The College Degree: A Dream Deferred

By: Tiffani Haynes

A college degree ain’t what it used to be.

Jacintha Garnder celebrates her graduation from Hampton University.

Well, correction, let me use my journalism degree and be grammatically correct…A college degree isn’t what it used to be.

Either way, earning and having a college degree just doesn’t represent what it used to. It used to be about education, hard work, reassurance, planning and success. In 2010, it means none of those things.

Sure, it’s an education and by my alma mater’s motto, “An Education for Life” but what you learn isn’t in the classroom and it definitely doesn’t have to do with your major (most people graduate and don’t even pursue their major as a career). It’s in the career fair when you learn the right type of hosiery to wear under your skirt suit. It’s in the frustrating, stressful 3 a.m. group meetings where you perfect your portfolio and then 6 hours later when you execute a flawless presentation in your 9 a.m. that you’ve learned about project management, group effort and the power of execution.

It also doesn’t mean hard work. There are some people that cheated, plotted and schemed their way to the same degree I worked hard for, were probably in the same honor societies I was and wore the same honor cords I did at graduation. College doesn’t equal diligence. These days the average Joe can graduate and hold a degree, a double-edge sword. It’s great that so many are able to attend college but lame that so many can graduate without deserving it.

Yet most importantly, a college degree most definitely doesn’t guarantee job placement, security, reassurance or success. Out of all the people I know who graduated with me, only 2 are working in their field and happy with the position they’re in at the moment. Two! That’s pretty pathetic. Not to say some aren’t in grad school or pursuing other opportunities but most are struggling to find their way into their dream field. Mind you, I only said find a way into their dream field. Nobody’s expecting a dream job out the gate, we just want to get out the gate. A college degree used to mean you were leaving college and heading to a job, not the unemployment line, retail or an internship. It meant a start into your career, whatever you chose for it to be.

That's too close to the truth to be funny.

I’m not devaluing a college degree by any means. Some would die to have the chance to go to college. In fact, many did. People fought for me to be exactly where I am, sitting and looking at my college degree collect dust. I appreciate that. I really do. I respect it, admire it and greatly appreciate it.

Yet again, a college degree ain’t what it used to be. It just doesn’t hold the same value it did back then.

What I gained from college can’t be summed up in that one piece of paper. For me, and many, college was about the experience and culture. It’s the challenge of growing into the person you want to take into your adult life. You leave a lot wiser, poised, business-minded and focused, or at least you should. It’s just one brick in a long road you have to lay for your future.

Sky’s the limit, it really is. Just don’t look for that college degree to get you there.

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