The True Worth of a College Education


Before anything, I just want to make clear that I have nothing against academic knowledge. I think that Professors are great and they deal an enormous amount of good and positive inspiration for us all. What they teach however is something else altogether.

This past weekend, I found myself in conversation with a successful entrepreneur and business executive. She is the founder, owner and CEO of a highly successful T-shirt and apparel company. She designs, prints and embroiders hats and T-shirts for large world-class attractions such as Vegas, Universal Studios, Niagara Falls – that sort of thing.

The conversation was revolving around education, so I asked if she had a college degree. It turns out she majored in design, which pertains directly to her line of work, something very few graduates are able to boast.

However, she added that she did not gain her expertise in business from her college days, but from her first husband who was quite the entrepreneur and taught her everything about the T-shirt, apparel and screen business.

So I dug further and asked “And how did he get his start?”. She explained, how he had his MBA in business but most of his acumen he got from from his father who had a natural knack for money and business. He was an expert salesman and a master negotiator.

Hmm, I thought. She has a degree. He has a degree. But where did everyone really get their business sense? From the old-school learn-as-you-go real-deal world of entrepreneurial zeal and spirit.

So is college education all that it’s made out to be? Has it improved by moving further away from the academic literature and closer to the result-oriented – what works and what doesn’t? Is it worth the four long and boring years (much more for med school) and mortgaging the family farm? Maybe. But at the end of the day, you’re probably better off learning from someone who’s done it all before (except for Med school).

Your thoughts?

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5 Responses to “The True Worth of a College Education”

  1. Kolbakol Says:

    Interesting topic. As an entrepeneur and current university student I think I may share some of my input.

    To a level of degree your article is touching upon a very sensitive and open to debate kind of subject.
    In my personal opinion and from my experience -education really helps with the whole theory of business and let’s you understand the basic “lingo” or common terms and jargon that is used in your particular industry. It also assists you with research and finding or sourcing information. What education in universities or collages lack is the actual hands on or the entrepenurial skills – that comes and depends on the individual alone. No school in the world can teach you how to be charming, kind, honest etc. These are just etiquette that you pick up along the way and by getting down and dirty.

    To most of my friends and fellow marketers I normally advise them, that if they want to be successful in marketing, they should not learn marketing in school – they should first work in marketing. I had 4 years experience before I went to school to get my degree. Now I am in university and at the same time am the owner of my own marketing company. For school projects and assignments I use realy life case studies. For me it’s also a clever way of doing business, get a marketing plan written by a bunch of students for free, no need to pay! Get them to do some research, which takes hours!

    The point being both are important and in order to be successful I believe you need some basic knowledge and theoretical knowledge which will help you to sort out between good information and less valuable ones, and you need the hands on training or working to get day to day real life experience, the stuff they can never teach you in school.

    Hope this helps out a little feel free to follow my blog at http://www.kolbakol.blogspot.com
    good luck and thanks for sharing!

    • my1ambition Says:

      Well put.

      Two key points I want to note:

      1) Colleges are missing something integral – the science of entrepreneurship; how to get from idea to prototype to franchise.

      2) Such knowledge can easily be introduced into existing college curriculums for virtually no more time and money than students are currently expending.

      I was considering mentioning that there are colleges that specialize in the hands-on-type experience. One such college in my home town caters one of the highest rated MBA programs for this reason. Students participate in various entrepreneurial activities on and off campus.

      At the same time, I can’t help but notice that much of what is required in business doesn’t stem from the academic knowledge but street knowledge. This does not mean that you are either born with it or not, but that there is something missing in colleges today (actually, it’s always been missing), that can be bought for only a few thousand dollars in only a few short seminars.

      Also, funny you mention marketing as a school project. That’s exactly how FedEx got started!

      • KolBakol Says:

        I agree that there is an actual problem in the curriculum, however school in my opinion is all about providing you with knowledge, not really about providing you with skill.
        Unfortunately, there aren’t that many people in this world that are too innovative, nor are they willing to work to hard to achieve any goal. It seems easier to say or dream about getting a Ferrari rather than actually figuring how to get that Ferrari.
        Therefore no school in the world can teach you entrepreneurial skills in their true meaning. What they should do and as you have mentioned, is give the opportunity and hands on, this I will agree with you. But the true drive for success comes from with in one self, with true self meditation and figuring out what s/he is talented and good at – they have to figure out – what would they love to do – even if it meant working for free! (of course one must remember that they need to put bread on the table – that’s where the money making comes in…)

        But the point is – and as I have mentioned in my previous post, school can only give you tools on forming alliances, franchises, business deals – it give you the business vocabulary that everyone internationally is bonded by. What school cannot and I don’t believe ever provide you – is the push, will and want to succeed – that comes from with in! Hence G-d created man with a freedom of choice – it is up to the person to decide between his or her success and/or failure!

        On a side note – it is funny you mention FedEx, I had to write an essay on them and on WestJet – both of which starting in a similar way (young entrepreneurs btw!)

    • my1ambition Says:

      True, although while no one will provide you with the passion and motivation to achieve, there are certain elements that CAN be taught but are still missing. Businesses and entrepreneurs are taught what a business must do, but few are taught how to do them. Colleges why away from “new” material and focus on basic management and operations.

      Now while these are integral, and I’d even go out and say that a manager MUST have this skill set – the fundamentals of creating a business from scratch – before you know what skills you have, before you even have an idea, before you go out an try it on your own – is teachable. Yes, real life experience is worth so much, but wouldn’t you rather just find a successful mentor who’s done it already?

  2. King Sidharth Says:

    So close to what I think. I just passed my high school and will get into college for the sake of it. I don’t think that there is anything that college can add to an entrepreneurs life except some good fun. But nothing is more fun than your own venture.

    The fact that she learned from her husband and not college proves that college really is ‘assembly line worker producer’.

    I wrote a post on the topic: Education Killed 956 Entrepreneurs

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