Students bypassing college degrees on purpose–but at what cost?

Posted on April 2nd, 2014

A recent Hechinger Report article highlighted the number of students bypassing traditional college degrees in favor of a “buffet-style” approach–taking classes in only the subjects they’re interested in or relevant to the types of jobs they’re seeking, and not worrying about earning a degree in any one field.

As we’ve written previously, taking a variety of classes at different schools, such as summer classes at community colleges or online classes, can be a good way to save money on your education.

However, if ‘education sampling’ happens in lieu of ever graduating, the student puts him or herself at a significant disadvantage compared to those with bachelor’s degrees.

Being well-rounded doesn’t mean not graduating

College presents you with many opportunities, both educational and social. While you may start out committed to a certain subject (and possibly a significant other from high school), college gives you the opportunity to explore new subjects, from the liberal arts to science and technology, that you may find you enjoy and excel at even more.

As Fabolous once said,  “the entrée ain’t as good without something on the side.” Taking a variety of classes will improve your college experience and can make you more open-minded.

And a college graduate who is a ‘Renaissance man‘ (or woman) with a background in several different subjects can make for a great job candidate, being seen as more flexible, adaptable, and interesting.

Like fries with a burger, mixing major classes with electives makes your college experience that much better.

Like fries with a burger, mixing major classes with outside electives can make your college experience that much better.

Taking lots of classes in different subjects is fine, but unless you ever commit to a subject and study it at the advanced level, you can’t exactly call yourself an expert–and you’re unlikely to graduate on time, if at all.

Without a bachelor’s degree, you may be stuck advertising your job services at the Forum longer than you’d like–and put yourself at a greater risk of unemployment and poverty, making it much more difficult to pay off your student loan debt.

Playing the (higher education) field

We’re so used to being able to customize everything, from our Starbucks drink orders to our perfect mates. Millennials, especially, are seen as being commitment-phobic when it comes to relationships, jobs, interests and even where they live.

But at some point, every adult (and college student) needs to make a choice–it doesn’t have to be for forever, but it has to at least be long enough to put in the time and effort to earn a bachelor’s degree in that field.

Serial dater John Mayer has been called a commitment-phobe by former flames. Luckily for his career, it seems like music was the one thing he could commit to. He graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1998.

While flexibility and taking classes in a variety of disciplines can make you a more well-rounded student (and better job candidate), wandering aimlessly from one subject to another just makes you seem flaky.

If you don’t ever study a subject on a more advanced level (such as taking higher-level courses) you won’t be any closer to getting that valuable bachelor’s degree–and you’ll probably waste time and money in the process.

Don’t treat college like online dating

College isn’t Tinder. You can’t say yes or no to a subject or a degree with the swipe of a finger. Your higher education decisions–from choosing where to attend college, how much to take out in loans, and what subject to major in–are much more expensive and impactful than whether you decide to get coffee with that cute redhead.

The consequences of never taking your relationship with a college discipline to the ‘next level’ (advanced courses and possibly a degree in that field) are great. Majoring in a subject doesn’t mean you have to work in that field forever.

But the most important thing, in the eyes of your future employer, is that you show you can successfully commit to and immerse yourself in the study of a subject. There’s no harm in having a few side dishes, but you’ll likely regret it if you never choose a main meal–or pay too much trying to figure out what that should be.

photo credit: powerplantop via photopin cc

Category: Choosing a College

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