a good husband/father, or thinking that you can figure out your family situation “later.”

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      It’s amazing to me how people hate so much being “alone” that they will put themselves through a meat grinder for having a relationship that they know it’s not going anywhere.
      It’s so clear to me how taxing the emotional recoup. from bad break ups are. And it’s not like people who “oh hey! let’s date for a while so we can have sex and enjoy each other’s company but we know we’ll never get married.”
      No. Normally there’s some sort of emotional abuse and tear down that will really interrupt the rest of your life.
      College can be a waste if your family afforded you an incredible environment where you can clearly see how to chart a path to do start ups and the “high flying career life.”
      If you are poor both financially and mentally then college is like an open door to something slightly better than nothing. But I do agree, it can be such a waste of time if it’s not going to get you to where you want to go.
      Many people don’t even know where they want to go. So they go to college. And it’s a waste for them.
      But then again, it’s these same people who would would find college to be a waste the people who would already be, since childhood, on a path to success or alternative path to success.

    • Rayne
      Rayne says:

      That’s still a hard row to hoe career-wise. I graduated undergrad at 22, married college sweetheart at 24, worked in gov’t, started law school at 26, first baby at 28 – stayed home 1 year, graduated law school and started practicing law at 30, second baby at 32 – stayed home 18 months. I’m 37 now and it still feels like 2 steps forward, 3 steps back. I just keep telling myself career success is not a race, life is long, kids are only small for a short while, etc, etc.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        Thank you for this comment.

        It’s helpful in so many ways.

        I think that from the outside you would look like the epitome of successful. But you sharing that you feel like you’re taking 2 steps forward and 3 back goes to show that really, success is personal :).

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I agree – really helpful comment. I think we all appreciate specifics. It’s so rare when someone tells us everything – we just get bits and pieces and it’s hard to know what works for which people.


        • Rayne
          Rayne says:

          I have always seen myself as someone who would go “balls to the wall” in my career. I left home at 16 for gifted residential high school, I got a full ride to college, I won awards and did well in college. But every step of the way since I got married I pull back on giving my full effort to keep my marriage and family going well. I hardly ever missed sitting down to dinner with my husband during law school. My sons got 100% from my time their first year. I now work around the school day and the impact of all that is I’m still wading in the shallow end of law practice while my friends and classmates are swimming the English channel. At least that’s how it feels to me. My mom’s big career didn’t begin until I was 12 and so I use her example to bide my time, but I worry that was perfectly acceptable for Boomer women, but what if it’s not okay for cusp Gen X/Gen Y women.

          • karelys
            karelys says:

            I am not sure this is a bad move.

            First off, your kids will never recover from missed time when little. And no one can take away your good parenting.

            Second, things change so much in 5 years it seems. So you may have been swimming in the English channel then 5-8 years later it dries up and you’re left to try and figure out how to transition to another career (which has been a really helpful topic in the other blog). But I am convinced that knowing yourself and increasing the number of incredibly good contacts is the best way to spend the first few years of career (maybe even a decade).
            If I could figure out how to be more efficient in that aspect I’d be so happy.

            I too thought I’d be the “balls to the wall” person. Until it wasn’t worth it for me to sacrifice marriage and my children/childbearing years (I hate that term but whatever, it’s very descriptive). And life has been pretty awesome even in it’s bad days (which no one escapes). I am always in the look out on how to I can make a way for something bigger and always interesting.

  4. Dorie
    Dorie says:

    While my career requires college on paper, nothing I do in the workplace is so advanced that I wouldn’t have been able to learn it within 6 months with good on the job training.

    My undergraduate degree is a 150k piece of paper that really hasn’t opened any doors for me that I couldn’t have opened myself.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      There are tons of jobs that required a degree ten — or even five – years ago that do not require a degree now. Mostly because Baby Boomers are much more top-down and hierarchical than younger generations. Now that Generation X is in charge (this moment will last like, ten seconds because we are so small) that degree is not so important.

      Also, a lot of jobs list a degree as a must-have when in fact, it is not, if you have other qualifications instead.


