Is College a Scam?

Is going to college worth it? Is college a scam?

I don’t blame teenagers for not knowing what they’re getting themselves into when they’re bombarded with propaganda from school counselors, teachers, principals, campus representatives, parents, extended family, etc. about how they need to apply for college, pick a major, and possibly accumulate tons of school debt, with no actual guarantee of a high-paying reliable job. Especially in this day and age with access to so much information with the click of a button and kids becoming millionaires overnight through TikTok, you may be wondering what the point even is. Is college a scam?

The way that I view college or university education is that it is a tool or a resource. It’s not a necessity for “success”, however you define that to be. If you go into college thinking you’ll come out making a ton of money, it’s possible, but that’s not a guarantee in most cases. (In fact, if you really were concerned about making money, you’d look into other options such as investing or starting a business.) I like to relate college to the mind, in that if you don’t want it to control you, then you have to learn how to properly utilize it as a tool or a resource.

College Debt

First off, I would say that if it’s possible for you to go to college for free or for a low cost (with no debt involved), then it is probably worth it, especially if you know what you’d like to study or what career paths you’d like to explore. You don’t need to go to the most expensive liberal arts school or some fancy university with a cool mascot. If you’re choosing between a university with a yearly tuition of $20K and a community college with a yearly tuition of $2K, it’s probably best to choose the community college route (especially if you aren’t taking out a student loan to pay for it). One, you save a ton of money for the same education. Two, community colleges offer tons of great resources, events and networking opportunities. Three, you could always transfer to a university later as you work towards sustaining a high GPA and later applying for academic grants/scholarships.

It’s kind of sad that we’ve brainwashed our society in some ways to be embarrassed about good students attending community college. Community college is actually pretty dope. Personally, I’ve taken a few courses there when transferring between universities, and have even taken courses after receiving my Bachelor’s degree just for the fun of it (a music production course with no degree route). Our local community college is equipped with a library with plenty of books and computers, a gym with good equipment and classes, and a music production space for those taking relevant classes. There’s probably a lot more resources that I’m not even aware of existing. Often times, they’d have job postings and such on bulletins around the school as well.

I am fortunate to have graduated with zero debt. But honestly before graduating high school, I was almost tempted to take on a school loan and go to some university in another state. Luckily, my parents talked me out of it. I find it so unsettling that people within my age group are still struggling to pay off thousands of dollars in school debt. It’s like the blind leading the blind (poor adults teaching teenagers to take on massive amounts of debt).

Do I need a degree to work in X field or occupation?

There’s a lot of fields you can work in without necessarily needing a degree. Several creative fields such as music, graphic design, or video production do not require a degree. In these fields, it may be more important to build up a portfolio instead.

And to start a business, you don’t need to attend entrepreneurship school. Honestly, if you’re deciding between spending $50K a year for 4 years of entrepreneurship schooling, you’d be much better off investing the same amount of money in hiring a successful business coach and experimenting with various business ideas on your own. Heck, you can even start low-risk or low-cost businesses and learn a lot from that.

However, there are some fields that require degrees. If you want to apply to be a faculty professor, in most cases you’ll need a master’s or even a PhD. If you want to practice medicine, not only do you need a medical degree but the proper license as well. Lawyers need to not only have attended law school, but to have passed the bar examination.

I think it really depends on your goals in regards to your potential career or life paths. And if you don’t know, then a gap year is also a possibility. In that time, you can explore freelancing, delving into your interests (taking free courses online or reading books), traveling, networking, and more. You may discover that you don’t necessarily need a degree to reach your desired goals. Maybe trade school is a better option instead, who knows. Or maybe, you’ll decide that you’re happy selling homes as a real estate agent.

I don’t use my degree for much nowadays, but I did require one back when I was teaching English in South Korea. It’s one of their requirements for all English instructors coming from abroad. I also discovered new interests within and outside of my major from receiving my education. Could I have learned the same information otherwise just on my own? Probably. But without a degree in general, I wouldn’t have been able to teach at a physical location in South Korea. Other than that, honestly, I probably don’t need my degree for much else. However, it was basically low-cost education and exploration for me, so my decision made sense to me.

I will circle back to the part on school debt. If you’re gonna go through med school, make sure it’s something that you are genuinely interested in and that you have a plan to pay off the debt if you end up accumulating any. If you’re going to school just to flex or to earn some sort of status, it’s just going to be a waste at the end of the day. I wouldn’t want someone who graduated at the bottom of their class and who stresses about how to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to become my primary care doctor. But if you want to be that person, hey, at least I warned you of how terrible of an idea that is.


I’ve thought about going back to uni a few times. I know for sure, my mother would love it if I went back to get my MBA. But ultimately, I have chosen not to go back, at least not for a degree at this point.

First off, the career paths I’m currently exploring do not require specific degrees. If I want to learn more about a subject, there are plenty of free courses online that I could try first. I also have a library membership where I have access to tons of books, in physical copies as well as eBooks. There’s also tons of apps that teach you various topics.

You might also want to look into adult classes that are available at local high schools and such. A few years back, I took a couple of adult classes to learn/practice Spanish and to try acrylic painting. Each class was less than $100 for somewhere between 8-10 weeks. Best part, no grades or exams. You get the benefits of in-class instruction without the financial or academic pressure.

You could also hire a tutor to help you learn a particular subject, especially if a degree does not really matter. I’m considering taking vocal lessons soon, as I am an independent music artist. In the past, I’ve also found language exchange partners to practice Korean. At one point, I was taking Hanja lessons, just for the heck of it.

If you’re looking to receive some kind of verification that you understand a particular subject, going to university to get such education is not necessary. There’s actually ways for you to “design your degree”, as in get credit for all the knowledge you’ve accumulated at a fraction of the cost of an actual degree. And also, there are various examinations you can take. For example, TOPIK is a test of proficiency in Korean, something that I could easily take if someone want looking for an official evaluation of my Korean language skills.

I think if I were to go back, I’d probably test out a course or two in the subject that interests me at my local community college. Or alternatively, I would look into the University of the People. If you haven’t heard of that university, it’s an online university that doesn’t charge tuition. Yep, you heard that right. You do have to pay application fees and course assessment fees, but they’re pretty cheap in comparison to the typical tuition costs for the same courses. Plus, they even have some funding (in the form of scholarships and grants) to cover those fees as well. Pretty awesome, huh? I’d probably do that, or the DIY degree route.

So, is college a scam? Maybe, if you’re not careful. It depends on your reasons for landing up there.

In general, I would advise anyone who can attend college/university for free or for a low cost to go (with no debt being accumulated). And for everyone else, I would highly advise you to reconsider the alternatives before committing yourself to thousands of dollars of debt.

I think if I could go back, I would have still attended university. I think it has served its purpose and that I made the most out of my experience. I’m sure that if I accumulated student loan debt, I would have felt bitter looking back, especially if I were still repaying those debts. But otherwise, I think it was worth it as I was exploring various subjects and career/life paths and graduated with no debt. (Or, perhaps I could have spent those years pursuing music instead, hmmm.)

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