Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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One Degree Of Separation

"What colleges are you applying to?"
"Where did you get accepted?"
"Where are you going to college?"
These questions were all the rage during the last half of my senior year of high school. Anyone not thinking about attending college was a loser headed for no place special.

College. It's a catchall term teens learn to employ to inform people "I'm going places. I have a bright future". Or to get parents and counselors off their backs. College. No matter that all you're learning is how to execute a proper keg stand or earning your Ph.D in GHB and no that does not count toward your chemistry requirement you date raping frat fuck.

When asked what their goals for the future are, high school students generally respond with what college they hope to attend. But what does that really mean? College simply extends the required education period except instead of being mandated by the government college is mandated by society.

But I went. Because it was ingrained in my brain that the only hope for a bright future was college. I did everything I was supposed to do in college and I was annoyed. Long lines, outrageous tuition, expensive books, irrelevant classes, busy work, boring professors who blended personal opinions with teaching material resulting in confusing lessons. Sure there were a couple high points (keg stands) but what did college really teach me about my chosen career? Or teach anyone, for that matter? I'm assuming you aren't a doctor or lawyer.. but even then, I'd prefer the doc operating on me to have several successful surgeries under his belt as opposed to the fella that aced every single written test.

More and more we're placing too much importance on "education" and too little importance on real world experience and accomplishment. In college, students are certainly educated in many areas but how much do they really learn that they can practically apply toward a career? And at what cost?

Ultimately, college wasn't for me and after two years of bullshit math classes (that I have yet to apply to my everyday life) left me tearing out my hair by the handfull I left. I wasn't interested in why A to the third power = B - C. I was jonesing to apply the tiny bit about journalism I was learning to the real world.

Up until I left, I was earning my degree in broadcast journalism while simultaneously working my way up the ranks of a local television station. Suffice it to say, working at the news station for one week taught me more about journalism than the college did the entire time I attended. Lucky for me, at 23 I was offered the job I would have never applied for until I had that diploma in a frame on my wall. Once I secured my dream job, what was the point of getting the journalism degree? I was making more than either of my parents and I was being infused daily with invaluable on the job training.

I have since come to the conclusion that a college degree is overrated, at best. Not that your degree is for shit.. I'm certain you're a lovely, intelligent individual and most likely, the more prestigious the college you attended the more likely I am to hear about it. I'm just saying that society, our parents, employers base so much importance on The Degree and if you did go to Harvard? Well you simply must be a genius. But a college degree doesn't gaurantee success in the workplace. Some people, myself included, do not belong in college and choose not to get a degree, instead seeking out real world experience. Of course, without that degree, our society downplays their skills and will underpay them or not offer them a job even though they are good independent self-motivated learners who found a better way than "the system" to learn.

After being offered a low-paying job at a local cable channel, after passing the writing test, the New York trivia test, after miraculously passing the drug test, after being told I start tomorrow I was informed this morning the station is rescinding their offer because they noticed on my application that I do not have a college degree. No matter that I've been in the business for nearly a decade. No matter that I spent the past year writing and producing in the top news market in the world, I'm not qualified. But the girl that graduated college a month ago? She is.

Reader Comments (26)

Fuck 'em, Monica. Just fuck 'em. And this comes from someone with a few college degrees. You're a smart chick--you should be writing anyway, not humping it for The Man somewhere. Christine thinks Esquire would love your stuff. I think anyone with a brain would love your stuff. Well..ok...wait...not THAT stuff, but your WRITING stuff.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnn
That sucks like nobody's business. I can't believe they would go as far as to offer you the job and suddenly retract it due to an oversight on *their* part. THEY qualified you, overlooked the single criterion that mattered the least, then backpedaled.

It won't take away the bitterness of it all, but it sounds like these would be crappy employers who would probably screw you over once you were working.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGail
Monica, that sucks! I'm sorry the company was so short-sighted.
You're so right about life and work experience being more valuable than schooling, but not everyone sees that. Even though I have a degree, I'm the only one in my family that went to college. I detest people that judge others based on their educational level. Leo didn't finish college either, and he's more well-read and intelligent than most of the folks I went to school with.
Good luck with the job search. I hope the right position comes along soon.