      • Crimson Wife
        Crimson Wife says:

        Evidence for this? Because it’s been my observation that the opposite trend is happening. Tons of jobs today require a bachelor’s degree or higher whereas in the past they only required a lower degree. Physical Therapy is now a doctorate degree where it used to be a master’s. Nursing is now a bachelor’s or master’s where it used to be an associate’s. School teaching is now a master’s where it used to be a bachelor’s. And on and on…

        • SgtMommy
          SgtMommy says:

          I not only agree but second your comment. It is VERY true that more and more jobs now–even $9 per hour jobs such as ‘certified’ childcare worker, ‘certified’ respiratory therapist, ‘certified’ physical therapist assistant, nursing assistant, etc, etc require 12-18 mos of schooling and a special government-approved ‘certificate’. Really? To assist? Jeez. My husbaznd is a combat veteran of the iraq war and can’t get certain jobs because of all these certificates now. One job, working for a local beer company, preferred someone with a bachelor’s or MASTER’S degree in brewing sciences. YES, that is what the website said. Military experience has not counted much at all, believe it or not. Everyone wants someone with a degree and they usually expect a Master’s. Now, with all this being said, I am a teacher and I have degrees in psychology and special education; I am required by law to have at least a four-year degree and a license, and that is as it should be; but for a barely-above-minimum-wage job? Give me a break.

  5. Heather
    Heather says:

    So…I’m guessing that you actually mean that to get into grad school you should take the GMAT instead of the GRE rather of saying you should take the medical entrance exam of the MCAT? That seems especially wasteful of talent to take a medical entrance exam in order to get into business school:-)

  6. Karo
    Karo says:

    I have a son and hope you’ll never go to college unless he wants to study something hardcore like nano technology, robotics, or bio engineering. I will always encourage him to think outside the box and to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. College is a waste of time and money for most. Yet the gullible masses believe that the $120,000 undergraduate diploma is worth more than the paper it’s printed on. Millions of people get those diplomas each year. How does having one make YOU special then when everyone has one, too? The whole educational / employment system is set up to feed insecure candidates into academic programs that can’t afford by making them believe that an MBA or even undergraduate degree is the only way to break into any industry. A ton of money is being made off of people’s inability to think for themselves.

  7. momofglory
    momofglory says:

    I was just in my midwife’s office reading that female fertility begins declining at 27.
    I remembered that as I cooked eggs this morning. The difference between a week can make for “old” eggs, or fresh, healthy eggs that have stronger membranes.
    I’m 38, btw, and so grateful I am still having children, but glad I didn’t put it off either. I did not like college, dropped out for “real life,” and appreciate the entrepreneur spirit in women who did it with kids strapped to their backs. I did this too, and my kids are better for it, and my husband and I share a business together that I started. Not everyone can, or will, nor will every husband support doing so, but there can be merit to pursuing business opportunities with kids by your side.
    I hope my daughters don’t sit idly by twirling their fingers while waiting for prince charming, but learn to make the most of their days in life, before, after and during marriage, God willing.

  8. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    It comes down to head counts. When the number of willing and able bodies exceeds the number of available jobs, the degree becomes a weed-out tool.

  9. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Thought I read somewhere that there is a new period of “extended adolescence”. 30-somethings living rent-free with parents and getting endless numbers of degrees, single, no children. This isn’t a criticism, it’s just an observation, one that is becoming more accepted…

    So women are at a disadvantage with this because of our biology. Where is the link of yours where you wrote that women who want careers before family should get their eggs frozen? I think that’s great advice and allows women some breathing room.

    It’s kind of an awkward stage though isn’t it? I myself have difficulty relating to it because when I was 18 I was out of the house, being an adult. When I look at today’s crop of 18 years olds I’m secretly thinking “isn’t it past the babies bedtime?” Everyone just looks so incredibly young and I have met only a handful of 18 year olds that have their act together. I don’t think I have a point here, just observations.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      My point that I make out of this observation is that part of our culture is driving this extended adolescence. We have to come accept that childhood and adolescence is a time of no real responsibility and having it together; being self sufficient.

      Part of my interest in unschooling or homeschooling is to bypass all the crazy and actually place my child on a track where he doesn’t have to wait until he is 20 to realize who he really is and what he is all about. I think it’s people like this, that are raised with respect and with weight to their decisions, real responsibility (be it raising goats, having a business, mentoring younger kids, etc.) that get to the official mark of adulthood (18) and they hit the ground running. Their lives weren’t held up and then boom! “You’re 18! ta-da! go be an adult even though we pretty much exempted you from real learning and responsibilities for 18 years!”

