Why Choosing a University Degree is Like Buying a Car
Tips on Buying a Car (Though I’ve never bought my own).
Imagine that university degrees are like cars.
Because a car is for sale you assume that it’s in perfect working order – but when you take it for a drive on the freeway you find that it blows out, breaks down, or if you’re really unlucky, crashes!
It turns out that you drove the car incorrectly, that it wasn’t meant to be used that way, and the car had a few handling problems that the salesperson didn’t tell you about.
It’s easy to blame the car salesperson
It’s easy to blame the car salesperson and they do deserve a little blame – they weren’t upfront with you. But their job is to sell cars. The shortcoming in our culture is that everyone is telling our young people to just buy a car, any car at all!
So young people are not doing their homework. They’re not figuring out what the right car is for them, or if they need a car at all.
Just buy a car they’re told.
So they’re lining up at dealerships like everyone else, and competing with everyone else. Cars are flying off the dealership floor so they take whatever car they can get their hands on before stock runs out.
Worst still, because of the massive demand and long lines, the car salespeople are just raising prices and selling these young people whatever they have on the floor.
Young people are trying to drive land cruisers at the Grand Prix
And they take roofless Ferrari’s on camping trips. That is, young people are landing in degrees before they know where they want to drive or why they want to drive at all. They don’t stop to question what the voices said because all the voices said the same thing.
“Just buy a car, just buy a car, just buy a car…”
In the same way, people use degrees for the wrong reasons. Studying the Arts may be interesting and useful for creative and cognitive stimulation – but the only job it can directly funnel into appears to be teaching the Arts.
Studying an MBA is not useless, but people who want to be entrepreneurs are better off being entrepreneurs, not studying MBAs.
Just buy a car… just buy a car… just buy a car…
Most parents urge their children to buy cars
Most parents are urging their children to buy cars. “Just buy a car” they say, “any car will do, but the more prestigious the better”. In their eyes, a car equals independence. They just want an early sign that their children are independent and successful – that they can get around on their own.
The parents who most desperately want their children to buy a car are usually those who did not have a vehicle themselves when they were growing up. For all the years they spent hitch-hiking, being chaperoned by older siblings and family members and being wedged into the back-seat of the bus they thought,
This sucks. There’s no way my child is going to grow up without buying a car.
But who pays the price if the car is wrong?
The car salesperson does not get stuck on the freeway with you if your car breaks down. If only that were how society worked? Wouldn’t that be something? If only doctors died when their diagnosis was wrong too. Now that’s accountability.
But that’s not how the world works, and, when the car breaks down, the salesperson is not in there.
What about your parents? Well your parents are not driving around with you anymore, so they’re not in the car either. If it crashes or spins out of control, you’ll be the one inside.
No one has more to lose than you do from buying the wrong car. Therefore, all the other people are poorly placed to make decisions or recommendations on your behalf.
YOU get stuck with the debt.
Did you pay for the car upfront or with finance? Either way, you’re the one paying for it. The question is – will the car pay off in time?
The car salesperson gets paid to sell the car. You are the one who pays the price.
Though unlike buying a car, the debt on your student loans is often the only sort of debt you can’t declare bankruptcy on.
Are you going to buy a Ferrari because everyone else wants one? That’s funny, you’ll be the one paying for it. It’s fine if you really, really like Ferrari’s – but note, they are very expensive.
The question is not “what’s the best car for me?”
The question is, “where do I want to go? What journey do I seek?”. Only after this can we ask “What is the best way to get there?”… because why buy a car if you don’t need one?
If you want to be a big-impact entrepreneur, future shaper, writer or innovator then you can drive to the airport but at some point you’re going to have to fly. In 2020, cars don’t fly.
Or maybe you’ll need a boat for where you’re going. Or a bicycle. A lot of the time you can just walk – while everyone else is lining up in peak-hour, bumper-to-bumper traffic, why don’t you just walk your journey and get there faster than the rest?
You don’t need permission from anyone to be someone great.
There is nothing wrong with driving the wrong car, but don’t be afraid to change it
If you find yourself taking a convertible Ferrari on a camping trip, realise that you don’t need to drive all the way there simply because you started.
In actual fact, there is a word for the person who is driving a Ferrari to a camping trip, realises halfway there that the car is unsuitable, but continues on anyway. An idiot.
Don’t be afraid to trade one car in if another would be more suitable. But for goodness sake, do it sooner rather than later.
Plans, journeys and circumstances change. It’s called life. It’s called the Thousand Doors. Embrace it.
Some people will drive the wrong car their whole life rather than admit they made an error
Last of all and worst of all, some people will choose a degree or career path that did not fit, and pursue it all their life rather than admit their mistake.
No matter how many times the car breaks down, veers off the road or crashes, they persist.
Too proud to admit they made the wrong choice, they convince themselves that their beat-up shit-box is the latest Porsche, and drive around forever a fool.