July 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterchrissy
That subject is exactly something I struggled with for a long time. My problem was that I thought my college degree wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. I was making 1/2 as much as my husband at that time and he didn't even go to Junior college. I continued to think that way for a long time. husband became very unhappy with his job but he had nowhere to go. He had no college degree and no experience in anything other than delivering packages. That is when I learned that my college degree could at least give me options....regardless if I know shit or not. It all seems a little warped to me.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChristine
Monica, I don't think it was the job for you anyway.

Regarding college degrees,there are some professions that I believe should require a degree. I don't want my doctor getting his experience on-the-job and I think it's a good thing that teachers are educated in how to teach.

Having said that, I also think that experience should count for something. The world would be in a deep pile of doo-doo if it didn't. The theoretical teachings in college are usually nowhere near what goes on in the real world. The exception is mathematics :) ... 2+2=4 in college and in the real world.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStFarmer
Un-holy Christ.

I believe there are no words, nor do I have stories to tell that do justice to the injustice of your situation in this matter.

--I had a thought one day; I believed my view of the world to be sound. The world I knew held a scrap of impartiality to those of us willing to dig deep within our resounding ethics of work and life, to live and let live. To see our being as it is, with no pre-conceived notions about the inner-workings of society and structures of power that invade the core of societies.


--There are those powers that be; they do have a controlling interest in the minutia of the rat race, the seemingly inconsequential details which make the societal functions function. And for this reason, Monica, it seems these powers take great pain to make sure “spirited” individuals do not make it into the consciousness of the mass. To allow one to make a life without going through the proper motions of nothingness seemed to great a sacrifice for the corporation. To allow one would be to allow two…..

And so I remain disillusioned.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCunning Linguist
That's terrible about the job! Obviously the degree wasn't that important when they decided to hire you so I can't fathom how it suddenly became a factor other than that they are weiners.

I teach college kids and I know a good number of them would be so much happier doing something else. They've had it drilled into them that a university degree is the magical key to success so they go through the motions, fussing and moaning over their grade point averages like a junior high girl obsessing over her bangs--meanwhile, overlooking any chance at a real education. If you don't truly want to be in university you shouldn't waste your time and money. For me, it was the best thing I did--and I didn't even matricu-malate from no Fancy Pants U.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPurr Meow
Wow, what absolute BS that is! That's all I got for you - outrage.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
I concur that most undergrad degrees are rent-baiting at it's most transparent, but it frequently does separate the totally incompetent from the only marginally incompetent. And let's face it, that's really the crux of American business right there.

If you actually want the job you're applying for you should keep fighting for it. Tell them about money they'll save in training time, and subsequent speed and quality of work you'll produce right off the bat, all that crap they like to hear. And if they still want the degree, tell them you're working towards an online degree right now and go spend a few bucks on a diploma mill.

If you don't really care, forget about it, get a meaningless temp job and write while you sit at a bean counter's desk, shuffling papers feigning work. Just like I'm doing right now. I've almost written two chapters today.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterereiberg
Fuck that noise -- I'm sorry! That really sucks.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercitywendy
I'm sorry your experience with this particular job was so bad. At the same time, I believe that education and work experience are both valuable, and that education is important for reasons other than just the ones you discussed in your post.

As for your description of college, having become familiar with your writing style rcently, I'd guess it was meant to be humorous and exageration was employed in your descrptions. I'm sure you know that many college experinces are nothing like what you describe (well, minus the keg stand part, which is likely universal).

Some people actually learn and grow a lot as a result of thir classes, have professors who are remowned in their fields and are good teachers as well, and many find having a well rounded education and knowledge in many subjects (the point of most 4 year degrees, since grad. school is where you really focus on your particluar field in most cases) extremeley valuable in everyday life and in the workworld.

Some employers value college because it tells them that the candidate was motivated enough to stick with something for four years and was able and willing to see a commitment through to its completion. Some value a degree because it tells them that not only does the candidate have training in their field but that they are well rounded in their general knowledge and skills (all those math classes you tore your hair out over are important to some people because they show that you know not just YOUR field but you are educated in many areas--a trait I can see being valuable in journalism as well as many other fields).

