Do You Have Regrets About Going To College?

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College Graduate

Earlier today, I was talking to my mom about the transitions in my career thus far, and she said, “I bet you’ll go get an MBA before this is all said and done.”

I was kind of surprised by that comment. I mean, sure I’d like to go get an MBA because I think it would be interesting, fun, and useful.

At the same time, my response was, “Mom, how could I? I’ve got to get rid of the student loan debt from the other degrees I have – you know, the ones that still sit at $33,000? From the degrees I’m not using!”

Like any good mom, she argued that no education was wasted. I pursued the path that I thought was right at the time, and in a way, I’m grateful for it because it led me to where I am today.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way from time to time, so let’s take a look at some reasons why anyone might regret some of the decisions they’ve made regarding education.

Common Regrets About Going to College


1. I Didn’t Learn Anything


I know of a few people who don’t feel like they really blossomed in college. Sure they took some classes and passed everything, but they don’t see how their college education translated into real world skills. They learned much more from their first jobs than they ever did from sitting in a class in school. The solution to this problem might be to encourage college students to do a few internships.

2. It Was Too Expensive


There are many ways to get the college experience, and sometimes people go for the expensive private school whether for the name or the small class sizes or some other perk. However, these private schools often come with a hefty price tag, and often people regret going to them when they could have had a similar education at a less expensive public school.

3. I Don’t Use My Degree


Some people, like me, might regret their education because they don’t use what they learned. They might even forget what they learned because they don’t study it regularly! For example, despite the 6 years I spent learning about the Civil War, I feel like my knowledge isn’t as sharp as it used to be. For someone who used to give Civil War battlefield tours, I now have a hard time conjuring up dates and generals when it used to be second nature. While I’m sure that reading a few books would bring these things back into focus again, my interests are simply quite different now.

Ultimately, I think saying I regret my education is too strong of a word. I’m glad I did it, and at the time, I enjoyed it. I wish I would have handled things a little differently and waited a bit longer before transitioning to graduate school, but what’s done is done, and like I said, it all led me to where I am right now.

Do you regrets about going to college? What would you do differently now?


Photo Credit: Schlusselbein2007

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Matt Becker says:

    I don’t regret my education, but that’s a lot easier for me to say given that I was lucky enough to have my parents pay for it. I do regret not taking the academic part more seriously. I mean, I worked hard and learned a lot of interesting things, but there were so many opportunities at my university that I didn’t take advantage of. Still, I think it was a net positive, but it certainly isn’t a given to be a net positive.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Hmm this is a tough question. I do use my degree and I’m very happy with my education, but it would have been nice to graduate with less student loans than I did. I think I’m much more aware now of how you can make a good living WITHOUT a college degree, so I’d say that’s the one big difference.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Yes that too! It’s kind of amazing what people can do when they use those 4 years to work on their ideas and build businesses instead.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Overall, the ROI for an MBA is awful. Just google “is it MBA worth it?” and you’ll find statistics that support what I’m saying. You’re probably better off just where you are. Sometimes higher education isn’t worth it!

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Oh yeah, for sure. I’m not going to get one unless it’s free somehow and I do it for fun. I could prob write a post about that too. Not sure what I would learn exactly since our type of business is sort of “learn as you go.”

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    I’m kind of in the opposite situation: I didn’t go to college, and I don’t regret it. I did well for myself in banking without it, luckily.

  • Amanda says:

    My biggest regret from school was that I didn’t take the classes I needed – I took the classes that were easy or that didn’t mean getting up at 8am. I coasted, 100%. It was great because I had lots of time to socialize, work a great pt job for 20 hrs/wk, etc. but that’s not exactly the point of college, now is it?

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      I think more students should work during college. You prob were much more mature than your fellow classmates!

  • Travis @Debtchronicles says:

    No regrets…not one little bit. I love my job and my career, and without my college education I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Now…..whether what I had to go through in college was really necessary for my career is a completely different story. Remember anything from Anthropology? Me neither.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Ha! I had no idea you did anthropology. Awesome. I had to take a few anthropology classes since it’s so closely related to history, and all I remember is watching manga in an asian anthro class haha!

  • save. spend. splurge. says:

    My education was frickin’ expensive but it was worth every penny because without it, I would not have gotten the job at the salary I asked for, and then realized it was my dream job. My education itself, helped a little on the job, but a lot of it was self-taught after I started my career.

