College is a Scam!

I joined the Army Reserves when I was 17. This meant my college was paid for.

I attended monthly military training exercises (called “Drill”) and spent two weeks away for Annual Training. In my home state, joining the military meant free public school tuition.

My Drill pay was around $150. My GI Bill pay was $300 or so. I always worked 20 or so hours a week at another job.

During my first two years of college, my schedule went:

M-W-F: work from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

T-R: classes from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

S-S: Drill, work 2 out of 3 free weekends, for 1 weekend off.

Throw in a Drill weekend and I was up early and at work or at school for 12 consecutive days without a day off. I got one full weekend off a month.

I waited tables during my last two years of college. Most of my Friday and Saturday nights (the biggest moneymakers of the week) were spent bringing bread sticks and unlimited soup and salad to inbreds and red necks.

Between GI Bill, Army bullshit, and work, I earned around $13,000/year. Since I didn’t pay tuition and lived at home my first two years, that was all money in my pocket. I had no student loan debt and even opened a Roth IRA and bought silver bullion when silver was around $5/ounce.

I studied hard (managed to get a 3.73), got a scholarship to graduate school, and took the same habits from college to succeed after school.

College is only a scam if you’re a petulant child who thinks “showing up” means something to anyone other than your mommy.

  • N

    I have a feeling you were probably content during the hustle as well. I find that my whole pattern goes to shit if I don’t have responsibilities and obligations during the day. Bad habits creep back in that sometimes that a few days to shake. Yet, when I’m busy as possible, everything goes smoothly.

    • Rob

      If what D&P described is a hustle, I’d love to know what work looks like.

  • playmuc

    Yep. It’s like going to the gym and somehow thinking that just showing up means anything. Both places are just places of opportunity. Opportunity for a great workout or for higher learning.

  • greenlander

    Hey Danger, I agree with you.

    I busted my ass working while I was getting my degree. My first couple of years I got great experience working as a design drafting assistant at a civil engineering company. That looked great on my resume at age 18, and after that I got summer internships at Intel and Apple. By the time I graduated I had great work experience and a high GPA. And I did a lot of extra stuff, like I was the chairman of the IEEE (Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers) branch at my university and I did a senior design project.

    I graduated at the tail end of a recession, but I had six job offers when I graduated with my degree in electrical engineering. I could have gotten more but I didn’t have time to fly to all the interviews.

    I absolutely did bust my ass, I was going to school full-time and working 25 hours a week. I was always envious of all the liberal arts majors who did nothing in terms of schoolwork and let their parents pay.

    But the mental toughness and skill set I acquired during that time paid off. I made my first million before I was thirty. Now I am considered an expert in my field and I write my own ticket doing consulting work.

  • http://averagemarrieddad.com AverageMarriedDad

    I thought you were going a different direction here. Nice job on the grind and working hard. I got a degree in the STEM field and think it’s far from a scam if you actually work towards something that pays and is challenging (and therefore a degree goes toward your actual vocation instead of majoring in political science or women’s studies or some other worthless degree). To come out of school with your worldly experience plus more or less debt free puts you a leg up on the world (I’m doing better than fine, but still am paying low interest student loans off).

    • http://augustspoos.wordpress.com Spoos in August

      I’m a recent STEM grad, and am aggressively paying off student loans (should be done within two years). Working in my field, and absolutely enjoying myself.

      I did see a lot of my classmates struggle to find jobs: many of the people I knew from high school are waiting, tending bar, or bagging groceries. Unfortunately, colleges do oversell the “intrinsic value” of a bachelor’s degree, and many people buy into that.

    • Political Science Major

      I don’t know where your premise comes from that majoring in political science is a worthless degree. Those who major in political science end up working internships in political campaigns, various levels of government, think tanks and the list goes on. Political science majors end up becoming the policymakers in society, its not a useless ‘liberal arts degree’. Perhaps college degrees, together with the large college population in the States differs from my country. Nothing is ever useless if you can apply it to the real world.

      However, seems like the average American student is more concerned about going to frat parties and living life on the edge during their twenties instead of accumulating critical thinking and analytical skills essential to landing a successful future career.

  • anon1

    did you mean 8am to 4pm?

  • anon1

    *excellent article.

