Is It Worth It?
Is it worth it? Does all the money, time, effort and yes, suffering of going to college pay off? It’s a good question and one not easily answered. We hear this topic in the news a lot lately. Are we choosing the right school, the right program and/or will we be able to get a good job/career because of this education? I believe the answer will be different for everyone. I can only tell you my experience and my opinion.
As a high school student, I didn’t have high hopes of going to a university. I didn’t think I was smart enough to get in, let alone graduate from one. It was obvious from my high school counselor’s lack of help that she didn’t think I was either. Long story short, I went to a community college and transferred in to a big university. The whole process was terrifying and intimidating. As a young person, it’s hard to know what you want to do or what you can do as a career. One thing I do know is no one at the community college or the university helped me figure that out. I remember my first semester at the university. I could only get 4 credits of classes because I was a sophomore and sophomores had to wait until all the other students registered for their classes before they could find ones they were eligible to take. So, my first semester I took a rowing class, water skiing and some type of film class. None of which helped me with my field of study (Psychology and later Child and Family Development). But, that got better.
Finally, in my second semester I could find classes I really needed for graduation. Intro to Psychology, I couldn’t wait to take this class. This was my area of interest. Studying how and why people are the way they are. Juicy stuff! Nope. It was a class of over 300 students. The classroom was like sitting in a stadium at an athletic event and the professor was just like the quarterback down on the field. He was this little shape making sounds and moving around at the front of the class. Not only that, but I was literally a number to him. This class only had two tests, a midterm and a final. You came in, filled in the scantron with your social security number, your answers, and answered a few essay questions, then you were done. Your percentage grade would be posted outside the classroom door by the next class. Look for the last four digits of your social security number and your percentage grade would be listed next to it. If you had questions prior to one of the two tests, you were instructed to ask the graduate student TA and they would help you. Needless to say, I did not learn anything from this class except how not to teach a class.
Not all of my classes at the university were this bad; some only had 40 students. After time had passed and I got used to the very large campus, I became more comfortable and was willing to even ask professors questions about things that I didn't understand. But, I still wasn’t sure how to translate the information I was learning in class into a career. I would wait in a long line to see my academic counselor and she would help me map out my classes and tell me what I needed to sign up for to graduate, but she didn’t help me with my big question. What was I going to do when I graduated? It’s a lonely time, your last year of college. It’s up to you now, figure it out. I know there was a part-time jobs board somewhere, but no one offered to help me figure out what job to look at or how to get that job when I graduated. In fact, it was up to me to request to graduate. If I hadn’t filed that very important paper asking the school if I can graduate, I still wouldn’t have graduated to this day.
As you can see, there were many things about going to a big university that I didn’t appreciate. It wasn’t all-bad though. I really enjoyed meeting new people and being on the rowing team for my school. I met my husband there! I just think the big universities are missing important elements and, unless you have your entire future figured out and you don't need any help learning any new concepts, you might wonder at the end why you spent all that money to get ……?
So if not a big university, then what? We hear starting in middle school that if you want to be anything in life, you have to go to a big university. But, what if you don’t want to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or scientist? What is left for you? Vocational schools.
We hear a lot of bad things about for profit vocational schools. But, having worked at one since 2005, I can tell you they are not all bad. Just like not all universities are big party schools with classrooms of 300 students. These smaller schools can really offer a lot to the student who couldn’t even get into the university, let alone get the support they need to succeed. They offer programs universities don’t, and they offer more one-on-one interaction with the instructors and support staff. Not only that, they offer career services.
The career services offered at the for profit school I work at goes into classrooms and gets to know students before they graduate. They set up meetings with each and every one of our soon-to-be graduates to discuss their interests and what they hope to do when they graduate. They review their resumes, do practice interviews, call local employers to recommend students and send the students potential job leads they would be interested in.
So, is it worth it? Is it worth it to spend all that money at the large university? I’m sure it is for many people, but not everyone, and what a dull world we would live in without 3D Modeling for Gaming, Animation and Motion Capture, Graphic Design, Recording and Live Sound, Video Production & Editing, Media Business, Audio Visual Equipment Technician, CNC and Robotic Manufacturing Technology, Contemporary Business Management, Electrical Technician, Facilities Maintenance Technician, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration, Human Resource Management, Medical Assistant, Medical Office Billing & Coding, Paralegal, Property Management, Sales Management, Welding, Allied Health, Business Administration, Construction Management, and Veterinary Technician.
Bottom line, in my opinion, we need a variety of options for our high school graduates to choose from. Without these options, some students will be wasting money and time lost on a campus not knowing what to do with their life.
President, Minneapolis Media Institute