Being Intelligent Does Not Mean Being a College Graduate

Kaitlin Mahar

The dictionary defines intelligence as “1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.; 2. manifestation of a high mental capacity; 3. the faculty of understanding.”

Can you find the word “degree” anywhere in there? I didn’t think so.

This assertion that intelligence cannot be weighed by one’s highest level of education achieved may come as a surprise from a senior college student – it may even come off as hypocritical – but I am by no means saying that college is a waste of time or that those in college are not intelligent.

Often, I see and hear people around me looking down their noses at those who have not or currently do not attend college, for whatever reason, automatically assuming that somebody’s personal decision to not attend or discontinue their attendance at a college or university is due to a lack of intelligence.

Believe it or not, one can be perfectly successful (and intellectual) without having a college degree.

Intelligence cannot be measured by the level of difficulty of one’s classes or the amount of degrees one has earned. Somebody could have the vocabulary of Stephen King, or be as tech-savvy as Bill Gates (who, coincidentally did not finish college – he dropped out of Harvard).

Like Gates, there are plenty of well-known, intellectual people who, shockingly, did not earn their smarts from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain a piece of paper that does nothing but provide somewhat concrete proof of their intellectual capacity – Lady Gaga, Tiger Woods, Buckminster Fuller, Harrison Ford, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on.

When measuring intelligence, we cannot discriminate, and absolutely must remember that our local construction workers are clearly intelligent enough to ensure the physics laws that prevent bridges and buildings from crumbling beneath us, or our hairdressers who understand the chemical reactions that take place to guarantee that our hair has some subtle blonde highlights rather than turn neon pink.

We need to recognize the IT specialists who know how to get back the 25-page term paper we thought we deleted when our laptop unexpectedly crashed and the actors who can comprehend Shakespeare in such a way that the audience can understand what is being said by the emotions being conveyed when words like “cockscomb” and “fie” are being thrown back and forth like an intense tennis match. James Cameron certainly didn’t need a college degree to create such memorable, brilliantly-made films like Titanic and Avatar, both of which are frequently ranked on lists of the Top 250 Films of All Time.

We are a society that heavily relies on being the most intelligent and the most educated. However, we have yet to learn that intelligence and education are not synonymous.