I was recently walking through the hallways of the University where I work and I overheard a young lady speaking on her cell phone. As I got closer I could clearly hear everything she was saying and then something came out of her mouth that kind of shocked me. “College is not for me…I should have listened to my…”. I will not finish the rest because the rest is irrelevant to what I want to speak about today.
Maybe you can see why this shocked me. I rarely hear this type of conversation but, then again, I am not an Advisor or Counselor so I don’t deal with the young adults who are fearful or still trying to navigate this thing called College. Anyway, this one line made me think about my own children getting to this particular stage in their lives and how I should approach something like this. I mean, college is expensive enough already and so many young people are graduating with tons of student loan and other debt. Not to mention how it’s becoming more and more difficult for those with particular degrees to even find work in their field without first needing to obtain more education or some type of work experience. The last thing I want to do is spend money on a college education, for any of my children, if they feel they may be better off gaining experiences in some other way or they want to do things differently than I have already made up in my mind for them to do.
This, in turn, made me wonder how important college really is. I mean, seriously, I work alongside people who have obtained their Masters and Doctorate degrees and even a woman who has an engineering degree from Penn State (an Engineering degree!!!) yet she only makes $15/hour working as a Website Editor. If that is what a college degree will get my sons or daughters, in the future, then I would be okay with them choosing not to attend college, since most people can make this, and do this particular job, even without a college degree.
Sometimes, I wonder why we put so much pressure on our children to get a college education. Although I am an advocate for a good education, I have found that, sometimes, it is not the degree or the credentials that make a person successful but the person themselves and their experiences.
There are so many people that never graduated from college, and those that never attended college to begin with, that did quite well for themselves. People like Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Steve Jobs, who revolutionized how we use technology. People like Adele, Trace Adkins and Mariah Carey who sang us a new tune. People like Christy Walton who changed the way we shop. And people like Russell Simmons, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison and many more who inspired us to dream and renewed the way we live.
Obviously, I am not saying that if you don’t go to college you will have a successful life but it is also not statistically proven that success is guaranteed when one does go to and graduate from college. There is no rule that says my child will experience a fulfilled life if they do or don’t obtain a college degree. Maybe it is something to think about, especially in this day and age, with college costs skyrocketing as they will continue to do. There are many other ways for our children to be productive and to gain very valuable life skills and educational experiences.
A few things you could do while you are still unsure, or somewhat sure of, what you want to do with your life would be to:
- Enroll in classes at a community college (since costs are significantly lower there. You can then transfer to a 4-year University when you are sure you want to continue working towards your Bachelors degree);
- Attend Job Corps;
- Work a part- or full-time job;
- See if you can Job Shadow with someone who is already in the job or field that you think you would want to eventually work in;
- Take time to volunteer;
- Or join the Peace Corps.
And if you really are unsure of what you want to do or don’t have the money for college, you could join the military. It is definitely not for everyone (and it is something that should be thought about very seriously before signing up) but you can enlist and obtain a college degree while you serve. Even if you decide not to work on a college degree, you will gain very valuable life and work experience in the military. You can even join the reserves instead of going in as an active duty member.
Would it really be so bad to allow our children to take a year off between high school and college to work or think about what they really want to do before “investing” everything into a college education?
This is definitely a time-sensitive conversation to have with your children, parents and family members. Not only will talking about this subject allow everyone involved to appropriately prepare for the future, it will also possibly allow our young people to have the time they need to discover their true passions, hidden gifts and talents. Who knows what can happen if these things are realized and truly embraced before starting on the path toward a career and a future?