Freestar had our first-ever virtual retreat last week and during one of our brainstorming sessions, the topic of college came up. Does it matter if someone went to college? Since 2020 has forced us to reexamine almost everything about our working lives and beyond, we thought now is as good a time as any to ask whether a 4-year degree should still be a barrier to enter the workforce in many industries.
Let me start off by saying I went to Arizona State University. Don’t get me wrong, I had the time of my life there, but did they prepare me for running a multi-million dollar business? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I graduated from the WP Carey School of Business and during my senior year of college, I started my first business. I had no idea how to even form an LLC and when I asked the school for help I was met with a roomful of chirping crickets. I figured out how to create an LLC on my own, launched my first startup, successfully ran it for a decade, and made my first strategic exit in 2013. Based on my experience, I believe people put way too much of an emphasis on college.
When the question was posed by our CEO as to whether or not we should require college degrees at the virtual retreat, the first response was from one of the most brilliant engineers I’ve ever met and he bravely said “I never went to college,” then another person that I really respect said the same thing. The comments started flowing with the same sentiment that college wasn’t necessary and I sat there and thought to myself, it’s so funny how many brilliant people get overlooked because they don’t check all of the boxes.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go to a doctor that didn’t go to medical school, use a lawyer that did not graduate law school, etc. However, when it comes to jobs in our industry and other technology-first industries, college isn’t necessarily what differentiates the best applicant from the rest. In 2020, a college degree has become practically unattainable without going deeply into debt, especially for low-income families. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, chances are you will have a fantastic time, especially if you go to a school like ASU. However, that shouldn’t define or limit your career path or the success that you are able to achieve. If that “dream job” is at a company that is only focused on selecting someone that “looks good on paper”, without entertaining other candidates that only lack formal educational experience documented by an awfully expensive piece of paper, then maybe it’s time to rethink where you are applying.
So that being said, we’re putting a stake in the ground. Moving forward, we will not be referencing the need for college degrees in job descriptions for positions that don’t specifically need a degree and have already updated all open jobs on our website accordingly. We hope to encourage other companies to do the same to expand opportunities to the most qualified candidate, regardless of a college degree.