iStock_000004837175SmallFirst of all, for the sake of this post, take a gander at this article by John Warner on I will, as they say, still be here when you’re done.

So now that you’re back, here’s what I want to ask: is Mr. Warner right that there is no demand for college as a source of education, and instead the demand is for the stable, successful life that college supposedly provides?

Well, I’m going to speak honestly and openly here. The fact is that, yes, almost every person who goes to college is going at least in part in order to obtain that stable, successful life. And yes, that would seem to suggest that Warner has a point. Colleges provide far more than simply education, and those other elements, which are often overlooked, might turn out to be more valuable in the long run than the flat out education.

But that doesn’t mean there is no demand for education, either. It doesn’t mean that people are only attending college in order to obtain a piece of paper, or that they are only attending so that they make the right contacts. Those things are definitely important! But the person studying mechanical engineering needs to actually learn mechanical engineering in order to pursue that career. And that education can, in itself, be the key to that successful, stable life that the student is looking for.

The point to keep in mind, here, is that it’s incredibly difficult to predict exactly what is going to turn out to be most valuable in a college education. Lots of different analyses, studies, news sites, and more would love to get it down to a science, to numbers, to purest facts, but that’s never going to work, not 100% of the time. What helps someone else won’t be what helps you to find that successful and stable life you’re looking for.

So what’s the key, here? Finding a college based on your own educational interests is great, but what if you are primarily looking for a place that will help you find a solid career after you graduate? What should you be looking for?

The key, something that Mr. Warner alludes to in his article, is simply this: opportunity. Merely attending college and graduating will provide opportunities that would never have been available otherwise. That’s why online courses and colleges are valuable for some people, who don’t have the ability to attend other universities due to finances or location or anythign else. Online courses and colleges can still provide an opportunity you’d never otherwise have access to.

But if you can attend a college or university that would provide you with additional opportunities, then that’s what you should be looking for. A place that will provide you with a solid education is fantastic! A place that will provide you with a solid education, along with opportunities to meet peers and make connections, to do extracurricular research, to find good positions with the school’s own network of alumni — that’s a place that will provide you with as many opportunities as possible for you to find that successful and stable career.

Online colleges and courses certainly have their place, providing opportunities to people who might not otherwise be able to afford the enormous expense of a more traditional brick and mortar school. The key for you, would-be college student, is to decide which opportunities are most important to you and which opportunities you can afford to pursue, and then to go for them.