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The Top 10 Most Useless Degrees (And Why)

The Top 10 Most Useless Degrees (And Why)

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how valuable your current degree will be for your career. Or maybe you’re a highschool senior, debating which degree to pursue.

As someone who has extensively researched the value of a degree before deciding to drop out of university, let me share my two cents on the matter. It may shift your perspective.

Before we go over the 10 most useless degrees in college, let’s go over some major gaps that apply towards pursuing a degree in the first place.

False sense of security

Growing up, we were promised the illusion of the golden ticket. We are told to earn a paper degree, and watch the opportunities roll in.

This may have been true 30–40 years ago, where only 26% of middle-class workers had a degree. Today, when almost everyone has a college degree (if not a Master’s), its value is increasingly becoming a commodity rather than an asset.

As a result, the golden ticket we were promised rarely leads to our desired job upon graduation, if at all. According to the U.S Department of Labor, 53.6% of college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.

Misalignment of goals

This may be harsh to hear for some people, but most college professors don’t have your best interest as their priority. There’s two reasons for that.

The first is the increasing number of professor to student ratio, where some lecture halls seat over 500+ students per professor. This makes it incredibly difficult to develop a genuine relationship. This also leads to receiving general and unspecific advice from professors.

The second reason is that most professors have their research and tenure as a higher priority than helping students get the best education for their career. Many professors are using the institution’s facilities and resources for their own research, and are teaching as part of their contract.

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There’s rarely a good outcome if there’s a misalignment in any relationship.

Better alternatives

The good news to all of this is: you’re in control. There’s better alternatives and more opportunities than before, from getting practical experience, to leveraging new social communities, even avoiding the degree as a whole — the list just goes on.

With each of the most useless degrees I mention below, I’ll share an alternative you could explore in lieu of your 4-year journey.

1. Advertising

Don Draper may have been “the man” back in 1960; however, with the rise of technology, the advertising industry is shifting faster than ever. The core reason for this is that we’re no longer living in the billboard/banner ad age. Consumers have all the power today. We can choose what we pay attention to and what we tune out.

Many companies question the ROI of advertising as a whole, big agencies are struggling in a world of free media, and new social networks are popping up every year.

Alternative: Stay ahead of new media trends and learn everything you can about it, from new social networks, to marketing channels, etc. Become an expert and share the actual results you’ve received with potential employers or clients. Results will be the only thing that matters.

2. Music

Music is different from advertising since its theory stands the test of time. However, that in itself is the problem: it’s only theory.

If your goal is to one day become a professional musician, learning about its history and the musical terms and instruments is not going to accelerate your success. As Malcolm Gladwell proclaims in his book, “The Outlier”, what made The Beatles become one of the greatest bands in history was the 10,000 hours of practice they had in their early stages.

Alternative: If you want to be a performer in any industry, from musician, to comedian, to keynote speaker: put in the hours. Form your own band. Find every opportunity to get on stage and become the performer you want to be, not an expert in musical theory.

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3. Computer Science

Technology is almost always ahead of traditional education. This poses a big contradiction if you’re trying to stay ahead of the latest trends that will help you be in demand of great companies upon graduation.

Be clear with your end goal. Are you looking to learn how computers work, or are you looking to be recruited by the Google’s of the world?

Alternative: Assuming most of you reading this are looking to learn how to code, it’s easier than ever to do this on your own. Check out free platforms such as Codeacademy or Treehouse, and apply it directly by building your own website.

4. Creative Writing

If you’re looking to express your creative mindset, this degree isn’t it.

The first reason is that most professors frown upon modern fiction, and would rather teach you about how it was done in the 1800s. The second is, the only compensated positions that most “creative writers” end up at is writing Top 10 lists for the Internet. There’s better ways to spend 4 years learning how to express yourself.

Alternative: One is, start your own blog. This not only helps you get real practical experience on expressing and condensing your mind, but you can also receive immediate feedback from your audience. Here’s the cherry on top of the sundae, if you manage to build a large enough audience, you can potentially make enough money to be your own boss!

5. Philosophy

Philosophy is the go-to degree when discussing the most useless degrees. This isn’t to dismiss the importance of philosophy, as many influential thinkers such as Tim Ferriss use Stoic Philosophy as a framework for making better decisions. The problem is the way it’s being taught. Professors choose theoretical topics of philosophy that will stir debate and discussion, which rarely applies to our real day-to-day lives.

