As a parent, we are encouraged to start saving for our child’s education pretty much since the day they’re born. There’s lots of advertising about this by banks and the government. It’s talked about among our friends and encouraged by family members. My husband and I both like the idea of starting to save for Hailey’s future but when we started talking about why we wanted to do it the conversation got interesting.

We discovered that neither of us cares whether or not Hailey actually ends up attending university or any other post-secondary education. I can’t believe I just said that out loud! This was a funny realization when you consider that both my husband and I went to university and he’s currently working toward a masters degree. And even funnier that I hold a well-paying management position which I could not have attained without my degree.

Obviously university has benefited us. So why wouldn’t we want that for Hailey? The simple reason is that we want her to be happy and realize that this may or may not include university (or any other formal schooling). Don’t get me wrong, we are all for continued learning but we don’t stop learning when we finish school. We are so programmed to believe that if we don’t have some sort of post-secondary degree/diploma/certificate that we are automatically going to fail in life. But is this true?

Most jobs seem to require post-secondary education. It’s even getting so ridiculous that secretaries need some sort of certificate to get a job. I’m sure this trend will continue and by the time Hailey is my age the requirements will be much more. But based on my life experience, here are 5 reasons that university education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

1.  Education doesn’t equal qualified.
When I was in school, there were other students who cheated their way through and still ended up with the same degree as me. In the eyes of employers we were equally qualified. Some of my friends that couldn’t get a job right out of school went on to complete their masters degree. They then became more qualified than me in the eyes of employers even though they were the undesirable ones only a couple of years earlier.

As someone who is responsible for hiring (and firing) people, I have had several battles with our company’s Human Resources department about what “qualified” means. They see having a degree or a professional designation as the most important qualifications while I like to look at other skills and personality traits. Hiring people on the basis of their education is basically saying that I believe that a university is better equipped than I am at determining who is qualified for a specific position. Having said that, post-secondary education is a ticket in the door at a lot of companies. I just wish the experience and personality of the individual counted for more because that’s really what makes for great employees.

2.  Experience is important.
Employers do look at experience but someone could have 20 years of experience, be great at their job, and without that slip of paper may never be considered for a position. I have learned more on the job then I ever did in school. I feel that I have gotten promotions, am well respected, and am good at my job because of my personality, attitude and ambition. Personality and experience make others trust your work and want to continue working with you. I’ve seen so many examples where the people in the office who are the least qualified on paper are the ones you can count on to do a great job.

3.  School is just something someone made up.
Universities and colleges develop new degrees or certification programs all of the time and revise the criteria for others. When you think about it, someone is just making it up and we are all buying into it and believing that if we don’t have it then we aren’t adequate. Think about it…we could all invent our own education programs.

4.  Graduating doesn’t mean smarter.
I enjoyed school when I was there and I got good grades but only because I knew how to play the game. There was one exam in university that I did really well on but I can clearly remember walking out of the exam with no recollection of the material. I was good at studying, regurgitating, acing tests and moving on. That doesn’t mean I retained the knowledge.

5.  University education doesn’t mean happiness.
As I was growing up, my mom and dad drilled into my head that I needed to go to university. This is what I was brought up to believe was the only option. I know my parents wanted what was best for me. They hoped I would get a university degree because they never did and felt it held them back. When I was finishing high school I did look at other options. My parents were supportive of those options and never pressured me to go to university. However, they had been telling me my entire life to go to university and when it came down to it I believed that anything else would be inadequate. In that sense I wasn’t given a choice. University didn’t harm me in any way and it did help me get a well paying job. But there are SO MANY other options out there and because my beliefs were so limited I felt I couldn’t seriously consider any of them at the time.

A friend of mine’s son recently dropped out of high school. Most of us have the automatic internal response of ‘how horrible, he is surely doomed to fail now’. His reasons for dropping out: he felt like his high school was a very negative environment and it wasn’t doing him any good, and he wanted to start his own business. His dream wasn’t to work for someone else. He’s now working very hard at developing his business and learning a ton of stuff on his own. He’s happy, hard-working and in pursuit of something he believes in – is that wrong?

An acquaintance of mine’s son has been extremely successful playing poker. He travels all over and has accumulated millions of dollars doing this. He’s doing something he loves and earning a living – is this wrong?

Both of these examples go against the norm and I can feel my body tense as I think about them because they are so unconventional. However, both are examples of someone pursuing their passion rather than doing what everyone else is doing. What’s wrong with that?

When I think about Hailey growing up and deciding on a career path it would be easy for me to say that I want her to go to university because that has worked for me. But I don’t want to limit her. More than anything, I want her to believe in herself and her abilities enough to pursue something that makes her happy. If that means going to university then great! But if it doesn’t, then I want her to have the courage to believe in herself enough to pursue her dreams even if it goes against what other people think she should do (including me).