There has been much buzz in the media about the expense and relative lack of worth of a college degree. Although a BA is a minimal requirement for many jobs nowadays, the weight of students loans and the loss of several ‘wasted years’ have made many people regret their decision to attend higher education. This is to say nothing of grad school.
I myself suffered with this dilemma as well. Although I completed a BA in Land of Israel Studies in Bar-Ilan University, I decided to discontinue my MA studies in the Contemporary Jewry Department in Bar-Ilan for a variety of reasons, some financial, some far more personal.
Money was a constant problem for me. It’s true that my parents helped out a lot in the financial department, but I still endured no small amount of hardship and suffering from chronic unemployment and limited funds. It’s difficult to find work when your schedule takes up most of your day, or at least enough of your day to not be able to have regular work shifts. Most jobs offered on campus pay very little, and most employees really want ‘full time’ workers even when they say ‘part time’. There are few things more humiliating than having to shnorr your parents or friends for bus money, even in the form of a loan.
Nevertheless, I do not regret the time I spent in university for the most part. While I probably should have ‘cut loose’ earlier than I did, I learned a lot – not just academically but in terms of life and work skills. Some of these skills (and personal contacts) serve me in good stead today with my current job. So it was not all a ‘waste’.
I mention all this to avoid being labeled one way or the other on the issue of whether to go to college. In my opinion, college is a tool just like any other – it can be used wisely and it can be used foolishly. It’s true that far too many people go to college for the wrong reasons, and even those who go for the ‘right ones’ don’t always know how to make use of it. Still, higher education can be beneficial if you understand how to take advantage of it.
For the next few months, I will be writing a series of advice “tips” similar to those of the immortal grerp, geared towards college students or people of college age. My hope is that it will help at least some people out to make the most of their time, either in college or outside of it.