Alternative: There’s books available, such as “The Obstacle is the Way,” on practical philosophy that will help you make better decisions in life. If you want to learn about the history of Philosophy, there are hundreds of books available on that as well.

6. Communication

If you need a communication degree to prove you can communicate, then you haven’t fully experienced college.

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College is where you discover the necessary communication skills to nurture relationships, develop the ability to communicate with new people, and learn about your communication strengths and weaknesses. You’ll learn far more about communication from opening yourself up to meeting new people in your college than spending 4 years about how to talk.

Alternative: Create your own podcast. Find a topic that you’re passionate about and start interviewing people. As ironic as it may sound, the best communicators of the world are not the best speakers. Instead, the people who can ask interesting questions and know how to listen make the best communicators. On top of that, podcasting will help you connect with influential people in your industry, which is a far better strategy of landing your dream job than a degree.

7. Education

Do you want to become a great teacher, have an impact, and share your message with students? Well, you may be disappointed to hear that most teachers receive a nominal salary compared to their relative value. Why not get paid what you’re worth, while potentially impacting millions of students around the world versus a few hundred in your local city?

Alternative: Today, anyone can become a teacher. You can share a practical skill you’ve developed with others, or you can teach people how to shoot photography, how to learn a new language, and more by creating your own Youtube channel, creating your own online course, or signing up for a teaching platform. The opportunities are endless with the rise of online teaching.

8. Languages

As globalization increases at an exponential rate, learning a new language is not only a great asset to have on your resume, but it’s also quickly becoming a necessity. Despite its increasing importance, it doesn’t require an investment of $30,000 to learn the history and literature of the language from a non-native speaking professor. In fact, it’s unlikely you’ll ever use most of the theoretical knowledge you learn about languages in the real world.

Alternative: Much like computer science, you don’t need to learn a language inside and out just in order to speak it fluently. There are existing language learning platforms like Rype that are 0.1% of the investment for a college degree. This platform matches you with a native speaking language coach for one-on-one teaching, rather than learning in a lecture hall with 300 other students.

9. Criminal Justice

Most people entering this degree are looking to become a detective, police officer, or enter law. If that’s the case, earning a degree in Criminal Justice may not be the way to go. According to the BLS, police officers and detective are not necessarily required to have a degree beyond their highschool diploma. This is because most of the practical knowledge is earned upon joining the academy through sponsored on-the-job training.

Alternative: If your goal is to enter law, there are better degrees that will train you for getting into law school. In fact, law school expert Ann Levine states that Criminal Justice is not considered academically rigorous by major law schools. Instead, Levine recommends a degree like political science, that requires research, serious thought, and analysis.

10. Entrepreneurship

Learning entrepreneurship through a textbook is like watching a video on how to ride a bicycle without riding it. This bit of advice comes from personal experience. Every successful entrepreneur will tell you that entrepreneurship cannot be taught, it must be experienced. The calculated risk-taking, mental struggles, and hustle aren’t learned from a textbook, they come from being in the battlefield.

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Alternative: The easiest alternative is to start your own business. This could be a side business you start, or something as simple as selling items on Ebay. The last thing you want to do is study the works of successful entrepreneurs without living it your own.

In Conclusion

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” — Sue Grafton

Despite the points mentioned in this article, your college experience is something to be cherished. You’ll learn far more from the overall experience than inside the classroom.

The problem is not college itself, it’s our preconceived mindset of relying on some of the most useless degrees to make or break our careers. Most of us will end up working in professions that have nothing to do with our degrees.

Think about what your intention and end goals are by entering your degree of study. Where do you see yourself in 5 years upon graduation? How will this degree help you get there? Is it a degree that top employers are looking for? Or are there specific skill-sets that you want to develop to improve yourself?

Most importantly, you should use college as the time to explore yourself, take risks, and learn your strengths and weaknesses. It’s one of the first and only times you’ll have the freedom to make risky decisions with no real downsides. College can become the best experience of your life. Choosing the right degree is only one part of it.

Over to you

Which of the most useless degrees we mentioned do you agree with?

Featured photo credit: Student Hitchhiking via cdn.magdeleine.co

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Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Published on September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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