    I would never go back for an MBA however. Completely useless. But for those who WANT to go back, they should consider When they should go back for their MBA, because right out of school is a silly idea in my opinion.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      That’s awesome you have your dream job! Yeah like I was telling Holly, I’d only do it if it was free. I just like learning. I’d love to go to law school too, not to be a lawyer but just for the education because I think it’s interesting. Again, only if it’s free. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • dojo says:

    I paid for my tuition by working full time, so at least I didn’t end up in debt. I don’t use my degree at all and honestly I don’t think it was such a great deal anyway. Sure, it doesn’t mean I regret it or that I’d advise my child to skip college though ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Haha I wouldn’t advise mine to *skip* college but I wouldn’t mind them taking some gap years or doing something non-traditional.

  • Chad@thstockmarketandi says:

    I think this question is getting asked more and more by people who have a degree. On the other side, I think the question about the relevance of a degree is being asked by people who are in or are thinking about higher education. The needs of the employers in America seem to becoming very specialized. There are probably a whole host of degrees that are more irrelevant than ever. The rise of technical schools seem to be handling the specialized needs of the workforce better than the average university.

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    I understand your mom’s mindset that no education is wasted. I think when most people have regrets, it is often the student loan debt they rack up or that they picked a major that didn’t help them get a job. I went to a state university and the tuition was affordable though I do have loans. I regret sometimes that I went to a school that is not well known for Business and it probably didn’t help me get a job, but I meant some great people there and enjoyed my 4 years there. As for grad school, I racked up a lot of student loans and regretted that at one point, but I do have a slightly higher paying job and it was probably worth it. I would have preferred a lower cost option but the state university option was too far away.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Yeah well my parents really, really value eduction to the max but I think that the world is changing and that we might be a bit more flexible in terms of what our kids what to do. Depending on the kid, I’d be more willing to give them the 100k to start a business instead of the 100k for them to take English 101, ya know?

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    I don’t have regrets from my education. While I am not using my degree, just having it allowed me to get a job. I taught myself more than I learned in college and my internships and own business gave me more insight into what it really is like than what college ever did. I would still do it again.

  • Broke Millennial says:

    People can knock on journalism all they want — but it’s a great degree. I felt like I learned so much through my journalism major and clearly I’m still using those skills on a daily basis. Learning to write well is invaluable. The journalism program also had a 400 hours of internship requirement in order to graduate, so we had “real world experience.” My theater major doesn’t get much use, but thankfully I only paid for one degree and shoved two in there.

    For those who feel the education is wasted because they don’t use their degree, it’s best to look at college as a networking opportunity. People you met in college (or even just went to your school) are the best network for finding employment.

  • Mrs. 1500 says:

    I absolutely regret going to college. At the ripe old age of 17 (late birthday) I was expected to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life? And in all my 17-year-old wisdom, I chose Fashion Design. I have not ever used my degree, not once. I wish I would have studied Business, or almost anything BUT Fashion Design, which always shows up as either #1 or #2 on the list of most useless degrees.
    I think it is ridiculous to expect young people to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, when most of them are so self-absorbed and haven’t had any work experience.
    My most favorite job was one that I could have done with zero college. I worked as a buyer in a quilting supply company. I loved what I did.
    I spent a lot of money on my useless degree, and wish I had invested it instead. That would have been a much smarter move.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Hindsight is def. 20/20. I was just saying how for the right kid, I’d gladly give them 100k to invest or start a business instead of forcing them to go to college.

  • Kasey @ Debt Perception says:

    I’m in the same boat as you. I’m not using my degree yet and I’ve forgotten a lot of what I learned. It’s disappointing consider just how much was spent to get it (or how many years I’ll be paying it off). I definitely wish I would have gone about getting my degree in a different, more affordable manner.

  • Simon @ Modest Money says:

    I loved the college experience! Not so much my degree which truth be told I don’t get to apply quite often. If I went back I’d work to complete it in half the time (I took my sweet time)…I’d still major in the same thing, its something I enjoy studying but I’d supplement it with classes from other disciplines.

  • E.M. says:

    I feel similarly. I don’t use my degree, and honestly, I have forgotten some of the things I learned while in college. I am still hoping to put it to use some day, but overall, I don’t regret it. I think I made the best decisions for myself at the time, and I am glad I had the experience I did.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      That’s a good way to look at it and how I do too. It was the best choice at the time even though I would do it differently now.

  • Michelle at Diversified Finances says:

    I don’t regret getting any of my degrees. Luckily, it does help that I no longer have student loans. I like having the degrees under my belt and actually being done!

  • Whitney @ EHFAR says:

    I didn’t have any loans from undergrad, but I do from graduate school. I really regret from going to grad school. I don’t regret the experience, the people I met, and how I grew as a person. However, I just went to go to save me from the job that I had at the time (I still liked the subject and debated about going) LONG STORY. Anyway, I have NO plans of using it. Basically, throughout grad school and now two years later, I know that I want to be self-employed and have my own business, which is the total opposite of my master’s in counseling.