  • http://30daystox.com XDays

    I was seven years old when I got my first job. By ten I worked seven days a week (after school and weekend mornings).

    I once worked for a business that needed to lay off some of it’s employees, I survived the cut. The owners own kin didn’t.

    I paid cash money for my college (which I managed to do by living at home), worked while in school, wrote for the paper, and helped my dad remodel our house.

    I took this semester off of school, so that I could start a business, learn higher level math (in order to switch over to a STEM major), and make some extra money by working 50+ hours a week over the holiday season (Oct – mid Jan).

    I’m also working on starting a local nonfiction book club for college students, so that I can meet more like minded people my own age and build a better crew.

    Over the past three months I’ve slept an average of six hours a night and used all my “free time” to hit the gym or read books.

    A few days ago I ran into the local oaf, who dropped out of school (since it’s obviously a rip-off) and now spends his time drinking and playing video games in his mom’s basement. After all, being a spoiled, man-child, shut in is a much better use of one’s time.

  • RB

    There’s 2 sides to this anti-college movement. Yes, people need to work their ass off in college and are far too willing to blame everyone else for their failures, not do their research, etc. There are a lot of whiners. However, these diploma mills that suck in millions in student loans to enroll people who have no chance of using the degrees deserve the criticism they get. Thanks to IBR (Income-Based Repayment = any SL debtor payment is capped at 10% of salary & debt cancelled after 20 years) we will all be footing the bill eventually. Like subprime mortages, subprime student loans will effect a lot more than just the debtors.

    Reducing the availability of student loans (such as limiting to STEM degrees, medicine, etc) would immediately prevent a lot of the moral hazard universities face to over-enroll. You want to study english lit at university of pheonix? Fine, but don’t do it on taxpayer sub’d-dime.

  • CL

    It’s also worth noting that, if you go to the right school and work hard, even a “useless liberal arts degree” can be incredibly useful. I majored in political science, because I am actually interested in political theory, policy, and the intricacies of campaigning. I was shocked to find out that most of the other poli sci kids really just didn’t know what they were interested in.

    Working on campaigns during the summer, I stood out from other interns because most just wanted to sit around and argue policy minutiae. I wanted to win elections, so I did all the work we were supposed to do (if policy is your only thing, stay away from campaigns). My bosses noticed, and I got great recommendations.

    Graduated into a consulting gig in a totally unrelated field due to my excellent recommendations from campaign work and professors. With my “useless” liberal arts degree, I made $80k in my second year. I have engineering friends who made more, but not a huge difference. I want to start a business one day, but last I heard not many investors give seed money to 19 year-old high school grads.

    I did go to a very selective private college, almost entirely on scholarships. This was an incredibly useful thing as well. Many of these kinds of places look incredibly expensive on paper, but if you are middle class and can get in, will throw gobs of money at you. People who grow up poor, like my mother, spread silly ideas that only rich people can go to these schools, or only people with family connections get internships. I think less than 40% of students actually paid sticker at my school. And internships often arose out of school connections, but rarely family. If you grow up middle class, socializing with those rich people in college is a great experience, because it’s OK to be shocked at how rich people act for a bit. My freshman year, I was dumbfounded by people deciding to spend weekend vacations abroad. When other parents took me out to expensive meals I would profusely thank them, to the point I now realize I looked ridiculous. Now I know to look like I’ve been there before when I work with these types of people.

    In fairness to the other crowd, I do know many people who went to shittier colleges and studied liberal arts and ended up out of work. Most of these liberal arts majors stumbled into their major. The ones who knew they want to study a particular liberal arts topic are doing fine, because they developed good research and writing skills that can be used anywhere.

    • http://averagemarrieddad.com AverageMarriedDad

      @CL, @XDays, Danger and Play and others: Hard work seems to be the common theme for success. The drive to strive has the ability to overcome any major, and the ability to do what it takes to succeed. I too have been working since I was 12, when I could, all the way through college, summer breaks, etc. Grinding and hustling vs. getting things on a platter, made me appreciative of my college opportunity and that I was the one paying those loans off so better do something I both like and can make a good living from. CL: Great story on the PolySci thing. I was just pulling a major out of a hat as a punching bag without knowing much about it.