Is a university education crucial for success? Millenials and Gen Y don’t always think so

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that in order to succeed in life, one must possess a college or university education. Only a higher education, we were told, can provide the means to a good life; a good life looking roughly like this: go to university, get a job, get married, have children, put them through university, rinse and repeat. But if this life model is still what young people aspire to, why are more and more of them choosing to forego tertiary education? Could it be that conventional wisdom has not kept pace with the changing world, and there are both other means of attaining success, and other definitions of success altogether? Maybe so.

Here’s why tertiary education isn’t as desirable anymore:

1) The costs and benefits don’t always balance

should I go to university?
A familiar look for most students.

Tertiary education is at an all-time high in many countries. In the UK, for example, home students can expect to pay upwards of £9,000 pounds per year, while international students could be looking at as much as £35,000. Crippling student debt is a reality in many countries, with people in their 30s and 40s and beyond spending decades trying to pay off student loans.

It’s all meant to be worth it, because graduates supposedly outearn non-graduates by as much as £252,000 over a lifetime. However, when you’re in your 20s staring down the tunnel of almost an entire lifetime of debt, it becomes harder and harder to go down that path. This is especially true given that…

2) Information is freely available

university enrollment is down
A world of information available in the palm of our hands.

Throughout history, access to books (or scrolls) and the information they contained was restricted to the privileged few – scholars, politicians, priests. In the same vein, knowledge was heavily concentrated in tertiary institutions, and access to lecturers’ teachings and to information was generally available only through these institutions.

Then came the internet, and with it, an explosion of free and fast information – effectively democratising knowledge. With a few clicks, you can teach yourself anything from Kant’s Categorical Imperative, to how to build a DIY washing machine, to applied mathematics, to a new language in 5 weeks. Given the eye-watering figures higher education could cost, it’s little wonder that more and more people are looking online for their education. Online information (in addition to being free and fast) is also vast, with multiple contributors and sources. Arguably, this means that a conscientious learner could be exposed to much more information and many more opinions than a traditional college or university course.

3) There are more ways to network

higher education enrollment
Digital networking makes the world look like a much smaller place.

Of course, school is not just about what happens in the classroom. An important aspect of the whole experience is the friends and professional contacts you make around campus. However, making connections is one thing, keeping them for the long haul is quite another. And although tertiary institutions encourage alumni activities and participation, the sad truth is most alumni lose track of colleagues just a couple of years after graduation.

Again, the connected world of today makes networking, and the ability to keep those networks warm, much easier. An app like Kalido, for example, lets users create and join public and private networks for any interest or hobby; company; educational, cultural, religious, or sports organisation; or any group of likeminded people. Network members can see other members’ profiles, including current interests and location, so they never feel out of touch. Members can also introduce, recommend, and refer other relevant people, so one contact becomes the nexus for thousands of potential new contacts. While previous generations relied heavily on the connections they made as students, and struggled to keep those connections post-graduation, today you can both make, and maintain connections without stepping foot in a university.

Conventional wisdom told us that a degree led to a job, and a job led to more money, but what if you don’t want a job and you don’t want that much money? What if instead of chasing money, you choose to do something you enjoy (even if that means you’ll never be able to afford a yacht). In fact, that is precisely what Millenials and Gen Y are choosing. The meaning of success is changing, and with the benefits of tertiary education sometimes outweighing the costs, it’s easier to see why enrollment rates are on the decline.

So, what exactly do young people want from life? Not money. A bigger car, bigger house, bigger everything was fashionable a few decades ago, but today’s young person is after experience, not material assets. This relates to both lifestyle and work. For example, Millenials and Gen Y have been known to forego the bigger paycheque in order to do things that ‘matter’ (often projects that contribute to a healthier or happier world). The rise of the freelancer is an obvious example. The ability to choose clients and briefs, the flexible hours and better work/life balance are all seen as more important than a steady paycheque.

And it’s not tertiary education that provides this type of success. In fact, the main contributors are:

a) Doing something you find meaningful

higher education yes or no
Do something that makes you feel like this.

Perhaps it’s designing charming tea cosies, perhaps it’s helping someone express themselves as their ghost writer, perhaps it’s getting someone’s house in order, perhaps it’s baking the most scrumptious cookies known to mankind – whatever you can do to make the world that little bit better is meaningful.

Not all of us are cut out to be (or want to be) a lawyer, doctor, or accountant. But all of us have some sort of skill which is useful, and which could generate an income. Showcasing these skills on platforms like Kalido is not only free, but also gets the attention of thousands of potential clients, so you can do what you love, and make money from it.

b) Having supportive networks

do I need higher education
Having friends and family close is linked to health and happiness.

Having friends and family and other people who care about you is one of the best predictors of happiness and health. This makes sense, as our networks provide essential emotional, psychological, and sometimes financial support too.

That’s why we’re all about meaningful connections at Kalido. The Nearby feature (which alerts you when any of your contacts are currently in the vicinity), and free chat and calls mean you never have to feel isolated and alone. Instead, you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by friends or potential friends, wherever you are.

c) Finding opportunities

Doing something you love is great, but what if you can’t make money from that? That’s the thought that holds many people back from pursuing their interests. Luckily, that’s very unlikely. For every seller out there, there’s almost always a buyer. You just need to find each other.

And that’s another reason why Kalido is so helpful. Not only does it automatically match you with a relevant person based on the skill you’re offering, it also lets you ask for introductions, referrals, and recommendations to potential clients. By doing simple things like sharing your location, syncing your phone book, and updating your profile with your relevant skills, you’ll find opportunities without even looking. Which means you can do something you love, and have someone pay you to do it.

A tertiary education was seen as one of the best stepping stones to success for previous generations. But as we’ve seen, Millenials and Gen Y define success significantly differently from their predecessors. So, while choosing to pursue tertiary education is still one of the most important decisions a young person can make, the answer might not always be a resounding Yes to enrollment. Opportunities are everywhere, and with tools like Kalido helping you find them, you can decide what you want from your life, whether that includes tertiary education or not. And if you still think success should be measured by the size of your bank account, check out our blog on why you should be chasing meaning, instead of money