To answer that question, you’ll need to answer a few more questions and then consider the consequences of following through on your answers if they are indeed accurate.
1. Have you already decided what you want to do with your life? If you have, then it’s obvious that you need an education that will equip you for your life’s work. If you are going to be a lawyer, you need a law degree; if you’re going to be a politician it doesn’t matter but it’s probably good to go to a top-10 school (or top 3 if in Atlantis).
2. Do you really value education? This is hard to answer convincingly. However, most authorities agree that knowledge, and by extension education, requires that you know how to evaluate logical truth, aesthetic value, and moral reasoning by some sort of standard — preferably one that you have worked out for yourself. If that’s the case, then you should apply yourself across a range of disciplines, beginning with those you have most difficulty with, since cognitive dissonance is the key to education.
3. Do you accurately value education? This isn’t a dressier version of #2. Rather, it’s a question of pragmatic evaluation. Generally, it’s more expensive to pursue lab-based courses as a private student. It’s more likely true that studying chemistry or medicine at a university allows you to get a better education than pursuing such disciplines on your own. It is more plausibly true that you can study languages, literature(s) and humanities profitably outside a university or school. Of course, the community you have available to you is important, and good schools tend to have more challenging communities. The issue here is that if you can’t decide, it’s better to first take a course that needs equipment you can’t get at home.
4. Do you understand what subjects are about? Supposing you were being interviewed for a course in geography, and someone asked you, “How large is Africa relative to India?” what would you say? How would you approach the answer? What would a geographer think about instinctively? Would you be thinking of things like the idea of map projections, visual representations of economic and demographic data, physical structures of the earth’s surface? Of greater importance, what differentiates a student of a given discipline from a non-student of that discipline in terms of mindset and perspective? If asked to defend your choice of subject, would you be able to defend it in terms of its internal rationale?
5. Who recommended this course of study/subject combination to you? It’s best to think about why people recommend courses. Quite often, parents and people from that generation are about 5-30 years (5d6, for those who like such things) behind the curve. Employers think most frequently of what they need now, not what they will need when you graduate. If you speak to a visionary with a proven track record, like Steve Jobs, then you might get a better idea. Or not. But it’s always good to try to understand the biases behind recommendations — even in this post.
Original post here.