Last semester I walked out of a final with mixed feelings. I knew I had done well on the exam, yet I wondered if, in the real world, I would ever use any of the theories I had memorized and then regurgitated onto the final. I told a classmate how I felt as we left the building, admitting to her that most days I wondered what I was even doing in college. She replied that she often felt the same, then added: “But we need to see this through and get our degrees, so we can get a good job.”
I walked across campus with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. My classmate’s words were still on my mind as I looked at the students around me.
If buying a home used to be considered the American Dream, then “going to college so you can get a good job” used to be considered good advice that promised us security and happiness, but turned out to be a myth. Higher education has been called the next bubble to pop. We are the most educated generation so far, yet half of college graduates are unemployed and crippled by their debt. We were fooled into believing that higher education would make us successful in this new economy, and now we slowly realize this isn’t true, we slowly realize the joke.
So what can you do about it?
Take control of your future and design your own education outside of traditional schooling. Hack your education. Why?
Taking charge of your education is the only bet you should make. College used to be considered ‘safe’ but we can no longer bet our degrees on getting jobs for us. As Dale Stephens wrote in his book Hacking Your Education, “We shouldn’t be asking, how can I get a college degree? We should be asking, how can I get the things a degree promises?” When you hack your education you begin investing in yourself by developing the skills you need to thrive in the economy. There is no B.S-ing or memorization when you take your education into your own hands–you are responsible for teaching yourself real, hard skills. Hacking your education can be done in various ways depending on the field you want to go into, but every way involves self-directed learning. When you leave college, you will be forced to take your career into your own hands and learn as much or as little as you want to succeed in your industry. If you start hacking your education now, you will have more than just a degree like everyone else to fall back on. This might sounds like a lot of work, but if you don’t do it now, then it’ll just be after graduating college that you will need to start gaining real-world, up-to-date skills and experience.
Hacking your education is now easier and more necessary than ever before. With the increasing availability of online resources and material, you can now build skills and career capital like never before. Not only is it easier to hack your education right now, it is also more necessary than ever: degrees have become the new high school diploma and have lost the value they once had. An article in Harvard Business Review states: “The value of a college degree has been in question since the Great Recession, but there have yet to emerge clear alternatives for the public to rally around. There are plenty of contenders, though, and it won’t be long before one of them crystallizes the idea for the masses that the traditional degree is increasingly irrelevant in a world with immediate access to evaluative information.” One of these contenders is Udacity, who teamed up with tech companies like Google, Facebook and AT&T to create a new kind of degree that will guarantee you a job.
As Zak Slayback writes, a degree is a signal that you are a minimally viable candidate, yet the relative value of a degree is decreasing. Zak, named a LinkedIn voice in education of 2015, writes: “What employers need is a new signal. They need a sign that you are somebody who stands apart from the pack and is a person willing to take risks. They need somebody who is willing to take control of their education.”
Whether or not you go to college you must become a Hackademic. Take control of your education, and your life. Don’t bet on a degree to get you a job or secure your future–hack your education and bet on yourself.