      I know that’s not the case for many of us. I was a pretty responsible 17 year old. But I had no idea what I was doing and what it was like to be myself. I was shooting for the best and willing to put in the hard work but I and no idea that I was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.

      So as women, if we want to make the best of the child bearing years (on average) we know that we have from 24-35, but we are really not ready or don’t feel really stable unless we hit the jackpot and find an amazing partner to marry who has his life all together because he was lucky enough to have parents to guide him well and now he’s 25 and well stablished in his career (really?). Now we can feel like we can go ahead and have kids.

      Oh, but you yearn for a career??? even if you got a stable partner? oh well…..um….well, you were so busy putting all your eggs in the career basket that now you really are running out of time and there are too many plates in the air.

      All of this is crazy to navigate. I just want to ignore it and chart my own path. And part of that is why we are so pro homeschooling. Or anything that is not the typical education system.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Ya, I’m thinking it’ll be a wait and see game as to how it turns out in twenty years. How much longer are we living? Can we start adulthood later? Careers later?… the only thing is a woman’s biology, but several women here have shown ways around this including PT herself. I’m not opposed to this extended adolescence, it’s just something I don’t understand yet and I’m not quite ready to make a judgement whether it’s good or bad.

  10. Anna M
    Anna M says:

    The thing about college is that it is great signaling to find a suitable spouse. Even if you don’t meet someone in college, it may help you snag some of the more successful men who still care about a college education, and want proof that their kids will be “smart”. Truthfully though, if a woman is really/semi successful in business (not just a support role) that probably is very attractive too. I totally agree that woman are so very good at school, but haven’t figured out how to translate that into commercial success a lot of the time. Lots of exceptions of course (please don’t want a bunch of responses saying that you are the exception, I believe you- but I don’t believe you are in the majority), but I am not one of them!

  11. Joanne
    Joanne says:

    If you come from an upper-middle class background, it’s pretty much expected that you go straight to college after high school. There was this notion that if you didn’t go to college, you’d be flipping burgers the rest of your life. No doubt education has value but it does not have to be limited to a classroom. I can only speak for myself but if I knew then what I did now, I would have worked a year or two before even thinking about college because I really wasn’t any better off in the working world after college than before. What’s even more interesting is that people pursuing skilled trades are better off than those who went to college. But depending on where you come from, the trades (even skilled ones) are looked down upon. However, I think this view is changing (i.e. the English Lit major working Starbucks while the plumber is gainfully employed).

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The English lit major working in Starbucks while the plumber makes $60/hour is a great image – like, the poster to describe what’s happening in the US right now.

      And I just realized, right now women in their 20s are outlearning men by a lot, but maybe the shortage of skilled laborers will change that — maybe more men in their 20s will start being plumbers.


      • Joanne
        Joanne says:

        I think this is something that’s come to light pretty recently with the economy being the way it is. The values and prejudices of your family and environment get projected onto you. In my parents generation, having someone suggest you learn a trade instead of go to college was considered a put down (not ‘college material’). But with all the news stories of kids graduating with monumental student debt, that view is shifting. I’m actually going to community college to pick up the kind of skills that I should have gotten from my master’s degree program. The point is, college should be one of many options such as apprenticeships, etc.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Haha I’m in my 20s. (That’s not the funny part). I thought the other week about starting up an all female plumbing business with competent, nice fellow 20 something women. As a female myself, there is something much more calming about the thought of calling up another woman to come out to work on some plumbing issue or help find a leak. I’ve used several plumbers and they are all middle to late aged men. Time to change up the game.

    • SgtMommy
      SgtMommy says:

      I love literature, but anyone who gets a degree in English lit and expects to get some sort of job with that–needs to get out more. Wow.

  12. Courtney Ostaff
    Courtney Ostaff says:

    At 40, my husband is going to college for the first time, because his parents thought college was a waste of time. He’s had lengthy, repeated stints of unemployment where nobody gave him the time of day simply because he had no piece of paper–and this, for 6-figure jobs. He had his own business (that he still runs on the side), but he can’t make enough for our family to live on. When we buy private health insurance, we need at least $15,000/yr to allot to that alone.

    He has 15+ years of experience. He has multiple certifications and 3rd party clearances. Maybe if you come from a privileged background, with lots of connections, and have crazy-good superficial social skills, you can get away with no degree, but the reality is that for most of us, you need that piece of paper, even if you major in underwater basketweaving.

