To School, or Not to School

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So, here’s the thing. I’ve been working on my undergraduate degree for way too long, and I think it’s time to give it up. After this semester, it will have been seven years since I graduated high school, and I’m about another year out (maybe three semesters) from finishing.

I squandered my first year almost entirely. Got caught up in the stupid things that freshmen living in dorms do, and didn’t focus on school at all. Then I took about a year and a half off. I won’t say that I made the best use of that time, but I learned a lot about myself, my motivations, and my goals in life. Then I came back to school. I decided to stick with the Hospitality and Restaurant management major that I had originally started on (maybe not the best idea, but we’ll get to that later). I did ok. Not spectacular, but in the classes I was really interested in, I excelled; in the classes I didn’t really care about, I mostly held it together. If you know anything about my relationship with school, you know that is about as good as it gets. I kept that up for a while, and then life happened. My girlfriend of over four years broke up with me, and I found myself deep in the throes of depression. Another couple semesters squandered. Now, with a couple more good semesters under my belt, I’m getting the feeling that the return on my perseverance is shrinking.

It’s not that the value of a college degree in general is shrinking (well, it probably is, but, not the point). It’s that, after some serious weighing of the options, I genuinely feel I could further my career and life goals more effectively by focusing on other areas. I can just imagine the “finish your degree!” crowd coming out of the woodwork right now.  Before you get all up in arms, consider a few specific circumstances:

  • Hospitality was the wrong choice of major for me, and restaurant management the wrong concentration. I honestly don’t know who that human being was who wanted to work in restaurants seven years ago, but it’s not me now. Restaurant work is just not that great, and I know for certain that I won’t be putting my degree to use. A degree in restaurant management is hardly portable to other industries. Further (and I hesitate to put this on the internet while I am still a student), the hospitality department at my school is becoming increasingly irrelevant (that, or I am just waking up to something that has been there for years). They spent millions on a brand new, “state of the art” facility to house their classrooms and a hotel, but I had a hospitality marketing professor call Pinterest “Pee Interest” without a shard of irony. This week in one of my classes, we spent two hours going around the room and saying what we like and don’t like about going to restaurants while the teacher interjected tangentially related stories. I am paying for this. I am not lying to you.
  • My entrepreneurship minor is complete after this semester. It’s the one area that I am deriving any academic value, but after the capstone class and internship that I am taking this semester, it’s all over. There’s no more to take. Instead of filling my time with hospitality classes I’m not going to use, I would be better served with some real life entrepreneurship experience. If every time I was doing homework now, I instead read something relevant to what I am currently working on, I could learn the things that I need to learn faster.
  • Switching majors would put me at least another year behind. It would mean going back to all of the intro classes that bore me to death and inevitably end in bad grades and more dissatisfaction with school.
  • The best thing I’ve gotten out of college is the networking. I guess that means I’m doing something right. But there is plenty of networking outside of college. Plenty. I could easily spend as much time networking, going to events, and meeting people as I’m spending in class right now. Not only that, but I could form more relationships that are more targeted to my goals and interests.

The best counter-argument that I’ve heard so far? “When you have a degree, it means nothing. When you don’t have a degree, it means everything”. There are scores of employers that won’t even look at you without a degree. It’s a valid point, but I am an entrepreneur. I’ve known for a long time that I won’t be truly satisfied until I’m working for myself. I want to spend my life creating companies, selling companies, and creating more companies. I’m not looking to get hired, I’m looking to hire. I’m gaining experience with two startups right now, one my own, and one as an employee. It’s experience that I can cary with me, and it is more than I have ever learned in school.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is. I think it is going to require a lot more soul searching and sleepless nights until I figure it out, but I’m bound and determined to make the best choice for myself. What that choice is remains to be seen.

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3 comments
  1. U have some reasons for deciding not to finish 🙂 but being the college loving person I am I’d argue reasons for finishing is:

    1.the job options would be much higher….much higher
    2.college degree holders r in the majority now, competition for any job is higher and in their favor, we hear phd graduates wanting Macy’s retail jobs
    3.love life – people select for those with college degrees now even when they don’t have one
    4.social life – u said it, networking
    5.self satisfaction – there’s many adversities in life, not being a+ or taking extra time r not really reasons to quit, most people quit for reasons like having financial or family probs

    Sorry I’m not judging u in any way but I am very education passionate and obviously biased after seeing the tremendous rewards 🙂 Gluck deciding!!

    • Mark J. said:

      All valid reasons. I hadn’t considered the love life piece of it, but that is definitely something to consider. I appreciate the response though, I’ve got a lot to think about!

  2. Oye, if you’re thinking about Knotty Tie more, just leave school then. There’s no such thing as studying entrepreneurship within the walls of a university. You *can* study the concept there, but you cannot apply it. Just go out and BE an entrepreneur. That’s why I left B-School…I realized that it was all theory and concepts. Plus, didn’t help I was in school with idiots. 🙂

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