Is college even worth it?

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.

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The huge experience of going off to college

Recently, I got a news notice from my alma mater and the main topic was “Welcome Week”. Nearly every college in the country has this week which is a basically just another term for orientation week. A whole new group of new students will be entering various campuses and for many of these students, it will be the start of a new chapter in their lives. It will be the first time that many will be living on their own for any extended period of time. A huge and brand new experience awaits many young adults in this country.

I once had that experience myself; it was time to move off to a 4 year school and I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I had many mix feelings of that day when it finally arrived. In some ways, I was extremely excited to have that much-needed freedom of living on my own and not under the tyranny of my parent’s home. However, I had many good friends who I would be greatly missing and the thought of being extremely homesick really crossed my mind. Sure I would be coming home frequently to visit, but leaving my girlfriend back home would be extremely difficult.

One of the major adjustments that I had to make was adapting to the lack of privacy that living in a college dorm brings. Many incoming freshman come from homes where they have their own rooms and plenty of access to any bathroom. That is not the case with a typical college dorm. You are required to share a bathroom with several people along with the showers. The dorm I was living in had 2 shower stalls for 10 people. As you can imagine, their was a little jam in the morning to use the showers. And of course, the idea that you will have complete peace and quiet in a dorm is a far-fetched dream. There are always those individuals who feel the need to stay up late at night and create some noise due to an overindulgence in alcohol. Looking back at my college years, I don’t know how I ever survived living in those dorms! But do not be alarmed. Eventually you get used to the lack of privacy. I know I did.

If someone who is going off to college came to me for advice, I would tell them a couple of things. First of all, get involved with many activities. There is a lot more to college than just going to class and studying all the time. Get involved in groups that share your interests. By doing that, you will meet many new and exciting friends. While on the meeting new people topic, don’t be afraid to take the initiative. Invite those new dorm mates of yours to dinner at the dinning hall. Or get together to play some touch football or other games. Little social activities can really go a long ways in developing deep friendships. I also think that it is very important to keep an open mind in meeting new people. Just because that person down the hall from you has a weird poster in their room doesn’t mean that they are to be avoided like the plague. You never know, that individual could end up being your good friend for life.

Going off to college is definitely one of the top moments in a person’s life. Some people handle it better than others. Many young adults get a bad case of home-sickness.  That is very common and can be a major problem. Sometimes going off to college and the school you picked out is not what you thought it would be. I would definitely give it a chance though. Wait for a least a semester before making a decision to leave. The first school that I attended was not what I wanted and I decided to transfer the following year. Ideally, you want to stay at a school for 4 years but why waste your time and money for such as huge investment if you are not happy.

I want to wish any young person who is going off to college this fall the best of luck and may your next 4 years of school be the best years of your life. With the right approach and attitude, it will be.