There's a new wave of American thought leaders who are telling high school graduates to skip higher education and move right on to real-world jobs. Screw education. Get experience. And I agree with that, for the most part--
Prestigious universities nowadays are insanely expensive, time-consuming, filled with ideological left-wing propaganda, saturated with a homogenous new breed of useless snot faces, and aren't necessarily getting you places in the real world that make it worth it.
So... why did I decide to go back to school in January 2018?
Let's recap on my school situation: I graduated from UCLA about two years ago, with a bachelors of science from the Institute for Society and Genetics. Back then, I needed that degree, because I wanted to become a doctor. The science major allowed me to take all my pre-med requirements through my program, while also getting college credit for hours of hospital and lab research. Additionally, I was going to school pretty much for free, since I was a California resident and every UC school I'd applied to had either offered me full or partial scholarships. And I was living at home and not paying rent. So I really had nothing to lose.
Now I'm in the media world, in Washington, D.C., and I don't need that shit anymore. I can be doing all the stuff I'm doing now, with barely a high school diploma. A lot of the skills I'm using right now, in fact, are skills I learned in high school.
Here's the thing: college was good for me then, and it's good for me now, because it forced me to keep moving on to the next step. Plus, regardless of how limited your scope of the world might be, you're guaranteed to come out of there knowing *something*.
If I didn't study a bunch of hard sciences at UCLA and do a bunch of research, I wouldn't know that I don't want to be a doctor. I might live the rest of my life thinking, "what if?" I wouldn't have met people outside my ideological/religious bubble, I wouldn't have all these crazy opportunities only UCLA students get, I wouldn't have gotten into salsa, I wouldn't have had the chance to intern and then work for Ben Shapiro, and I would't have gone down this crazy, amazing road to where I am now.
Besides, hard sciences at UCLA are hard, man. After doing that, I can pretty much do anything.
School gave me the discipline, nurturing, and optimism I sometimes felt I needed in other areas of my life. Even if I didn't know what I wanted to do next, being in school allowed me to take classes that inspired me to forge my own path.
For instance, when I quit my job last year, I was wondering what I should do next. I knew I wanted to be my own boss someday, but still stuck on where I wanted to take my writing. Do I start my own digital media company while funding it with my side projects? Do I go back to my medical school applications since I'd already started them? Do I start looking for another career that is media-related?
While I was taking time to think about this stuff, a lot of other things were going on. I had started a haphazard side business which caused me a lot of debt and trouble, and I was struggling to pay rent and buy food. At the same time, I fell into a number of other bad situations and it felt as if the universe was trying to punish me by putting me in a downward spiral. I finally fell into this crazy depression that nothing could seem to pull me out of.
Until grad school.
My mom suggested it to me first. You know parents, always obsessing over higher ed for their kids. Anyway, my mom told me, "listen, Pardes. I don't care what you do with your life. Do what you want, fine. Just go back to school, is all I'm asking."
Fortunately, I already had a program in mind. It was a plan B that I had decided on when I moved to D.C., in case my writing gig wasn't working out for me. I wanted an MBA degree, and Johns Hopkins down the street offered a dual part-time program that allowed me to study that plus Communications for the price of one. I just had to apply to them separately because I hadn't taken the GMAT. So I applied to the easier one-- the comms degree first-- and got in right away.
That was one of the best decisions for me. Being back in school kickstarted my confidence. It got me going to classes, having a schedule, meeting people who were doing similar things. I found other ways of making money, cleared up my debt, put myself on a loan repayment plan, and started recovering my credit score.
School also gave me a safety net. Big niche markets like D.C. can be brutal sometimes. It's you against the world. Nobody's there to help you get ahead in your career; you've got to do that for yourself, otherwise there are a bunch of other people ready to take your place in a minute. At school, you're the boss. Your teachers are working for you. They're not going to try and undermine your capabilities, or compete with you, or trick you into taking a lower-paying job or signing some random-ass contract that will hurt you in the long run. Their job is to help you succeed. And I was so damn grateful to have that in my life.
Aside with lifting me out of my depression and getting me back on track with life, school did another amazing thing for me: it inspired me for my next career move.
In my first semester as a communications grad student, I took an elective class taught by a writer-turned-filmmaker. I loved it-- long story short, it inspired me to want to follow his path. I have no doubt that my graduate program was taken into consideration when I was hired for my current gig.
So there you go. Being in school helped me a lot. I love my program, I love my classes, I'm learning an insane amount, reading a lot more than most people my age are reading, and steadily raising my credit score by paying back a tiny bit of my loans every month. I don't worry about my college loans; to me, that's a small price for what I got out of it.
REALITY CHECK: You can technically get all these things out of an online program, a summer bootcamp, whatever. You can find an online course for every subject that interests you. You don't need a full-fledged graduate degree to get you these things. But here's my thought process: if I'm gonna be taking these classes anyway, I might as well get it all in a package with full-time JHU college life perks and also get a JHU stamp of approval on it.
I can't tell you what's good for you, because I don't know you. I've watched people become millionaires straight out of high school, and I've watched people study for years and years and still barely make enough money to pay the rent. Higher ed doesn't guarantee success. But it guarantees doors will be opened.
Remember that quote, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink," or whatever? You're the horse and the water is success. Higher ed can help lead you to the water, but it's up to you to drink it.... Mister Ed.