|"R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You can't get it with a college degree."|
While the passion for knowledge is what drives some people to attend college (See Reason 1), the desire for prestige is another strong motivator. Many college aspirants pursue a bachelor's degree simply because they believe that possessing a degree will make them seem more intelligent, interesting, or ambitious. Some people hope that by majoring in fields like political science, they'll become the go-to guy whenever their friends want to resolve a heated political argument.
However, this perception couldn't be further from the truth. As college is becoming more accessible to the public, the awe factor of attending a four-year university is going down. The respect that others have for the knowledge you will obtain over those four (or possibly six) years will be nonexistent. And as a result, it will take far more than a college degree to boost your social status among your peers.
Educators, public leaders, and other figures who have a vested interest in education often extoll the virtues of the college student. When you are in college, these individuals, along with your parents, will be your biggest cheerleaders. They will essentially treat you as if you are a better human being because you are in college, and soon you will start to share this illusion.
Yet beyond this small circle of education enthusiasts, you will find that few people will view your college education the way that they do.
No matter what you major in, you will find that vicious stereotypes will rule your life while you are in school and soon after graduation. Are you a hard-working liberal arts major? Good luck convincing the millions of people who believe that liberal arts majors are slackers. No matter how high your GPA is or how challenging your courses were, people will pretty much assume that you went to college to play beer pong for four years.
Are you an engineering major? People will assume that you're socially inept and lacking in creativity. The unemployed liberal arts majors will try to diminish your achievements out of envy. Business major? People will see you as a soulless money-grubber and question why you are in college if Bill Gates was able to get Microsoft off the ground without a degree. Art major? Expect people to laugh uncomfortably when you reveal your major. Regardless, no major is safe from negative stereotypes that will erode the perceived value of their education.
Not only will the major you choose make you the target of scorn, the school you choose can also be a double-edged sword. If you get accepted into an Ivy League school, expect to have to constantly downplay your credentials to avoid contempt from the community college grads. Though a small private college might seem appealing as a high school senior, you might later regret spending $20K per semester to attend a school that no one has ever heard of. While attending a state university might be a good way to save money and receive a sound education, you'll have a hard time convincing others that you didn't actually attend Party U for four years.
Unfortunately, those who haven't attended college believe that the grass is greener on the other side. Because a small, yet vocal, group of people constantly praise higher education, those without a degree believe that they too need a degree if they want to be respected. This is probably one of the worst reasons to go to college. In reality, if you are an entrepreneur, welder, carpenter, medical technician, or just a content person who never attended college, then you are the person that most degree holders will envy several years down the road. You don't need to attend college to gain the respect of your peers.