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Gen Z: Is college even necessary?

For those who are uncertain of the path you’ve chosen.

14/07/2021

When I was in high school, getting into university was always my biggest goal. My parents, distant relatives and even teachers always ask me the same questions: which university would I apply to? Which major? Starting in high school, the race to a university admission is already quite intense. Sometimes our eyes are SO set on the goal of getting into one, we forget why we even want to go to college? What do we want to do with our lives? 

In Vietnam, I believe that the pressure to go to university or follow a traditional family career is still rigorous. Sometimes such pressure makes young people think that there is no other way to succeed, but to graduate from college. However, things are changing. Many of my followers ask me how to convince their parents if they don’t want to go to university.

Of course, there are undeniable benefits to going to college. It is an excellent time to prepare and transition yourself from going to school and joining the workforce. What you get out of university is not only a degree, but also in-depth knowledge, relationships, skills, and working experience through student projects, internships, etc.

Therefore, no one is saying that college is the wrong path to take. What people argue is whether college is the only path to success. In my opinion, the university is no longer a must for Gen Z.

First, a college degree does not guarantee you a job after graduation. 

Of course, employment after graduating for college is something everyone strives for. In the past, there was a time when just graduating from college will make you stand out from other candidates. But now, an overabundance of graduates has made a university degree no longer impress employers. The fact that you graduated with honors from a prestigious university will probably work a little bit better to make you stand out from the crowd. But there are still many factors such as practical previous working experience, internships, hard skills… to consider before you land your first job.Therefore, a college degree certainly helps you increase your chances of getting a job, but it’s not a guarantee.

There are other career paths as well.

What is exciting and challenging for Gen Z today is the path to a successful career is no longer a straight line. I never started college and began my modeling career at 17. For the last 6 years working within the fashion industry, not once did anyone ask about my degree or which school I graduated from. The same goes for my colleagues in the field, such as stylists or photographers.  

You may argue that this only applies to creative industries. I do recognized that I’ve been blessed to be able to work without a college degree. But more and more at highly competitive start-ups and workplaces, employers today require an good attitude and practical problem-solving skills instead of a degree. That’s why I see many young people started freelancing from the first and second year of college to gain experience.

Technology also makes it accessible than ever: you can sit in Vietnam and work for a Singaporean or U.S company. You can take online college courses while working a full-time job. You can attend college and work on freelance projects on digital marketing, content development, software programming… without sitting in an office from 9 to 5.

In addition, financially speaking, pursuing a college degree is not cheap, and it’s also a factor that you should consider. 

Just a hobby is not enough for you to decide. Have a specific plan!

It’s not easy to make a big decision like whether to go to college or not when you’re 17 years old, right? Parents may immediately think this is just a teenage phase. Therefore, for your parents to trust that you’re responsible enough to make such decisions, I believe the first step is to learn and research to honestly answer the question, “If you don’t go to college, what will you do?”

You will also need to be realistic about the job market. Suppose you have a dream to work in large companies or foreign corporations. In that case, a university degree is necessary. You can’t say that “Even though I don’t have a university degree, I have experience and knowledge.” That’s not quantifiable. It will be difficult for recruiters to pick you among hundreds of candidates for the job, unless you have really outstanding achievements on your CV. So then, will college be a fast and safe way for you to achieve their dreams?

If you strongly feel like college is not the right path for you, don’t cross out “learning” all together. I have read and seen that in Europe, students are advised early about vocational training, and I find this very reasonable. This can include here can be learning about machines, manufacturing, crafts, to high-tech skills such as programming. Learning a new skills will always be useful, no matter what career you want to have in the future. You can easily find on the internet which occupations will be the most sought-after in the next 10-20 years in order to know what you should learn about right now.

You can also open your own business, if you have some serious business ideas and plans. It does not have be a unicorn start-up at once. I saw my friends opening their fashion boutiques online, or even bake and sell pastry at home. They are so committed because they know what they want, are prepared for the future, and are determined to deal with the difficulties they will face along the way.

Finally, if you don’t know which direction you fit in, then you can spend time to experiment. If you asked me, I would say enroll in a university program first and always be open-minded for new opportunities and interests.

There will be times when you don’t feel confident in the path you’ve chosen.

No matter which path you choose, there will be times when you wonder if you made the right choice, and why things had to be so difficult. It’s completely normal, and I hope that moments like these won’t pull you back. In fact, these are the times when we can slow down, think about our plans, see where we need to improve before moving forward.

Let me know if you’re uncertain of what to do next in your career, especially in fashion! I only have my personal experience to draw from, but I’m always here to help out whenever I can.

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