Millennials know better than anyone a college degree is not a job guarantee.
If you’re a degree holder, you’re already well-versed in education inflation and the electronic filing black hole known as job applications, and you're considering moving back home with your parents.
We’ve all been there.
A recent trend I’ve noticed in my circle of friends is they feel so damn guilty over their degrees, whether they've paid for college themselves, or their tuition payments came from the bank of Mom and Dad.
I’ve heard everything from, “I spent four years getting this degree, so I should use it” to, “My parents would be so upset.” I've even heard, “I don’t have a choice.”
I get it; I really do.
In the last three years since I graduated from college, I’ve used my accumulated knowledge approximately zero times.
But I also wonder, why do we feel this shame?
Education is a privilege, not a life sentence.
Guilt is not a feeling you should associate with your education.
I fully believe you can be anything and do anything you want to.
You are a dynamic, ever-changing individual who — thanks to the generations that came before us — doesn’t have to believe in limits.
Here are five reasons I believe we should lose the guilt over our college degrees:
1. It was only four years of your life.
I don’t know the real reason you pursued the degree you have.
It could have been because of pressure from your parents, an interest that has since faded or a romanticized naïvety for jobs that no longer exist.
In any case, it was only four(ish) years.
In the grand scheme of things, dedicating four years to something is barely a blip on the map.
In 50 years, it will hardly register on your radar.
What made you happy at the beginning of your college experience doesn’t have to make you happy now.
The rest of your life is a long time to spend begrudgingly going to work every day based on a decision you made for yourself at 18.
Those four years you spent earning your degree were not a waste of time.
Even if you have to spend the next four years of your life figuring out, “Why?” it’s still not a waste of time.
There is no deadline for figuring yourself out. There is no right or wrong answer.
2. You still have skills, and you know how to work hard.
I don’t buy into the idea Millennials are the entitled generation, and I for one refuse to be defined by that assumption.
It’s obvious we have different expectations of what we “deserve” versus previous generations.
We’re walking in different shoes, through different times.
Yet beneath that, you find a generation of ambitious, forward-thinking, problem-solving individuals.
College is not easy. It's not meant to be.
Between the demands of a minimum of five different syllabi per semester, a full schedule, a part-time job and involvement in campus organizations, college students are hardworking and passionate individuals.
You have to be in order to thrive in the world of higher education.
Regardless of what your degree is in, the fact remains you have a degree to use however you wish.
You may have had to pay an obscene amount of money to attend your university, but your degree wasn’t just given to you.
You earned it.
3. You have nothing to lose.
Let’s set the record straight: You can’t get those four years or that $100,000 in tuition money back. The only place you can go from here is forward.
However, you still have a degree.
No one can take that away from you, especially not yourself.
Even if it’s in a field you are no longer interested in, you are still college-educated.
Be proud of that fact.
When I chose to pursue a psychology degree at age 18, it wasn’t the same thing I wanted to pursue when I graduated at age 22.
It was and still is something I am fascinated by, but through my college and post-grad experiences, I’ve realized my talents and interests aren’t meant for entering the psychology field.
I’d even go so far to say no college major could have prepared me for the work I do now.
Maybe a combination of select classes and curriculums could have, but no one singular major program would encapsulate my work.
That is something I discovered on my own through relentless trial and error.
It is a unique position I created by myself, though all of my previous experiences (college degree included) played a crucial role in where I’ve found myself at age 25.
I may not be using my degree, but I am glad I have it.
In most cases, it doesn’t matter what your degree is in; what matters is you have a degree at all.
Your college years helped you build a strong foundation for yourself, even if you aren’t going into that particular field anymore.
4. You have a choice.
Nothing in this life is given to or decided for you.
It’s up to you, day in and day out, to go out there and follow what speaks to your soul.
You could choose to continue to pursue a career path that doesn’t interest you and leaves you unhappy with the urge to drink at the end of every day.
That is your choice.
It’s also your choice to work a job you like well enough, but don’t love, for a paycheck in order to pursue the hobbies and passions you do love.
Or, you could accept you have a degree in engineering, but your heart is pulling you towards marketing. You could then go out there and start your marketing career.
If Chandler Bing could do a career path 360, you can, too.
It won’t be easy, however. Nothing worthwhile ever is.
There is no singular right answer or path. It’s all up to you what you do after graduation.
5. There is no comparison needed.
One major point of degree-guilt comes from the comparison of our situations to others.
We compare ourselves both to those who don’t have access to education and to those who are doing something worthwhile with their education.
It’s a fallacy to believe we need to be happy with our choices because we have something others do not.
Higher education and enlightenment are not something we take for granted.
You can be grateful for and value your education and still not know what to do with it. These feelings are not mutually exclusive.
I urge you to not feel guilty because you have access to education and have no idea what to do with it.
College won’t give you answers; you still have to find them for yourself.
Your happiness, regardless of your circumstances, is not heightened or lessened by the circumstances of others.
It is also to our own personal detriment when we compare ourselves to others who seem to have it figured out already.
Your path and dreams are not affected by the person who sat next to you in freshman English. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing now.
What matters is figuring out what's right for you.
Your talents, interests and personality are completely unique.
They are not determined by others, but by the effort you put into carving out your own path in this world.
If you use your degree in your current job, that’s awesome, and I salute you.
If what you wanted to do at 18 is still the same thing you want to do at 25, that’s awesome, too.
But if you’ve found yourself with a college degree and no interest in pursuing that field anymore, know it’s okay.
Your degree was not a mistake. It was not a waste.
And most importantly, you should not feel guilt over your college degree.
Feeling guilty and wallowing in unhappiness is only adding more time between now and finding out what you're really meant to do with your life.