We live in a world now where simply attaining a college degree isn’t enough. A bachelor’s degree or higher is now required for almost every corporate, high-level job. Students coming straight out of college automatically set themselves apart from their peers who only obtained a high school diploma. According to the U.S. census in 2014 thirty-five percent of citizens over the age of twenty-five have obtained a bachelor’s degree, which is a ten percent increase from the number in 1990. With the number of college grades rising each day what sets each of them apart?

In college, I had a professor who told us on the first day “experience beats education every time”. He went on to explain that companies would rather hire a graduate who has average grades but lots of experience over a graduate who has amazing grades but never did anything outside of the classroom. Many of the students looked around at each other stunned. We had been raised to believe that if we worked hard in school and obtained a high GPA that a great job would be waiting for us at the end of college. But now one professor was telling us that doing well in school wasn’t enough.

School can only teach us so much, we can read hundreds of books, do multiple group projects but none of that matters if we cannot apply what we have learned. Internships and summer work programs are a way for students to determine what they want to do once they graduate. What they learn in the classroom could be completely different than what employers expect them to do. An internship can also help students eliminate certain fields they once thought they were interested in and expose them to new industries they may find more interesting. Internships can also lead to a job after college. Many internship programs inform students that if they do well they can potentially be offered a position at the end of their program or be given a recommendation they can use to obtain a full-time position.

While working with hiring managers every day, we constantly ask them what they are looking for in an ideal candidate. A majority of them tell us that while a degree from a good school is important it is not the deciding factor. Many of the candidates they are considering come from good schools and have good GPAs. However, it is the candidates that obtain hands-on experience before graduating that impress them the most. Internships and work programs also show potential employers that a candidate is able to work with others in a professional environment. Being able to work well with colleagues of all ages is something that cannot be taught.

Ultimately your textbooks can’t recommend you for a job. While studying in school and obtaining a degree is important, in today’s society it is not enough. The degree will get your foot in the door but the experience you obtained throughout college will land you the job.