In 2004, when I entered in college I choose my degree from a list of top employability degrees from the top schools in Portugal. What a terrible mistake I made!
When people asked me about what degree I will pursue, I reply “I don’t know”, so one of the most common phrases I heard at the time was “you like computers, why don’t you go to an IT degree?”. My answer was always the same “IT I can learn for myself. I need to enroll in a degree that I cannot learn for my own.”. What a second terrible mistake I made!
Thirty years ago earning a college degree means working in a good company with a very good salary. My parents don’t have college degrees and at the time they saw the people with degrees with a bigger salary and with better lives, so it’s normal that they want that for their children’s. The problem is that a degree no longer means a bigger salary and a better life. Of course, I thank a lot to my parents for that, but the problem is not from them, it’s the society.
We live in a world where the value added and differentiation are everything. If you have the same degree and same life path as other thousands of people, where is your point of difference? What is your value in society? The higher education generalization has arisen these questions and that’s why a degree worth little if not accompanied by a good set of skills and real evidence. When I talk to anyone about a college degree and the benefits of it, one that almost always comes at the front is the work capacity that the majority of students acquire. No doubt about that, but it’s necessary to spend three, four or five years in college to have the capacity to work hard?
When I said in the past that I could learn IT for myself, there is a simple explanation for that. At that time that was probably the only field of knowledge with public information online for anyone to learn. Besides that, I liked it, so I had no problem in spending a lot of hours learning it. The big difference between my autonomous learning and the college learning is that I only read, listen and try things that I need or the market need. I don’t learn what teachers want or what will appear on the exam. This is one of the big problems of college. People came to the work market and wait for the teacher to tell them what is to study! The teacher does no longer exist, you were left in the middle of the real world.
In my guitar lessons, my teacher used to say that sometimes we need to forget how to play a song to play it correctly. That’s absolutely true for that and for many things in life. College compels us to focus on many wrong things and to operate with obsolete mental models. When students exit college they are capable of learning things, the big problem is unlearning the mental model that could restrain a good mindset in the work market.
The wide variety of courses that we have online for free will change the higher education system. More flexibility and more access to all you need to strive and gain your position. Now you can understand my first mistake in choosing my degree. We need to study now for what the market will need in the future and not for what the market needs now. The economy is very fast-paced and in three, four or five years, a lot of things will happen.