I read a story yesterday about my alma mater’s commencement ceremonies and could not help but think to myself about the thousands of mostly young people who received diplomas. What is next for these individuals? Will this new degree actually pay off some day in the form of some very lucrative job down the road? Will all that hard work and stress that many have had to endure for the past 4 and maybe more years lead to a successful life and earnings? Sadly, many doubts filled my mind. I am one of many who are very skeptical of the importance of getting a college degree these days. Is it really worth it to go through all of that effort to get some signed piece of paper stating that you were able to pass a series of tests?
For many high school students, the decision about what to do after you graduate from high school might be the most important decision you will ever make in your life. Going to college is probably the number option that these students will probably strive for. The next decision is determining exactly what is the purpose of going to college and what field you will be studying. And there lies the problem. Very few young people at that age really know what they want to do at that point in their lives. Furthermore, college is a very huge investment of money and time and for someone who is unsure of what field they want to pursue, it can be a huge waste of money, not only for them, but their parents. In many cases, the parents help foot the bill.
Which leads into my next concern about going to college. The cost of college continues to skyrocket these days with no end in sight. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians actually brought this up as a campaign issue more often? I strongly believe this is a huge problem affecting our country today. Student debt is a major issue. Any potential student going to college should realize that when they get out of school, they will have a lot of debt to deal with immediately after graduating. How are they going to pay for it? Do they have a game plan in store? And to add to this problem, many students falsely belief that they will land some high paying job immediately after graduating from college. Most students are not so fortunate. Many entry-level jobs for college graduates barely pay the rent.
There is no doubt that a person graduating with a 4 year college degree has much higher earning potential than someone without a 4 year degree. But the thought that you will be working for minimum wage the rest of your life without a 4 year degree is absolutely ludicrous. There are many good high paying jobs that ambitious hard-working people can get without a degree. Many manufacturing jobs pay nice salaries and benefits. The most important qualification at these jobs is not a degree, but a willingness to work hard and work well with people.
An option that many young people seem to forget about is going to a technical or trade school after graduating from high school. A person can pick up a skill and only attend school for only a couple of years. Furthermore, many of these schools actually give you hands on experience in applying your learned skills. One of my gripes about attending a 4 year college is that most of the classes do not really prepare you for the actually work place. It is one thing to pass a test, it is another to actually your knowledge in a work environment with other people. And by the way, there are no safe spaces in a typical work place!
If you are a good ambitious student who wants a career in a particular field, then college is definitely for you. However, if you struggle with grades in high school, maybe college is not for you. It does not mean the end of the world though. Many successful people do not have college degrees. There are many options available to those who are not quit ready to tackle the challenges of higher education. Some day, you might by thankful that you considered those other options. And your wallet might be thankful as well.