Just because someone did not attend college does not mean they don't have the above traits, but a college degree is often an official way of demonstrating that one likely does have some of those traits at least. And, many employers do allow a certain number of years of work experience to be subsituted for a certain amount of education.

I completely agree with you that college is not for everyone (I don't ven think traditional high school is for everyone). But I do think there are many reasons to get a degree, many of which have nothing to do with playing the "system" and everything to do with learning, exposing yourself to a variety of fields and ideas, sharing ideas and learning from peers as well as teachers, etc.

Also, college often does include hands on learning in addition to book learning--it isn't as black and white as your post might have one believe. And a doctor without book knowledge is not too useful if he/she can't even identify your body parts or come up with your diagnosis because they haven't read that part of their medical texts. That's why their training includes both book learning and hands-on residencies that teach them surgical and other skills. A doctor can't perform surgery if they don't first have the knowldge about the body that comes from classroom type learning.

Learning how to play the system does matter too, it is after all, the same thing one has to do at work.
But it certainly is not the only considration, if it is considerd at all, for why on attends college.
I don't believe that college is for everyone. But those who don't go should accept the fact that many employers will want or expect a degree for jobs in certain fields.

Also, some employers might think if you aren't willing to play this "game" will you then do the same on the job and not meet some of the criteria they think you should meet because you thought that, like college, it was uselss or that you could find some way other than what they wanted for you to meet that criteria. I'm not saying finding another way to do something is wrong, but for many employers, who just want to know that you will do what they want how they want it, that could be a downside.

To suggest that employers are choosing between education and experience seems again, too all or nothing. Why for example should they hire a recent collge grad over someone like you who has many years of successful work exprience when they can most likely hire someone who has both? That, I believe, is the way the workworld works in the U.S. You have to maximize your appeal to an employer in order to beat out the competition. If they can hire someone who has the same experience as you but also has a college degree, why shouldn't they choose that person?

I think the reality of getting a job is making yourslf as comptitive as possible. That doesn't mean college only serves the purpose of making you look better on your resume (though it does that too) but someone who devoted four years of their life to getting a well rounded is an appealing candidate to many employers, and often, for good reason (I believe).

Having said all that I want to say, I'm sorry you had such a crappy exprience with that company, that was lame of them to do it the way they did, and that I enjoy your journal, and that your writing obviously provokes response (thus my overly long comment--sorry!) and that is definately a good thing. I hope you know I meant no offense toward you (I certainly hope it didn't read that way), just wanted to share my view of what I thought was an interesting topic that you raised. Thanks.

July 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm
Ew, sorry you didn't get the job. I thought you were just having a Monica Musing about college, and then -whammo- at the end.

I have a degree and a very menial job 'cause I never figured out what I wanted to do within the workplace. I agree with Christine who said it just gives you more options, but I still think that it's really messed up that some people will not hire others on account that they don't have a diploma from a university! Boo.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Ugh! I wish people didn't put so much credit on a stupid college degree! I do have one, but I am a stay at home mom now! I have been home since I was pregnant with my first, so even though I do have a college degree, what does it even mean now? There are talented smart people with and without college degrees and it seems as though people should look past the peice of paper to who the person is and what they can do! I'm sorry this happened to you! Yuck!
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertori
Oh! That is terrible. On the positive side, it sounds like you didn't really want the job. You watch - something better will come along. m, I thought your comment was very insightful as well.
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
What a fucking joke...fuck eh? Fuck...that's all I got...
July 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
"m" said, "But I do think there are many reasons to get a degree, many of which have nothing to do with playing the "system" and everything to do with learning, exposing yourself to a variety of fields and ideas, sharing ideas and learning from peers as well as teachers, etc."

I agree completely with that concept, and I've raised my kids to think of college as a necessity for all of the reasons he/she so excellently stated.

Any potential employer who would treat you as they did would surely result in a nightmarish job experience for you. Better to find that out now than after you invested your time and energy into what would have been a truly miserable job. You can do better. And will, I bet.

July 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
Ugh, that's so crazy but I actually had that just happen to a friend of mine.