    Meanwhile, I have an undergraduate degree, and two master’s degrees, and in a good year, I make half what he does. Side note, my career wasn’t derailed by adopting my niece and having two children.

    College is an investment, and should be treated as such. Not disdained, but carefully managed for best ROI.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I like the last sentence a lot.

      I am not sure that going to college is necessarily going to make your husband more successful. I think that his time would be just as well spent going an alternative route. Figuring out how to make those contacts and have those killer social skills maybe.

  13. Susan
    Susan says:

    Although I know it’s not for everyone, I prefer to freelance and work from home to be with my daughter.

    Yes, I could be further in my career as a writer and video editor if I was taking staff jobs and jumping from company to company and putting in long hours. But I prefer the balance (even though work/life balance doesn’t really exist) of being with my daughter and still working. I like contributing to my household, I enjoy the outlet, and it’s crucial to have a financial back-up plan if anything happened to my husband or his job.

    I deliberately set-out to create a freelance lifestyle for myself around the age of 26 with the idea in mind I would want a family some day. I also knew if it didn’t work out that way, I could take the freelance career I had built and put that flexibility to good use elsewhere – like travel.

    It’s not easy and there are always sacrifices involved, but right now I get to have a creative career where I’m respected for my talents and hard work, all while being with my 2 1/2 year old. It also gives me peace of mind knowing I can always find work for myself and scale up and down as needed.

    Women should realize that college, career, staying at home or staying at work are not the only options.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I love this! This is where I plan to be in a few years. I went to college and have a degree that opened doors for me that led to me meeting my spouse. Once in the corporate world I realized quickly that I don’t want to work for other people. Part of this whole rebellious nature of mine. I know that one day I will create my own work in engineering, there is no rush for me right now. Right now I’m just content meeting the right people and establishing relationships for down the road. Also, I’m quite busy facilitating and guiding my children until they get to a more independent state in this unschool world and for now that’s all I can handle.

      • Susan
        Susan says:

        Maybe start an engineering unschooling ‘curriculum’ if such a thing exists. Or a kit if that’s a more appropriate word for it.

        My sister-in-law teaches homeschoolers/unschoolers at an art center.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I wish I knew that freelancing was an option when I was younger and setting my path on college!

      I had no idea this existed. I think as an immigrant there’s a lot that I just had to learn the hard way.

      I am trying to transition to that point but I am kind of stuck.

      • Susan
        Susan says:

        Being stuck is usually a result of overwhelm.

        My freelance journey has been about 10+ years in the making. I was restless in college (didn’t need to go, but don’t regret it) and always felt flakey because I liked doing lots of different things and loved figuring out how to make money from it.

        Freelancing has lots and lots of ups and downs. You get use to it. But at the end of the day, just find one thing that’s freelanceable. It could be writing, scheduling people’s calendars, lawn work… anything. Then find 3 clients, preferably word of mouth or through your community. Don’t focus on trying to replace your income in 1 month/year.

  14. Anna M
    Anna M says:

    I think when you here stories about women who get liberal arts degrees at private but not top tier universities, and take out 100,000 dollars in student loans, it is pretty clear cut in most people’s book, that that most likely wasn’t the best investment, and she may come to regret this later. The choice is less clear cut when you can get some college credit in high school, live at home while going to a state school, while working and having your parents help out. PT’s article was specifically about graduate school- these people have a degree, maybe don’t like the situation they are in so they opt for more school ( and more debt), instead of working for those years before they want to slow down for marriage and family.

  15. Geoffrey
    Geoffrey says:

    There are soo many people I know in the tech field that didn’t go to college, yet are doing very successful.

    Look at some of the top entrepreneurs in the field. A lot of them didn’t go to school in their field, dropped out or taught themselves.

    I strongly agree with point #2 and #4. A lot of the things you learn to do are out of school on your own and from mentors.

    I feel it’s hard to convey this to other people, especially asians. There’s a very, very strong stereotype that you follow a certain path in life which involves going to school.

