I’ve already made a short video about this on my YouTube channel, so I much encourage you to check that out above and subscribe to my channel if you haven’t already, but for those looking to read, I have a detailed explanation of my thoughts below!
Uni isn’t for everyone, but it is for most people. Now, notice that I said uni and not your degree. A degree in England (and the US) is incredibly expensive, especially in contrast to the vast array of online courses that won’t cost you much at all, nor will they take you 3 or 4 years to complete. However, the uni experience is much more filling and worthwhile, where graduates earn around £700,000 more over a lifespan on average than those without a degree, and this gap is only set to increase. Graduates are also three times more likely to find a job and twice as likely to enjoy their job based on several studies.
The funny thing is, most degrees seem to fail at teaching you real-life skills and only really benefit those who are book smart, ie, your degree doesn’t improve ability to work in the real world. Nothing you learn from your degree is really that useful in the working world, hence rendering most degrees as completely useless. You can learn most things at home by yourself for free without having to spend £9000 a year or more to learn it at university. Most of the ‘skills’ you develop from degrees are also fairly useless when you consider that around 60% of people get into work via the one thing you don’t learn at school, and that’s networking.
However… even though your degree fails to teach you this, university does not. Some of the people you meet at top unis will be the best in their fields one day, and it may prove incredibly useful to have strong connections with some of these people. Now, this isn’t to say that 600 friends on facebook equates to 600 job opportunities, as these people need to be willing to help you, but having a strong network and people willing to refer you are both great things to have. Communication skills like body language, public speaking and just talking, in general, are crucial in the world of work and aren’t taught very well in degrees, but can be developed at uni. Information & technical skills aren’t enough anymore, just take a look at President Trump… The man who tweeted his way to a rather unexpected victory.
Having said all of this, a degree is still incredibly powerful because of something called signalling theory. Signalling was a theory articulated by one Michael Spence, from his ‘Job Market Signalling’ paper in 1973. The idea is that although a degree itself isn’t that valuable to you personally, it means a hell of a lot to others because of what it signals to them. A degree is a very, VERY powerful superficial indicator that tells employers that you’re smarter and more hardworking than the average person and that you’re accustomed to having deadlines, and having to work with professionals – whether this is entirely true in your case or not.
With this in mind, it doesn’t really make sense to work extremely hard and get those top, top grades at expense of all the other exciting opportunities that present themselves during your time at university, considering only the degree itself is needed to signal your so-called brilliance, you might as well get the bare minimum, or at least the highest you can without losing sleep. For example, since more and more people are getting degrees, why not become the president of a club, society or association while you’re at university or college, just to help enhance your CV or resume? You could also do spring weeks or summer internships to get work experience in the real world, or even be the captain of a sports team.
Outside of professionalism, if you’re unsure of what you want to do with your life, why not take your time at uni to try new things and figure out what your interests are? Or even take a gap year to meet new people, and travel to experience new cultures and gain a new perspective on life, all while trying to figure out who you are. Go to different lectures or socialise as this is your last real chance to make friends. Start your own project, like a youtube channel or a blog, even a small business in selling cakes, hats or whatever you enjoy.
Having said all this, if you know what you want to do in life and you don’t need a degree to get there, don’t go to uni, and invest your time in achieving that goal. If you find that you know what you want but you’re already 2 years into your course, pursue your interest as a side job and finish your degree, utilising all the resources that are available to you at uni, like 3D printers, 1000s of books and 10s of 1000s of bright individuals, in the shape of students, lecturers or researchers, then drop out when your side hustle starts building traction, or whatever you deem necessary.
Alas, the choice is yours…
To those coming to this after having watched the video, my extended piece on survivorship bias will be out soon. I haven’t had much time to write recently as I was travelling back to uni and finishing off a bunch of work to make my deadlines!
Stay tuned, all will make sense soon.