I think that university arts degrees can extremely useful to teach yourself about a broad range of topics, get yourself thinking more globally and meeting people but I think that's very different from using them as a spring board into a carreer.

However useful or not though, a university degree is fast approaching a grade 12 diploma as a standard in hiring from what I can see. I'm graduating next year and while it's been a headache I know it was the right path for me.
July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKyla
p.s. - This is actually one of the reasons that equivalency evaluation is starting to be such a big deal. Many businesses & universities are starting to evaluate life experience and, very elaborately, translate it into degrees for people who are looking to enter a specialized field or further their education without the benefit an undergraduate degree.
July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKyla
That is such a load of crap! I loved college, but it had very little to do with learning how to do my future job and everything to do with becoming more comfortable with myself (a process nicely aided by large quantities of alcohol at times!), making friends, and just ingesting generally interesting information. I worked for a few years, and then quit my job to go to grad school. Why? Because I was sick of working and wanted to immerse myself in thinking about things that interested me for a few years.

My point? Both of my educational experiences helped me grow as a person, but they were more of a diversion from career-related growth than anything. The person who decided not to hire you because you don't have a piece of paper saying you passed four years worth of tests sounds like a short-sighted fuckwit to me.
July 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersandra
Best line of the month:

" No matter that all you're learning is how to execute a proper keg stand or earning your Ph.D in GHB and no that does not count toward your chemistry requirement you date raping frat fuck"

I got my first job out of college in the mid-south because I graduated from Penn State with a BA in Broadcast Journalism (oddly enough).

That it was hauling truck-load's of Hickory Farms cheese and beef-stick 180 miles per day, or because the owner was a PSU football/Joe Paterno freak was probably just coincidence.

It (the college "experience") is totally bullshit, in so many instances. Around here (near PSU in central PA), I see the same alley-pukin', beat-down lurkin', woman rapin', plebester's that have skated drunkenly through "higher education" for decades.

Too make matters worse, now they're Republicans.

At least I learned how to sell dope and steal tenderloins and chicken breasts from the local Safeway supermarket while maintaining my political independence.

Keep plugging Monica!

Maybe you can go back to college?


I am another who attended many years of college, am less than a year from getting that damn piece of paper and left. My reason was due to my father's illness and lack of money, but it doesn't matter.

I work with IDIOTS. Total bumbling idiots. Idiots with MBAs and PhDs who cannot spell or write to save their lives; who cannot understand basic statistics, who ask me what works like "tome" and "proliferate" mean. Idiots who spend the greater part of their adult life in school, but left with little common sense.

I do not have a degree, yet I am paid to edit their work, to make them look smarter than they really are. Oh course they are paid twice I am, but they trust their words with me.

I attended almost four years of college, was a decent student studying English Literature. I didn't learn jack in any of my courses. I have learned far more in the workplace and have decided to not pursue my degree right now because I don't think it is financially a smart move.

Monica, you will find a job. You have a great resume, and a knack for writing. Like me, there will be those who want to hire YOU and your talent, not just your resume.

I sit across the hall from a man with an MBA from Yale who spelled his own name incorrectly in a proposal. I keep that in mind when I get rejected from jobs for which I interview.
July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDilly
That was a totally low move! And I totally agree with Janet; such a move on the part of this organization likely signals a completely crappy workplace. Organizations that pull that sort of shit aren’t worth the crappy salaries they pay.

This argument is one that I think every person who has ever stepped foot into a university has had with themselves. Is this degree really worth it? There’s the debt and the feeling that you will never ever use this coursework in your real life. University life seems to take place in a bubble. Wouldn’t real world experience mean more? In the end, I think it is entirely up to the person, taking into consideration their goals and their disposition.

