Your Degree Does Not Define You, and Here’s Why

If you’ve been keeping up with the fifth season of Real Housewives of Potomac (RHOP), then you know that it’s been a thoroughly entertaining hot mess. Brava to Bravo for giving us a PRODUCTION, chile!

I’m going to spend the next few minutes discussing the recurring cast member that slithered to the party early, yet uninvited: Mrs. Wendy Os*fo’s four degrees. 

When we were introduced to Wendy on RHOP she let us know that she is proud of her education, and rightfully so. As an education advocate and two-degree holder myself, I understand the hard work, discipline, and some of the sacrifices that come with pursuing higher education; we should celebrate those accomplishments. 

It becomes an issue, however, when we are using our education to demean others who took a different route. 

In ep. 14, Wendy snipes back at her fellow cast mate Karen Huger by mentioning her lack of a college degree in a condescending manner. Not only is this “classist and egregious” (as Maya and her mama on Girlfriends would say), but how much can you truly attempt to belittle someone who, quite literally, has a seat at the same table? 

Understand this: The decision to pursue a degree is life-changing, but it is not life-defining. Our education level does not determine the value and impact of our lives, work, or opinions. 

With that said, it would be very remiss of me not to acknowledge the challenges and debilitating stereotypes that ‘degree-less’ Black and poor people face in navigating corporate America. The promise of social mobility through education, however, is becoming more difficult to access financially; college is simply not a feasible, or desirable, option for everyone…and that’s ok. 

Though I believe that college is an amazing(ly expensive) experience that helps level the playing field and teaches us valuable skills, I don’t believe that the piece of paper we earn to show for it should hold as much weight as we give it. Here’s why: 

Many People Don’t End Up Using Their Degree(s) Professionally 

I’ll start this by saying that I’m one of the few, meaning that I use my degrees in my field of work. I also understand that I’m speaking from a place of privilege with this experience and it’s probably not the norm. 

Generally speaking, people are motivated by one of two things when selecting a college major: passion or money. When we are driven by the former, it may prove difficult to find a lucrative career that aligns with what we studied. As a result, some may need to pivot to other skill sets to make a livable income. 

Other times, people choose a different direction simply because they want to; we all have the right to hit reset on our careers and explore other paths anytime we want. 

It Provides an Incomplete Snapshot of Who We Are (Sometimes an inaccurate one)

If Wendy (and the other ‘degreed’ RHOP cast members) proved anything this season, it’s that our degrees are surely not indicative of exemplary character. Outside of that, the confinements of a degree are too small to appropriately capture a multi-faceted person. 

A friend of mine, for example, is currently completing his medical residency at a reputable hospital. If people only focused on this fact about him, then they’d totally miss that he’s also an event DJ who is relatively booked and busy (how he finds the time for it all is beyond me). 

I also know plenty of other STEM degree holders with blossoming careers in fashion, entertainment, writing, culinary arts, and many other unlikely industries. 

Point is, we’d be doing ourselves a disservice by limiting our scope of people to what they studied in school. 

A Degree Is Not the Highlight of College

If you ask me, the best part of college wasn’t my work, classes, or the day(s) I walked across the stage–it was the people, the relationships, the memories made and lessons learned outside of school hours. 

If you walk away from your college experience with just a piece of paper, then, quite frankly, you didn’t do it right. Hell, you don’t even need to complete your degree to get those moments in college (but I’d see it through if possible because you may have to pay back the loans anyway).

If You Let Your Degree Define You, then You are Only as Good as Your Degree

Let’s use Wendy’s analogy from episode 18 when she compares her academic accomplishments to “trophies,” because that’s really all a degree is: a trophy of completion. Why would you want to reduce yourself to only being as good as a trophy? 

Also, hear me out: though there’s some truth in the phrase ‘a jack of all trades is a master of none,’ versatility will always win when it’s all said and done. 

On sports teams, the more valuable players are often the ones who can play multiple positions. Yes, they may have been recruited or hired for one specialty in particular, but having multiple skills under their belts makes them more of an asset to the team. 

Listen, stop playing small! Don’t box yourself into one specialty skill just because it’s printed on your transcript. 

Moral of the story: don’t be like Wendy. Know that a college degree is only a means to an end; there are other paths to success that can prove just as rewarding. 

Unlearn the misconception that a degree automatically makes you more valuable; people can be just as intelligent, gifted, and admirable with or without a college degree. 

Written By: B.Sierra

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