Thank God I wasn’t college material

Thank God I wasn’t college material, writes Matt Walsh.

He hated high school.

I dreaded every class, every assignment, every test, every worksheet, every mound of busywork, every shallow and forced interaction with peers I couldn’t relate to or connect with or understand; every moment, every second, every part, every inch of every aspect of my public educational experience.”

One day in detention, the teacher asked what he wanted to do with his life. He thought maybe he could be a writer. Writing was the only thing that came naturally.

 That’s when she dropped the bombshell: “Well, that sounds like an amazing goal, Matt. Get those grades up and go to college for a degree in creative writing!”

. . . I have to go to college to do the one thing I’m kind of halfway good at doing? I have to finish high school and then go through FOUR MORE YEARS OF THIS? Impossible. I’m not college material. I’m not even high school material.

And I have to get a DEGREE in CREATIVITY? Wait, WHAT? Your creativity comes from your own mind and your own heart — you can’t learn how to be creative. If I can write things, and people want to read the things that I write, shouldn’t I be able to market that ability, regardless of my college experience?

Walsh never went to college. That means he didn’t “amass a gigantic debt” or “miss out on four or five years” developing his skills.  He supports his family of four as a writer. 

College makes sense for future doctors, lawyers, engineers and the like, Walsh writes. But it’s a scam for most students.

Something has to change. Listen to me on this one. Something HAS to change. This can’t continue. It is not a sustainable model. There are millions of kids with no assets, no plans, and no purpose, taking out enormous loans to purchase a piece of paper they’ll likely never use. It can’t go on this way.

. . . Total student debt has gone up by 275 percent in the last decade. How far will it climb, how many more kids will be thrown to the wolves, before we change direction? Since I was born, college tuition rates have gone up by 500 percent. FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT. Why do we send guys like Bernie Madoff to prison while the academic elite get away with gouging an entire generation to death?

Don’t send your kids to college” unless they’re pursuing a career that requires a degree, he writes. 

Writers can demonstrate their skills by writing. In many other fields, it’s harder to prove competence. But certifications, digital badges and such like could help young adults show what they know.

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  1. As pretty much anyone who has actually attended college can attest, there’s value in a college education above and beyond the degree you receive at the end. Exposure to new material, new people and new ideas (should you choose to accept the challenge) can be transformative. If you choose, you will become a better thinker.

    The cost? I don’t argue that when you look at current and projective tuition rates, college makes less and less financial sense unless the degree will lead to job opportunities (or graduate programs that lead to job opportunities) not available to those who have not attended college. If I’m going to advise somebody to take four years of their life, $100,000, and at least as much in opportunity cost merely to gain life experience, “four years in college” is not presently at or near the top of my list.

    Can a creative writer benefit from college? Absolutely. You do get a benefit from learning about writing, from reading and engaging in the structured analysis of literature, from having your writing critiqued by somebody who is looking for more than a shared political philosophy. Can you get that without getting a degree? Of course. Can you find alternatives that don’t involve going to college? Yes, although most people won’t do the work.

    While I certainly would not take a “college for everybody” approach if counseling a high school senior, I also wouldn’t counsel seniors that they should try to become full-time bloggers, supporting their families based upon how many times their readers hit a “support me” button on my weblog, as a career choice. There is not only a tremendous amount of luck involved in getting a blog that is busy enough to provide a substantial and reliable income stream, no matter how good your writing, even the best of blogs have a limited shelf life.

    • “Luck” (hard work, really) is also indispensable in getting a decent job straight out of college, and even the most attractive of majors have a “limited shelf life.” But at least with blogging, you’re not stuck with a boatload of debt. Better to take four years to hone your writing, develop a portfolio through freelance work, etc., and build up contacts through networking (which is what most bloggers do anyhow, before they get to the point of earning a steady income – more likely through advertising and other monetization options, btw, than through “support me” buttons – you might want to read up on the topic before you offer your criticism).

      I would agree with Walsh – don’t go to college unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e., medical field, STEM career). It just doesn’t make sense for the vast majority of young adults.