I got my degree (and I’m going back for a 2nd degree). But I also worked nearly full time in college and took out an absolutely obscene amount of student loans to go to a top ten university, with my parent’s lovingly reminding me that the University of Kentucky would have been good enough the entire time. So this is a fight that I’ve had on more than one occasion. I think the real pay off was having 4 years to spend my time considering and pontificating about the world around me. Academics always get a bad rap for holing up in their ivory tower, and believe you me, I have done my fair share of mud slinging at their shiny white walls. The ego of academia can be unbearable. The reward system doesn’t always feel very rewarding (an A- is nice and all, but it can’t take you out to a nice dinner or buy you a new pair of shoes). But at the end of the day, it is an incredible privilege to spend a concentrated amount of time studying physics or philosophy or literature with someone who has dedicated their entire life to that pursuit. To be able to spend hours every single day reading and thinking and discussing; it is such an incredible opportunity. Knowing how to attack a problem or distinguish between good research and total bollocks is something that isn’t always innate. In the end, education isn’t about all the shitty math formulas you have to learn or proofs you have to write. It’s the opportunity to hone your abilities to think and reason and analyze that are the true gifts of an education.
July 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLucia's Dream
July 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteredina
I've always felt that the longer you have been in the workforce, the less relevant it is to have a degree, or the kind of degree you have. Heck, most people I know my age or older are NOT working in the field they originally studied at college/university.

But something upsidedown has happened in the past 20 years with a lot of "training for the job" being outsourced to vocational degrees. It makes it easier for HR departments to sift applicants, but it is pretty much BS.

You can teach skills, but you can't teach character and if someone has been doing the job for a while, you can see if they have it or not. That is always worth more than a piece of paper.
July 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfernando
I had to read this twice. I agree with every single word of it. It is the truth. You said it so well. Even Robert Kiyosaki would be jealous. There is no doubt the college education system is archaic and overrated. I would take this a step further and say that some colleges have actually evolved into businesses (sorry). I’ve never seen so many “get your degree” commercials in my life. And they all have general names like “accounting” and “business management” or “communications”. I don’t understand. Its so broad.What does it mean?

Every bit of emphasis is on book skills, "theory" and written tests. And the professors? Are you kidding me? You know the saying. Those who can do - DO; those who cant -TEACH. And “consulting” work does not count.

College put me $50,000.00 in debt. My degree was in “International Business”. But I was soon to find out that in real life (my profession) nobody gives a shit about the degree only a real world license. The degree looks fantastic on paper though.. I wish someone would have told me that before I put myself in so much debt. I was brainwashed.It took me until my mid 20’s to learn this:

College teaches people to become employees for entrepreneurs and rich shareholders.

Its the truth. So why did I spend 4 years and $50.000.00 to go to college again? Fuck. I don’t know. Society. Or wait - my parents. That’s it. They told me all my life to go college “so you can get a good job with a good company, "and make sure it has excellent benefits”. I cant cant blame them. They were told the same thing by my grandparents.

Now I'm self employed. But in college you are brainwashed not to be self employed. You are told you have to be a team player and company person. This is true. But I’ve never been a company man. I work better on my own. I hate working for companies.I truly despise the covert operations, the fake smiles, the office politics, the cubicles and the coffee room gossip.

All so that someone can get a 10k raise (which is taxed anyways) or a promotion (most of the time in name only)? It’s all fake. And I dont care what anyone says. I mean you might make a couple friends. But I cannot tell you the number of people I’ve seen give the best years of their lives to a company, 7 / 10 / 15 / 20 years and the day they leave its like they were never there!It’s all bullshit. I hated acting like I was someone I wasn’t. I always had to worry about “putting up a front” and pleasing my bosses and immediate supervisors some of whom actually worked to hold me back! Yes! It’s true! In my mind business should be based on ability and merit, but that is a concept that escaped these people and apparently they felt that I needed to sit on the bench just like they did just in order to be considered! Ha! I got so much shit just for being young I cannot even tell you.

A couple years ago when I decided to drain my life savings and go out on my own I was told “don’t do it!” stay with your company! You’re doing good!” “Keep working your way up the ladder! Thank goodness I didn’t listen to anyone else and did things my way. Now, on the positive side I’m making more money. Most importantly I have flexibility and freedom.

College gets you in the door. But that’s it. Everything I learned after the fact had absolutely nothing to do with my everyday job. On another positive note the Professors who had the real world experience - were the ones that I learned the most from. But the rest became teachers most in my opinion because they failed the real test - The real world. There is a really funny webpage about college and the professors here:

Sorry to blather on. I just had allot to say...

September 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

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