CNBC ran a story this month about 15 companies—two of which are Google and Apple—that no longer require employees to have a college degree. I think we’re on the verge of this practice becoming a lot more common and a lot less newsworthy.
You’re not going to become a doctor or an engineer or a physics professor without going to college. But if you can become so good at programming or system architecture or selling that you’re the best applicant for the job, why would any company care whether or not you had a college degree? College is one way—and if it’s the right college for you, a great way—to learn marketable skills. But it’s certainly not the only way.
I’m not suggesting that every student would be well advised to pick a future career at age 17 and then ditch college to pursue it. Google and Apple are showing that you can certainly take that route, and it might be worth considering. But it’s also putting a lot of your future’s eggs in a one-path basket.
What I do strongly advise every student to recognize is that the old path of just going to college, getting a degree, and expecting inherently better career options to present themselves is disappearing. If all you have to show for your four years in college is a degree saying that you spent four years in college, that doesn’t say as much as it used to.
Learning and experience are increasingly available to everyone via the internet. Curiosity and drive no longer require dollars, debt, and a degree to feed them. More paths are opening to more places for more people. What feels like the sure thing—just go to college and it will all work out—isn’t such a sure thing anymore.
I’m a college proponent. It’s why I started Collegewise and why I’m still with this company 19 years later. I think college can be a transformational event for anyone lucky enough to attend. It’s a vehicle for upward mobility to those who just need the first lift. It’s an invitation to explore your interests and to discover new talents. It’s a chance to surround yourself with opportunities, people, and experiences that will impact the rest of your life.
But it’s no longer a means to an end. It’s not a step to be checked off with a subsequent reward for completion from the rest of the world. College used to work that way. But times and the world have changed.
One of the most read posts I’ve ever written is this one on building a remarkable college career. It—and the linked past posts within it—shares some advice about how to make the most of your time in college, all of which is positioned around the role of college in the changing world, and the power today’s college students have to maximize their time while there.