“A college degree shows you can finish something.” I’ve heard this forever, but I don’t believe it. Of course a college degree shows that someone finished one thing, namely a college degree. But I don’t think that’s the best predictor of whether someone will finish something else.
College provides a great deal of support: accountability, frequent feedback, a community of peers, etc. Succeeding in this environment is an accomplishment, but it doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that someone can succeed in a less supportive environment. It also doesn’t necessarily indicate that someone can focus on a project that takes more than a semester to finish.
Here are a few things that might be better indicators of initiative and persistence.
- Learning a foreign language as an adult
- Losing 50 pounds
- Learning to play the oboe
- Quitting smoking
- Reading Churchill’s history of WWII
- Starting a business
- Running a marathon
- Writing a book
Employers that use college degrees as their only filter on applicants are missing out. An ideal candidate would have a college degree and some proof of independent achievement. But given a choice between someone with only academic credentials and someone with only independent accomplishments, the latter may be a better hire.