College is a scam

If you’re trying to land a job, look past the required college curriculum

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Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By Max Schwartz, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

College is a big, fat scam. I come from a family of educated people, and my relatives with doctorates and masters outnumber the obsolete bachelor’s degree-holder. That same degree that once promised a leg up is now worth job security at best. I see first-hand, at family dinners and networking opportunities just how much my college education is being put to use; spoiler, it’s not much.

I should mention that while I’ve had some great professors at the University of Massachusetts, very few have prepared me for the type of work I completed at my corporate internship in New York City. It’s a different culture in “the real world” and what makes sense here means nothing there and vice versa. One thing is shared though, and it’s that success is not hinged on doing what you think you should do.

My gut tells me that I should be going to college, earning perfect scores and landing just the right internships so I can leave my four-year degree with an exemplary education and enough job experience under my belt to land the perfect position. My gut, however, is often wrong, and that’s become more apparent as I’ve worked my way through each of these stages.

Here’s the thing: I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I’ve held a 4.0 for five semesters, I’ve formed meaningful relationships with my professors and I’ve even landed some incredible internships, but nowhere along that road was I told that I had done it right. Most students don’t decide to attend college because they’re able to easily recognize the way their performance over those four years of higher education helps their future prospects; instead, they attend college out of normalcy. If everybody else is doing it and you can afford it there’s no reason not to. The key part of that sentence is affordability.

College being “the time of our lives” is the case only for those who can afford it. The total cost of in-state attendance at UMass was just over $10,000 in the 2000-01 academic year. The cost of attendance for in-state students increased by more than 200 percent one decade later in 2010 and has since continued to skyrocket. For a student wishing to attend UMass in 2021, they are expected to afford $30,000 of in-state tuition and fees including room and board. If this trend continues, 18-year-olds wishing to attend UMass in 2030 will be charged the equivalent of a 2022 Audi A4 sports car every year.

Despite the price tag, we rarely see college graduates talking about how much they regret attending college. You may hear some explain their college wasn’t right for them or that they hated their sorority but very few will admit that college itself was not worth it. If we rephrased the question and asked college graduates if they believe their institution prepared them to land a post-graduate career, I imagine that would elicit a much different answer.

Landing a career, from what I’ve gathered as an undergraduate student in search of a career, is much more reliant on connections than on classes and relationships with professors. If a majority of high school seniors decided that their main priority after college was landing a job rather than “having a good time” we would see a much larger shift from humanities majors to business – and there’s a reason for that too.

UMass’ Isenberg School of Management prides itself on high job placements among their undergraduate populations, so much so they’ve begun the process of limiting UMass students from internally transferring. Isenberg, like many professionals today, knows how important networking is for landing a job. The school has provided students with “The. Networking. & LinkedIn. Guide.” with tips on how to properly network. Networking is arguably one of the most important skills business students are taught and it’s because it works. Knowing the right people makes all the difference in getting your foot in the door, which for many students is the only thing stopping them from landing jobs.

While connections can help you get a shot at a job, they don’t guarantee you a permanent spot at the company. Neither the best business courses nor the perfect connection can do is tell you how to act once you get the job. I’m fortunate enough to have been in that position where I connected with the right people and landed the interview, but it was my character being tested once I actually began talking to the recruiters and the CTOs. Did I need to go $30,000 in debt every year to land these interviews? Absolutely not. Am I fortunate to have been talking to the right people? Absolutely. But what we shouldn’t be doing is pretending that my required college curriculum is what got me here.

Going into debt is bad, but a necessary evil in attending college. Attending college, if done right, will be about coalescing what you’ve learned in your classes with a mix of networking opportunities. The modern college curriculum has its positives, but much greater value lies in using this collegiate platform to connect with the people who will get you where you want to be. I’ve learned some skills in my classes that have helped me, no doubt. But what I’ve learned most about landing a job experience lies entirely in what college hasn’t taught me and completely in what I’ve needed to teach myself.

Max Schwartz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @maxwschwartz.