  16. redrock
    redrock says:

    it is always good to have a plan….but there are many different ones.
    (1) become a successful potter and craftsperson by apprenticing – your average salary is likely to stay below 50k$ – if pottery is what you love then take this path. No doubt that you can study the art you are interested in on your own and infuse your ideas into your pottery.
    (2) you love math and dream about building bridges – sorry, you will have to take the college path. Building a bridge requires a lot of knowledge which builds on each other, and people like certified civil engineers since it greatly reduces the likelihood of bridge collapse. And you can actually do contract work or freelancing doing statics or such and make good money while you homeschool.
    (3) you find fulfillment in being a homemaker – make the best possible plans for finding a good husband.
    (4) entrepreneurship is in your heart? Go to college if you think it makes sense, don’t if you see another path.
    (5) think plumbing is great? Go for it, college is most likely not a good choice for you.
    (6) is this degree offered by college xyz in recreational psychology bogus? Probably – save your money and do something else.

    Try things out and think about them – people are allowed to fail and start on another path. With kids and without kids….many writing here in the comments changed paths.

  17. Erin Wetzel
    Erin Wetzel says:

    You know what’s wasteful? Spending 4 years of high school obsessed with test scores and extracurriculars so that I could get into a good school.

    Then I thought I was “finding myself” in college, but really what I was doing was ignoring my passions in order to get good grades. That’s what I did the first year, anyways. When I FINALLY got a “B” and my perfect GPA was relieved of its perfection, I relaxed and allowed myself to get more “B”s so that I could spend my time doing things I love. Every time I slacked on school work, though, I always felt a bit naughty. So I still spent way too much time pursuing a curricula that was largely meaningless to my life pursuits.

    What’s more: I did no internships. I had no mentors helping me figure out how to apply my skills in the REAL WORLD. All of the mentors at my school knew how to do one thing: prep undergrads for Grad School, something I had no interest in. I did not want to be a professor.

    When I graduated college I entered the workplace and couldn’t get a job anywhere. I had no clue who I was or what I wanted to do. WHY didn’t I spend my years as a young teenager figuring this out?? I would have been so much happier, so much more confident.

    I want to make this difference for my daughter: I want to give her the ability to find her passion early enough so that she can DO something about it. Perhaps women CAN have vibrant careers if we not only cut out our obsession with college, but also our obsession with college-obsessed High School.

    (I will add this: IF I had a vision and goal to do something amazing, I could have USED college as a tool to help me with my goals. As it was, I was along for a ride, programmed to be a good little student. Because the perfect little students get gold stars, right?? OR maybe we can just cut class and buy our own gold stars. There are many different ways to get from A to B. In my case, what I want out of life is to be a mom and an artist. Didn’t need a BA for that.)

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      Hey, Erin. I came back to this blog post to write my opinion about the topic only to find your post which is right in-line with what I was going to write.

      It shouldn’t be the default for kids (and their parents) to think, “Of course I’ll go to college after high school/age 18.”

      I think every kid ought to get into the working world as soon as possible: as a volunteer, an intern, an employee, or under a mentor. And of course, if they know what their interests are, they will find a company/organization which fits their focus.

      This isn’t to say they have to do that specific trade or be in that specific industry for very long if they learn they don’t like it.

      But exposure mixed with hands-on experience really is the way to go.

      After, or during, *that* then they can decide what classes might be fitting for them–not even necessarily a degree. Or that they don’t want college at all.

      I think if one is focusing on college classes rather than a degree, they are more prone to be there to learn about the topic-at-hand and less likely to be obsessed about “must. get. degree.” Of course, it’s wise to visit with a school counselor to see if classes are applying to a degree. But I’m talking more about an energetic focus, instead of external cultural messages.

      I never stopped my life to go college. When going to college, I’ve always gone part-time while working full-time, or now while being a full-time mom. I’m also a big propionate of community colleges and trade schools—even if one ultimately wants a higher degree (they can transfer their credits to university)

      Having adult-life experiences is what made the content of college classes valuable to me: I want to know the information out of curiosity and because it applies to what I’m doing or want to do.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      “maybe we can just cut class and buy our own gold stars”

      Great point, Erin! Your college experience sounds like mine. Going in and out of college simply to get the grade without seeing any practical relevance to it.

      The situation is that kids spend 18 (!!!) playing the game in their classrooms, then when they are released from their cages, they have no idea what to do with themselves. Forget about internships and practical experience. They’ve been sitting for the past 18 years.

      One of the main reasons, I too, decided to homeschool is so that she didn’t have to wait 18+ years to find out what she wanted to do in life or even being able to do it.

