Tyler Demery

Mrs. Thomas
English 1102-057
April 9, 2014
The Importance of College
Throughout my entire life, I was raised on the principle that college is
fundamental and a necessity for someone if they plan to be successful. My
parents worked hard to install these ideals in both my brother and I ever since we
were children. At every opportunity available, they would highlight the importance
of a college degree and would also use the failings of some of my family
members without a degree as ammunition for their argument. I’ve noticed that
the public school system as a whole also tries to teach kids this idea. Ever since I
was in elementary school, teachers would constantly say things like “you need to
get good grades so you can go to college and get a good job.” Statements like
this give young kids the idea those who do not make satisfactory grades will
basically have to struggle in life. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I noticed
that that might not always be the case. I began to notice success stories of those
with no college degree, but off of pure will and determination alone. I also
observed many news articles talking about how the value of a college degree is
continuously decreasing. I guess the main question I’m trying to answer in my
inquiry is “is a college degree essential to ones success, or are character traits
such as determination more important”?

There are several reasons that I decided to research this topic. One
primary reason is because there are several people in my family who have a
college degree and several ones that don’t. I have noticed that the ones who
have a college degree, like my mother and father, have a lot easier time getting
by then those without one such as my cousin, who is currently unemployed. This
inquiry question is important to my class because we are all college students.
The importance of education is an issue that affects all of us. The information of
this subject cannot be concrete fact. All of the information regarding this subject
is highly situational, since every person is different and there are several
mitigating circumstances, such as a person’s individual hunger for success.
From this inquiry, I hope to find out what helps shape a person’s future more,
their drive for success or their pure desire to be successful. When people think of
successful people without college degrees, usually the first thing that comes to
mind are celebrities, such as music artist and movie stars. That’s not always the
case. There often are times where someone can beat the stereotypes that
society has placed on him by pure will alone.
“Everything was college, college, college.” These are the words of Richard
Litchford, a Harvard graduate, when he was asked to describe what high school
was like for them. “Its what everyone said you have to have in order to be
successful.” This shows the influence that schools and the media have when it
comes in influencing the youth’s decision to go to college. School, judging from
my experience, has been trying to teach me two points; either I go to college, get
a job, and be successful, or I don’t go to college and be doomed to failure. What

the schools failed to realize was that neither fate is absolute. Not all individuals
without a college degree will fail, and not all college graduates are guaranteed a
It is no secret that the value of a college degree has decreased over time.
50 years or so ago, college was only for elite students who excelled very heavily
in their classes and placed in the top scores for their standardized test. This is
why college graduates were so greatly desired in the work force. It was a rare
occurrence. In today’s time, going to college after high school is considered the
social norm. With this being said, it is no surprise that the way society looks at
college graduates is also changing. I’m not saying that a college degree is
useless and that getting one is nothing more than a waste of time and money,
but I am saying that it is no longer looked at as the only key necessary to be
There is no clear-cut definition for success. What a person considers
success may be different from what another considers success. To one
individual, success may mean having a lot of money, multiple cars, and a
beautiful family. To others, success may mean nothing more than knowing that
you worked for everything that you have. The school system and media, based
on my experience, have been trying to tell children that success can only be
obtained if a person goes to the best college they can and get the best job they
can so they can make a lot of money. I feel like this kind of pressure put on kids
is very dangerous and even misleading. This pressure paints an image in kids
head’s that life without a college degree will automatically equal a life with no

money and constant struggles. There are several situations in which an individual
became millionaires, simply off of the amount of effort they put into getting to that
position. An excellent example of this comes from a man named Darnell Lee.
Washington Post ran an article about a man named Darnell Lee. Lee had
been a carpenter working for the D.C department of public works for thirteen and
a half years. He never attended college, but is currently the owner of his own
limousine company and the owner of his own shuttle company which he claims
has tens of millions of dollars in government contracts. Lee explains how he was
only able to do this through sheer hard work and determination to be successful.
While working for 13 years, Lee gained a bountiful amount of hands on
experience, which he used to his advantage. He learned the ins and outs of the
business and learned about what happens behind the scenes. He claimed that
the knowledge he learned from his hands on experience was better than any
amount of knowledge he could have gained from a classroom. He learned how to
route through the city when there is heavy traffic flow, how to make a schedule,
and even how to write up discipline problems. Lee even went and visited 20
companies in an attempt to learn the dos and don’ts for when it comes to
opening your own business. This information, along with the hands on
experience he gained in his 13 years of working, gave him everything he needed
to create his own business and be a self-made millionaire. When asked about
success Lee stated “Successful people don’t talk about what they’re going to do-
they just do it.”

What we have here is a situation in not only did one overcome the odds of
becoming a success without a college degree, but they even far exceeded what
is expected from even those who do achieve a college degree. This shows that
there is more to success then what schools, media, and even our parents are
teaching us.
Personally, I believe that hands-on experience is more important than any
degree a person can acquire from a university. A student can spend all their time
sitting in class learning about how to do something, but if they have no idea how
to apply that knowledge in real life, then what really have they learned? This is
part of the reason why I see college degrees as somewhat unnecessary. In
college, from my experience anyway, professors will teach you the information,
test you on it, and then be done with it. Most professors don’t take the time to
teach the kids how to actually apply the information or when the information will
ever be important for them to use. Because of this, we have a workforce full of
young men and women who don’t even know how to effectively accomplish the
job they are applying to get.
I am in no way implying that a college degree is useless. In fact, according
to a survey conducted by Huffington Post, high school graduates typically earn
about 67% the regular salary of a college graduate. Even Darnell Lee, the self
made millionaire, stated that there is no denying that a college degree may put
some people ahead of others in the job field. There are even certain jobs that are
impossible to get without a degree, such as a doctor or lawyer. That being said,
there have also been several instances in which that statistic holds no weight.

Forbes magazine conducted a survey of 400 millionaires and compared
their overall earnings. What their data showed was that those without a college
degree earned about 6.6% more annually than those who did receive one. This
shows that although college degrees may help, there are some factors that allow
certain individuals to slip through the cracks and outwit the stereotypes. But what
could these factors be?
There is no substitution for hard work. No matter how much schooling a
person may obtain, it won’t mean anything without the personal determination
and will to be successful. Several college graduates just expect a job to fall in
their lap as soon as they get a degree. Unfortunately, that is not how the world
works. A college degree means nothing if you don’t have the desire for success
to accompany it. Those who refuse to take no for an answer and continue to
strive even though others have doubted them are the only ones in this world who
can truly be successful.

Works Cited
O'Connell, Scott. "Success without College? Harvard Report Says so." MetroWest
Daily News, Framingham, MA. Gatehouse Media, 22 July 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2014.

Dukcevish, Davide. "College Vs. No College." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 28 July 2013.
Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Lee, Darnell. "Success without the College Education." Washington Post. The
Washington Post, 06 Nov. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.