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Gen Z is Losing Faith In the College Degree — Here's 3 Reasons Why It's Still Important For Them A college degree may not be essential for success but here are three crucial reasons you should encourage your Gen Z kids to still get one.

By Mary Banks Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Even though Gen Z is skeptical about higher education, college still remains a space for transformation.
  • College plays a crucial role in shaping our children into independent adults, preparing them for successful careers and lives through mentorship and access to valuable resources.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A college degree was once seen as essential for career advancement, but Gen Z is challenging this belief. Recent reports indicate that Gen Z is losing confidence in the value of a college education. In fact, only 39% of Gen Z respondents in this survey said advancing their education is important to them.

The reasons behind this change are varied. One major factor is the soaring cost of tuition. In the same survey, 46% of Gen Z participants believed that a college education is simply not worth the cost. Other surveys reveal different insights: 69% of Gen Z students believe the college admission process has become excessively competitive, 58% prefer learning practical skills over formal education, and 49% feel universities should update their curricula to prepare students for the future. It's evident that the traditional view of a college degree no longer holds the same value, particularly as Gen Z entrepreneurs rise, preferring real-life skills over textbook knowledge.

However, beyond statistics, my experience as Director of Admissions at Quad Education has shown that children whose parents have college degrees often follow suit. Despite changing trends, family background and opinions influence one's educational trajectory.

Therefore, our parents are responsible for encouraging our children to pursue higher education. While a college degree isn't essential for success, it plays a vital role in shaping young adults.

Here are some key reasons why Gen Z should still consider a college degree:

1. A time of carefree adulthood and growth

College serves as a transitional phase between childhood and adulthood, offering students a unique period of exploration and growth. During this time, students experience a newfound sense of independence while still being sheltered from the full responsibilities of adulthood. During college, their main pressures may revolve around academic deadlines and classes. Unlike in the "real world," where financial concerns often dominate, college allows individuals to expand their intellect, broaden their perspectives, and discover more about themselves.

In the college environment, individuals from diverse backgrounds and beliefs come together, creating a melting pot of ideas and perspectives. Whether students come from a religious, evangelical, apolitical or liberal background, college exposes them to different ways of thinking, challenges beliefs and helps them define their own values. It pushes them outside their comfort zone, introduces them to new people and fosters lasting memories. For this very reason, college is a time that is deeply cherished and fondly remembered – a big reason to not miss out on the experience.

Related: These College Friends Started a 'Fun' Side Hustle That Landed Them on 'Shark Tank'— Now the Idea Is Helping Dozens Make Extra Cash: 'Start Saying Yes'

2. An opportunity to network

College isn't just about getting an education; it's about building connections that can shape your future career. College provides students with an array of resources to develop an extensive network, which is crucial for post-graduation success and financial independence. As the Harvard Business Review highlighted, today, networking has become paramount: "Professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, deeper knowledge, improved innovation, faster advancement and greater authority."

College students benefit from forming close relationships with professors, alumni and mentors. They have access to career fairs, networking events, panels and webinars designed to connect them with industry professionals in their fields of interest. These connections are often inaccessible to non-college adults and provide invaluable support as students transition into the workforce.

Related: How Going to State College Prepared Me for Entrepreneurship

3. A catalyst for building real-world skills

Learning essential real-world skills can be challenging in an era where Gen Z is heavily immersed in the digital world. College serves as a vital platform for Gen Z to develop these skills, such as independent thinking, effective communication, critical thinking, leadership and time management.

Through participation in clubs and extracurricular activities, students are encouraged to take on leadership roles, enhancing their ability to collaborate and lead effectively. Additionally, college exposes students to diverse challenges, teaching them how to overcome obstacles and make informed decisions. While mistakes are inevitable, the college provides a safe environment for students to learn from these experiences, reducing their fear of failure and empowering them to grow and improve.

Colleges are also changing the game by offering more than just textbooks and lectures. They're providing practical, hands-on courses and workshops focused on leadership, tailored to prepare students for the challenges of their chosen fields. For example, colleges are offering courses like "Entrepreneurship 101" or "Entrepreneurship Essentials," where students learn to develop business plans, pitch ideas and navigate the startup landscape. These courses often involve real-life case studies and guest lectures from successful professionals, giving aspiring entrepreneurs firsthand insights into the world of business.

Colleges also allow students to acquire practical experience through internships, co-op programs and research projects. This type of experiential learning can help students apply classroom knowledge to real-world challenges, build professional networks and gain valuable insights into their chosen fields.

Final thoughts

It's important not to push our children into college if it's not the right path. Instead, we should empower them to make informed decisions by presenting all available facts and options. The facts are that while a college degree is valuable, it's the experience and opportunities within the college environment that truly make it worthwhile. Despite Gen Z's skepticism about higher education, college remains a transformative space. It helps our children develop into better adults, fosters independence and readiness for the real world and provides access to resources and mentorship that lead to successful careers and lives.

Mary Banks

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Director of Admissions Consulting, Quad Education Group

Mary Banks is the Director of Admissions Consulting at Quad Education Group and has worked for 40 years in the higher education industry. Mary has served as the Director of Admissions at the Columbia School of Nursing and Associate Director of Admissions at the Columbia School of Business.

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