By Tiffany Lee

Accompanied by a six-digit price tag and constant parental nagging, undergraduate education must be important.  And yet, these first four years of “adult” life, the next big step, the taste of upper education, don’t guarantee a job, let alone a high paying one.  This lack of profit begs the question: How much does college actually matter?

The average starting salary right out of high school is around $30 thousand.  Not bad, but nearly impossible to live on in the Silicon Valley.  A bachelor’s degree adds on average around $15 thousand, which still doesn’t meet the estimated $64 thousand minimum requirement to live in the valley.  However, these numbers don’t account for the fact that other than the first job, all other jobs are based on previous work experience, not which college you went to.  But just based on money, college matters as much as $15 thousand does.

Excluding computer engineers, people straight out of college tend to struggle when finding a job.  If and when they do, only 27% get one related to their major, according to the Washington Post.  So college does matter about 27% of the time, and as much as $15 thousand does.

So far we’ve calculated how much undergraduate education matters, but we haven’t accounted for its irrelevance compared to graduate school.  For many careers, especially those in the medicinal field, undergraduate school is just the preliminary round.  Graduate school is where you actually get education relevant to your future job.  Neurosurgeons learn how to perform on the brain, and medical students participate in clinical rotations to gain real-world experience.

Disregarding graduate school, the biggest determinant of college value isn’t jobs, or even money.  What matters most is what others think of you.  Parents need to be able to brag about their children’s acceptance to Ivy League schools.  Friends need to hide uncontrollable rushes of envy as their peers display famed letters of acceptance to Harvard.  Relatives who have spent lifetimes asking college-related questions, waiting with baited breath for your answer, need to feel a mix of shock, joy, amazement and jealousy that their kids aren’t you when you finally manage to get accepted into a high ranked school.

So yes, college really does matter.  Sure, it matters 27% of the time and as much as $15 thousand, but most importantly, it increases your chances of feeling some sense of superiority.  You can finally say you’re better than all of your friends.  You can finally name-drop your school into any and every conversation.  The academic elitism given by four years of finding new ways to hide alcohol is truly priceless.


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