  • Jason B says:

    My only regret from college is not studying abroad during one of the summer semesters.

  • Pauline @RFIndependence says:

    I went to college part time for the MBA and was going to work for a company the other half of the time, I learned much more with them than in class and never used my degree today. However it helped me become an adult, and without a degree I would just YOLO my way around aimlessly.

  • Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial says:

    I don’t regret going to college – it helps that I made it out without student loans – but sometimes I regret the major I chose. I’m passionate about history and would have loved to work in museum or be teaching, but that’s not how life worked out. Finding a job with a humanities degree was tough, but I can’t really complain – life turned out pretty good in the end ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies says:

    I don’t really regret going to college… after all, that’s where I met Mr PoP!

  • kathryn says:

    I didn’t go to college, and don’t regret it at all. I quit school after grade 11 (1977) and started working full time in a factory at average wage. By the time I was 24, I was married, with a baby, and a house almost paid off. (one year left of payments)
    Jump ahead to age 50, we are self funded retirees…living off our 40 rental properties that we acquired. Life is great ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I always feel guilty about having gone to a ridiculously expensive private school. I understand now that undergrad is really not a necessary place to splurge- community college and a transfer to a state school would work just fine.

  • Andy@artofbeingcheap says:

    It took me a year to find a good job after I graduated college, and that was a very frustrating time for me for a lot of reasons. At times I felt like since I couldn’t find a job I had just wasted all that time. Many years later I know that I was wrong and not going to college would have been a horrible decision. I was just being whiny, but it can be difficult to see that when you are struggling to get by.

  • says:

    My college degree opened the door to my job so I am thankful for that. People with college degrees have the lowest unemployment rate, so it helps a lot.

  • Nicolia Whyte says:

    I graduated in 2009 and, no joke, our commencement speaker told us that we were the graduating class with the worst job prospects since the Depression…it was meant to be encouraging.

    I have mixed feelings. I’m finally using my Journalism degree in my freelance writing career, but I agree so much with #2. I’m still trying to figure out why it cost so much, lol. But, that’s where I met my husband, so that was a definite plus.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF says:

    I’m becoming half-regretful about pursuing my PhD. (Or maybe I’m just getting bitter toward the end and I’ll look back on things differently.) I think I was much more capable as a fresh college graduate in term of my communication and analytical skills, which have atrophied while I’ve been stuck in lab these last 6 years. I’m not saying all PhDs turn out this way, but I haven’t made as much of my experience as I should have.

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    I use my degree, and i sure learned a lot, but I don’t know that I went into the right field. I have been trying to strategize my way out of it and into a similar but different field. I’ll still need my degree to get the jobs I want, just not the thing I focused in.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter says:

    I LOVED school… less so grad school. I think it would be hard to go back to being poor again, but the time spent at school was so much fun and I learned so many things beyond the classroom.

  • Savvy Working Gal says:

    I didn’t feel like I learned anything from my first degree – General Business, but I wouldn’t have been able to go back and take the accounting classes for the CPA exam without it. I don’t regret it, but if I would have been more motivated the first time around I would have saved myself a lot of time and money.

  • Brad says:

    I graduated from grad school with my MBA ten years after my undergrad, and to this day I think going to school for my MBA was the biggest mistake of my life. It’s my fault, though, because my company was offering to pay for some of the classes (I was in school part time), so when I graduated back in 2007 it made total sense. I met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise and learned from an amazing finance professor the importance of opening (and regularly funding) a Roth IRA. Then 2008 came, and I realized when it was all said and done I had accumulated $41,000 in student loans I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I now live in China, working overseas, wiring money to the US monthly in order to whittle down this ridiculous debt, which has grown to $45,000 since I graduated. Slowly but surely, I’m making progress in paying it off.

    I had no debt when I entered grad school. Now I owe more than I have. Bottom Line: Unless someone else is paying for grad school, do NOT go for an MBA! All you’ll get from it is a nice envelope from your Alma Mater every year asking for more money!!!

  • says:

    I went through a phase where I regretted it a bit because I wasn’t really using much of my degree. But, I’ve come to realize that it’s more of just a “price of admission” to get your foot in the door.

  • Harry says:

    if I could do it all over again I would have either not gone to college at all or wentfor a different major at the cheapest possible school. Every single one of those complaints applies to my college experience and more. It was a terrible experience and my degree has not helped me at all in the real world.

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