Does College Matter After You Graduate?

Up until this point in our lives, many of us have followed a very similar path toward where we are today – we work our way through school and work hard along the way – we do everything we can to graduate high school with an impressive GPA and plenty of extracurriculars. Why? To get into a great college, of course.

Then what? We keep up the  hard work, burn the midnight oil, memorize our cheat sheets, and study our assess off, all while trying to balance our social life, party on the weekends, meet our soulmate, and survive on Ramen…and for what? To graduate and end up with the job of our dreams.

It’s the cycle that has been engraned in American Culture – it’s part of that old-school pursuit of the “American Dream” (that is rapidly changing – or in my opinion – no longer exists). My question is, after putting in so much hard work and effort – does it really mean anything? Once you’re in the “real world” does anyone really care what you did back in school? I’m not so sure.

A few months ago I wrote a post about why I’ll “never go back to school” – and I stand by that. Not because I think there is anything wrong with higher education, and I would never try to talk any of you out of pursuing what you want to do, AND I fully understand and appreciate the need for further education if you’re heading down certain career paths. That’s not what I’m getting at.

My point is that today, right now, if you take a look at my resume, the first 21 years of my life are condensed into one bullet point at the bottom of the page:

  • BBA | Belmont University | Nashville, TN

Not even a GPA listed – not because I’m ashamed, quite the contrary, I’m extremely proud of what I accomplished in college – I’m not hiding anything…but instead, it seems like no one cares.

When I was pursuing my first job after graduating, yes, I had more showing on my resume and my collegiate experiences were discussed much more during interviews – but when I moved up here to Chicago, having only one year of agency experience under my belt – college was never even brought up – there was no interest in anything I had done before stepping foot into the “real world” – now the first 20+ years of my life are no more than a footnote on the page.

Which begs the question, “Does college matter after you graduate”? Does our hard work mean squat after we’ve walked across the stage? Is it more of a personal pride thing as opposed to a professional requirement? Does it vary from industry to industry?

I’ve had conversations about this with several people recently and reached out to many on Twitter to crowdsource some thoughts. There’s no right or wrong, and clearly perspectives vary. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Your thoughts (from Twitter)

  • Jill_PR | Yes, b/c I did a huge marketing project there (extracurricular). College experiences count, but not marks. No one asked!
  • dsieg1 | I have wondered that myself. I think employers always favorable on a good GPA, at least my employers always have.
  • JasMollica | I think college accomplishments mean far less after you’ve been in the “real” world for a bit (4-5 years).
  • jeremymeyers | only if its specifically relevant to the job. i.e. if you’re going after a paper editorial position, being editor of the Crimson.
  • OurLittleAshley | Yes! I had two jobs post college, but ended up getting my current job largely because of what I did in college.
  • KristinaSummer | depends on the job – scientific based jobs -college prestige & accomplishments carry more weight – ecology, wildlife biology, etc but PR, mrktg, AD- what you do with the degree is what counts I’m finding – I have experience with both sides now.
  • bigbrightbulb | I think college stuff means less after a period of time, rather than # of jobs? Work for <2 yrs, may still look to college as exp
  • BitchnNutrition | It takes those accomplishments to become the professional you are today, so I definitely think it matters!
  • ToddBullivant | I would say no. The degree becomes a checkbox on the HR filter. Exceptions would be internships & thesis.
  • ElizabethPW | after my first job in “big law” I was in the club, then college/law school not v. impt. (now of course, totally unimportant)
  • TimPio | I say they matter, but if these accomplishments took place more than 6 or 7 years ago they don’t. Just my take.
  • alexiaharris | I think it depends on the accomp. But don’t the majority think their accomps are worthy of being praised for longer than one job?
  • gerkmana | I think they make you interesting. They give you something to offer in a conversation. That’s valuable.
  • pixie658 | now that I’m grad school, college means nothing. College is just a ticket to the game of “real life.”

What do you think?

  • How important is your college experience once you’ve spent a little time in the full-time career world?
  • HR reps, what do you want to know about a potential candidate’s collegiate experience, if anything?
  • What college-related experiences do you put on your resume?
  • Do you bring up your college experiences often during interviews?
  • When in your professional career does it make sense to cut out your college activities?
  • If you could do it all over again, would you go to college if it wasn’t a pre-requisite for getting a decent job?

I hope we’ll be able to spark some interesting discussion and debate in the comments below…