      • Most bloggers earn somewhere between nothing and pennies for their work. Many who make a strong effort get a very poor return on their time ( ) Telling kids they’re going to be able to support a family on blog revenues if they spend a few years blogging is about as realistic as telling them that high school basketball is a sure path to the NBA. Perhaps less realistic, considering that there are more than 100 million blogs on Tumblr alone. If you are holding yourself out as an expert and want to tell me how much you earned online last year, and by what means, I’m all ears.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “even the most attractive of majors have a ‘limited shelf life.'” For example, do you believe that an engineering degree comes with an expiration date? Do you mean that medical doctors earn less money over time? I expect not, but that’s the implication of your statement.

        STEM, incidentally, is oversold ( ), and a student who is not suited to a STEM degree is not likely to have a glorious career even if he finds a job out of college.

        • Re: “limited shelf life” – Ever hear of “continuing education?” If you don’t stay on top of things, you’ll be passed over in favor of those who do. Isn’t that the essence of the concept of “shelf life”?

          As to your other comment, I’m not sure if you have problems with reading comprehension, or you’re merely being obtuse. Given your comments on other posts on this blog over time, I suspect it’s probably the latter. But in case it is the former: I didn’t say blogging was an easy row to hoe, since yes, it does require a lot of work. But finding a decent job after graduation these days also means you’re going to have to hustle, and possibly take some other job in the meantime. (Horrors! You might actually have to get your hands dirty, and work with the hoi polloi!) Therefore, you have two basic options: 1) Go to college, rack up tons of debt, graduate and be stuck working in some other job while you hustle to get your “dream job,” or 2) work some other job while you hustle to build up a career as a freelancer (or any self-employed endeavor, really). Not a whole lot of difference between the two, except with #1 you start off in a deep hole. Given the declining value of a college degree, that option is becoming increasingly unattractive to most people.

          Finally: As to “a student who is not suited to a STEM degree is not likely to have a glorious career even if he finds a job out of college” – well, that’s kind of what I said, isn’t it? So you actually agree with me on that point. Hope that doesn’t ruin your day 😉 !

          • The fact that continuing education exists does not mean that college degrees expire, although I understand why you are eager to change the subject.

            Similarly, while I won’t apologize for rejecting your statements about blogging, your rudeness stands as evidence that you know you haven’t held up your end of the discussion on the economics of blogging. So now you have completely abandoned your prior position and, in essence, agree with what I said? You could have saved yourself from some embarrassment had you skipped the middle part.

            Funny, it’s reasonable enough that you also agree with my statement on STEM, but as you can see for yourself its’ not even close to what you said.

            Thanks for trying.

        • “STEM, incidentally, is oversold ( )”

          Great source. The New York Times has a few words to say about the Center for Immigration Studies – – , its founder and the quality of the scholarship that issues from his organization.

          Of course that sort of intellectual dishonesty goes hand in glove with the notion that you can speak for “pretty much anyone who has actually attended college”.

          You can’t so the “value in a college education above and beyond the degree you receive at the end” applies only to you and on the evidence the value consists primarily of smugness. Since its probably a quality you were born with that college education hardly seems a worthwhile investment. At least in your case.

          Based on sagging enrollment numbers, a rather more defensible measure of the value placed on a college degree then your conceit, Matt Walsh seems to have a more accurate view of the world then do you. But then Lee’s righter then you as well since in the STEM disciplines the evolution of knowledge is occurring with such swiftness part of any worthwhile curriculum involves doing work at the undergrad level that’s cutting edge technology. The kids know they can’t afford to wait while some thirty-year-out-of-date prof cross out another semester on his way to retirement and they won’t.

          Besides, some of the hottest professorial properties understand time’s precious and since they’re the people putting out the big papers and harpooning the big grants the tweed-and-leather-elbow-patch set gets a decorous back of the hand when they start harrumphing about the dilution of the “college experience”.

          I suspect they’ll still be harrumphing when Glen Reynolds’ predictions become everyday reality.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Has he ever heard of something called “Plan B”?