      No one should step foot in to a college setting unless they have a skill. Even still, it begs the question, if you are so skilled at what you do, what is the need for college.

    • SgtMommy
      SgtMommy says:

      FABULOUS! I think this article should be titled, “College can be a waste IF you have no idea what you want to do, no mentoring and no direction”. I did the college thing for a few years, majored in beer and bong hits, and joined the military. Later, as a normal, productive adult I used my GI Bill to finish my undergrad and get a Master’s—with GI Bill asistance, almost $0 out of pocket. I don’t have any buyer’s remorse beause I earned my benefits and those benefits included (almost) free college. I can’t speak for people who get a plain old bachelors for $100K or more, but I do know mine is something i am proud of…mainly because I earned it by going to war and serving my country. If you told me i would have had to pay SIX figures for an undergrad degree i’d laugh you out of my way and forget the entire thing. I finally realized as late as 36 that I love education and special needs kids. I mena I LOVE oit, and I am actually good at it. So here I am. But not everyone knows what they want/like/care about when they are 19, so why don’t we STFU and let them wait, like I did? #stopstandardizedtestingNOW

      • Kim
        Kim says:

        I agree Sgt Mommy, most government regulated jobs require degrees, legally. Though, that’s not what I think Penelope was referring to in her post.
        In the free market, this should never be the case. Hence the term “free”, people should realize that employers are pretty much free to make up their own minds about why they hire.
        Many job listings, do say “bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience”. Even jobs that say they require qualifications will often hire people without, that’s happened to me.
        It’s a pretty big gamble to get a degree based on a job listing.
        The most bankable thing to do is start from the bottom and work your way up getting work experience. Trust me, that’s what employers really want.

  18. Kim
    Kim says:

    I wish that every high school graduate would spend some time on these jobs sites that actually list the careers that they will spend the next four years trying to obtain. If they did, most of the degrees in colleges would not be chosen.

    The common phrases, “no recent graduates” and “experience necessary” should scare any logical person out of going to college.

  19. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    I guess my being poor and having to work my way through college was beneficial. I managed to get an “office” job doing lower level stuff that I was (sort of) going to school for….graphic design…marketing… so I got the degree, plus I had work experience. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to go? While the nuts and bolts of how to do things I learned on the job as well as from on my own completing my school projects, I would not say my college education was useless—even though it was a liberal arts/humanities degree. Sure, you can read a boatload of books on your own, write papers, write a blog, but you also make connections in college and some jobs just flat out want you to have a degree, whether its needed or not. It shows you’re well-rounded and can complete something (even if that means jumping through hoops). Most employers don’t want mavericks. If the goal is job-getting, a degree’s not really that useless. This post was about graduate degrees, though, which, I wouldn’t bother with unless it was for something that required it professionally. So, I’d never pay for a graduate design, communications, marketing degree or anything like that.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      The problem is, employers aren’t willing to pay for the sacrifices you made earning a degree. The alternative to getting a degree to prove your skills is not sitting at home blogging. It is actually getting a job and working your way up. The point of the article is that many jobs prefer lots of experience over a college degree and well roundedness will earn you just about the same pay as a high school graduate with 5 years of technical experience. I would not call someone with no college degree and 5-10 years of work experience in a field a maverick. Skipping college and working your way up is the smart way to go.

      • gretchen
        gretchen says:

        This whole thing misses the point that most white collar jobs require a.Bachelor’s.to even be in he running. How are you going to get the experience? Yes I got an office job while finishing my degree but it was.because I knew someone and ut only paid $10 an hour ….

        Then of course there’s education for education’s

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          Going to college is a waste unless you want to have a job, make money, or not live in poverty.


          Unemployment rate for HS grads: 12.2%
          Unemployment rate for BA+: 3.8%

          Median income, HS grads: 28K
          Median income, BA+: 45K

          Poverty rate, HS grads: 21.8%
          Poverty rate, BA+: 5.8%

          But what about career happiness?
          “Millennials with a high school diploma or less are about three times as likely as college graduates to say their work is “just a job to get [them] by” ”

          And what about the crushing burden of debt?
          “But do these benefits outweigh the financial burden imposed by four or more years of college? Among Millennials ages 25 to 32, the answer is clearly yes: About nine-in-ten with at least a bachelor’s degree say college has already paid off (72%) or will pay off in the future (17%). Even among the two-thirds of college-educated Millennials who borrowed money to pay for their schooling, about nine-in-ten (86%) say their degrees have been worth it or expect that they will be in the future.”

