An investment guru I respect recently wrote in his e-newsletter,
“It’s not necessary to go to college. You’re likely to be
corrupted, and indebt yourself like an indentured slave for many
years to come.”
Well, yes, maybe it’s not necessary to go to college. But is it a
good idea to go?
For many people, yes — and others, no.
CNN Money reports that the unemployment rate among those with
only a high school degree is about double that of people with a
Those with a college degree earn on average around twice as much
money a week as those who did not go to college.
So the statistics would seem not to support Mr. Investment Guru’s
He does note that, for the most part, if you want to enter a
trade or profession — doctor, lawyer, CPA, engineer, scientist —
you need college, both to gain the knowledge and skills, as well
as to obtain the credential that will get you hired.
If I did not have a BS in chemical engineering, IBM would not
have offered me a $23,000 a year job as a process engineer at
their semiconductor plant in Binghamton, NY in 1979.
Mr. Investment Guru notes that you can take courses online or
play CDs from The Teaching Company while driving in your car.
I am all for being an autodidact — which means educating yourself
through reading and study on your own.
But for many of us, the best education is a combination of
self-education with formal schooling.
There were so many difficult concepts I had trouble understanding
in my reading of science and engineering, I needed experts
(professors) to explain them and answer questions.
When you listen to an audio CD, you can’t ask it questions.
Also, while some teenagers are mature, many are not, and I was in
the latter category.
So being away at college was a maturing experience I sorely
needed — especially working my way through it washing dishes in
The other common complaint I hear about college is, “Don’t go,
because it just prepares you to be a corporate tool. Start your
own business instead — you’ll have more freedom and make more
The problem with the “everyone should own their own business”
school of thinking is that it assumes having a job is universally
terrible and everyone hates it. And also, that everyone wants to
and should be self-employed.
But I know many people who prefer being employees. They have no
stomach for the marketing and selling which is required of most
small business owners. They are quite content being given work to
do by a boss and then doing it well. They like having a regular
In my case, I was perfectly content in my two corporate jobs. I
only quit because in my second job, I was told I had to relocate
from Manhattan to Wichita, Kansas, and I did not want to.
Not up to another job search, I asked myself whether there was
anything I did in my job as an advertising manager I could offer
as a freelance service.
And that’s how I got into freelance copywriting.
One more thing….
For my first few years as a freelance copywriter, I specialized
almost exclusively in industrial writing.
Prospects challenged me: “How can you understand our products?
They are technical!”
I had a five-word answer: “I am a chemical engineer.”
And that was all it took to overcome their one major objection —
that a copywriter could not understand their products — and get