The Definition of Intelligence

Julianna Kasper, Staff Writer

There are many instances in life that evoke a primary question: what defines a person’s intelligence? In Legally Blonde, Elle Woods goes to Harvard Law in order to prove to Warner, her ex-boyfriend, that she is smart enough to marry him. But, on the flipside, Erin Brockovich was only a legal clerk when she built a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993 and avenged the deaths of many innocent people. Steve Jobs infamously dropped out of Reed College but still managed to develop the massive company that is Apple. Yet, especially during this time of year, high school upperclassmen fret over creating the ideal college application letter, beefing up their transcript and yearning for the one acceptance letter from their dream school. In this day and age, we have put a perverse emphasis on level of education, and how it defines us. Asking my younger sister what she wants to do when she grows up, she does not say an artist, a singer, or even a teacher; she says she wants to go to college. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that this is a bad thing, but it poses a rather interesting question: when did college become the only acceptable option after high school? Level of education does not define a person, virtue does.

Every student has heard their parents, teachers, and guidance counselors tell them three things: graduate high school, go to college, and get a degree. Doing this will definitely guarantee success, right? Wrong. According to, as of 2018, there are 44.2 million Americans suffering student debt, totalling in 1.52 trillion dollars owed. It is difficult to even fathom how much money that is. An average twenty-one-year-old, fresh out of college, does not have the resources, job, and credit to be able to pay their loans within a reasonable time. Heck, most don’t even have a place of their own, or know how to do laundry. The burden of student loans is a growing issue, denying young college graduates time to search for not just a job to pay these off, but a career for life that actually has to do with their degree. The ambitious even opt to return to school for their masters, and even a doctorate degree in order to have more career opportunity. This only adds to student loan debt, initiating an endless cycle of debt, unsuccessful job searches, returning to school, and more debt. I guess Plautus was right when he said, “You must spend money to make money.”   

But, this is not always the case. The world needs people that can work with their hands. Yes, architects plan out innovative architecture and doctors perform life-saving surgery, but who builds the buildings? Who makes the surgical tools? Construction workers, industrial workers, and even hairdressers are extremely valuable to society, and do not cost an arm and a leg to become. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, technical and trade school careers have starting median salaries of 35,720 dollars. This also depends on level of skill and qualification, but it provides a stable starting point for newcomers to the career world.

Look, don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I plan on going to college. The luxury of receiving a college education produces fresh minds filled with thought-provoking questions and increased awareness of the world around us. Mark Zuckerberg, who created Facebook, did so in college and graduated from Harvard University. Most professors are brilliant, and are responsible for changing the lives of many people for the better. Doctors, who save lives, and lawyers, who defend them, all go to college. Society is always in need of these brilliant people as well. It is okay if you want to go to college. It is okay if you don’t want to got to college. It is okay if you are not a school person. But, it is also okay if you are. The world has something for everyone, and everyone has something to offer. Although seemingly the automatic choice, college is not the only option after high school. The choices we make concerning higher learning does not define who we are.


* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license