          Even an anecdote about an artisan who _didn’t_ spend a decade in college wouldn’t make the stats that describe the rest of us go away.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            THANK YOU!
            And, I know the world is changing and its a different one from the one I grew up in, but there are ways to get a degree without crushing debt. I did it. For future kids…or actually parents of future kids…SAVE…and don’t have a boatload of kids if you can’t send them to college. Parents who save from the time a child is born should have no trouble paying for *some* sort of Bachelors degree (even if it’s a community college/state U combo)…

          • Kim
            Kim says:

            You’re comparing apples to oranges, here. The opposite of getting a degree is not being a poor artisan. This data that you’ve copied and pasted comes from colleges where a few high paying degree holders skew the average. However, they are only a few and are not the majority.
            I’d be more impressed to see the percentage of graduates who actually hold these high paying jobs.
            I understand that you may have never met a high income earner without a college degree, so you can make such blanket statements. However, how do you explain successful people such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who have never completed college degrees?

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are the extremely rare exception. They were smart, and extremely lucky to be at the right place at the right time with their particular skills. The statistics mentioned by Commenter include a very large number of graduates, and I am sure one could get the detailed distribution from pew. And clearly BG and SJ would not skew the distribution for people with a BA but the distribution of HS students without a BA.

          • Kim
            Kim says:

            redrock, you’re sort of jumbling my comment when I was making two points. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did not have degrees so they would not be skewing any average.

            I was referring people with high incomes that DO HAVE degrees.

            College graduates with high incomes can skew the average to make it high just like high school graduates with no income (unemployed) can skew the average to make it lower. It doesn’t prove anything.

            Steve Jobs and Bill Gates aren’t the only two people who have made it without college degrees. There are many people that I know, in fact the only successful people I do know (millionaires) that do not have college degrees.

            Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made it, in large part, because of their hard work. If you aren’t smart and “lucky” to be at the right place at the right time with a particular skill, a degree won’t help you.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            No doubt that hard word is required, degree or no degree, luck certainly helps, so does some brain-power. And I agree that a degree is no guarantee for success, neither is not having a degree.

            But, if you look at the statistics comparing income for HS and BA finishers – Steve and Bill with their huge salaries would count in the group of HS finishers. And thus increase (or skew) the average to a higher number.

            That means if the majority of millionaires do not have a BA or BS degree – the lower income for HS-only people would be considerably lower on average to make up for all the millionaires. Does this not mean that for the normal non-millionaire a BA degree actually pays of? And yes, you don’t make money just because they give you a piece of paper at the end but because you learned something valuable, or you met important people during your BA.

          • Commenter
            Commenter says:

            Yes, a few high wage earners can skew the average.

            That’s probably why the figure given is for the median instead.

            If the difference doesn’t matter to you, then you might be right that college was a waste of your money.

          • Kim
            Kim says:

            Not sure how the median would really be relevant to what they’re trying to prove.

            There could be a plethora of reasons why someone who doesn’t have a degree have just “a job to get them by”. By the way, the study you chose to copy and paste only addresses 25-32 year olds. I’d be more interested to see what the statistics are for 40+ year olds without college degrees.

            The statistics of why people don’t have jobs is always open to outlying factors.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            commenter, I agree with you – although I did miss the median instead of average in the distribution citation. However you slice it – having a college degree is connected to a higher likelihood of gainful employment and consequently often higher salary. No guarantees – and no, just having the “paper” does not guarantee employment or success, it also does not guarantee you will stay employed if you don’t work hard or smart. But it makes monetary success more likely – this is what the numbers say, they don’t say that someone without a degree can not be very successful.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            … and for me college, grad school, advanced degree and so on was worth every penny. I don’t think college is a waste of money and I also think that most students learn more in college then they realize.

  20. Crimson Wife
    Crimson Wife says:

    Good luck trying to land a husband wealthy enough to support a family if the woman doesn’t have at least a bachelor’s or higher. Educated men by and large don’t date women who aren’t also educated. And for every college dropout who is a successful entrepreneur, there are tons of college dropouts making minimum wage and tons of highly educated professionals making a good living.

    So yeah, I want my girls to go to college even if they never wind up using their degrees so that they have a better shot at landing a good husband.

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