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You should never make a life decision just because it’s “the next step” everyone takes, and the same goes for college. College can often be a necessary path to obtaining a steady career, but it’s not the end-all-be-all for everyone. So, should you go to college?
The short answer: it really depends. But it’s not a decision you should go into without careful consideration, especially if you know you’ll have to take on debt to make it happen.
More often than not, college can be a “prerequisite,” so to speak, in our society for many job positions. But, if you want to take a more unconventional path like starting your own business, you may not need it.
Take a look at the following questions to help you evaluate if you should go to college or not. It’s a big decision!
This post is all about “should you go to college?”
1. Do you know what you want to do?
And this is a tough question, because how many young adults have the job experience or life experience to really know what they want to do?!
But if you have a strong idea of what you believe you want to do, and you know that it requires a degree, then you’ll probably want to go to college.
Better yet, if what you want to do requires a degree in something versatile, like marketing or psychology, it won’t be the end of the world if you change your mind about your career path later on.
I talk about this in my article No, Your College Major Doesn’t Matter. The truth is that most employers just want to see a bachelor’s degree of some sort.
It doesn’t so much matter exactly what it’s in, so long as you’re not applying for a very specialized job, like nursing.
But that said, the goal is to have a good degree of certainty before moving forward. I truly believe you won’t get that until you’ve lived just a little bit beyond age 18.
I thought I was dead-set on opening a dance studio and majoring in dance. This was how I felt all throughout high school. Spoiler alert: I changed my major to psychology and that’s what I graduated in.
This really didn’t impact me because I changed my major early on, but for people that don’t change their mind until late in the game, that can be bad news for the extra debt you could rack up!
My advice? Wait it out and don’t rush into college.
Give yourself all the time you need to really think your career path over.
Research a day in the life in the profession you’re thinking about, because that’s what’s going to impact your post-college years the most!
2. Does what you want to do require a degree?
A deeper addition to the last question, do you really need a degree to do what you want to do?
If you’re going to be working as an employee under a conventional organization, the answer is probably. (Think marketing executive, engineer, nurse, teacher…)
But maybe what you want to do only requires a certificate, or trade school, or just knowledge alone.
The last part really hit me hard throughout college. There I was, starting out with my major in dance, also considering tacking on a minor in business administration to open a dance studio. But was that really going to help me out?
As I realize now, no! Many of the dance programs I looked at were subpar–to my surprise, not the same quality of training I was used to receiving before college.
On top of that, why did I think I needed to minor in business administration to open a dance studio? It was purely for the knowledge it would provide me, as I knew it wasn’t an actual requirement.
Which isn’t all bad, but young adults need to realize that there are resources already out there to give them the knowledge they need.
There’s no sense in spending exorbitant amounts of money on traditional education (which often lacks real-world, applicable elements that would actually teach you how to open a business) when you can obtain that same knowledge through other avenues.
So it’s worth considering: does your future career require a degree? Or does it just require knowledge?
3. Is this really the right time for you to go to college?
As in, do your current life circumstances, preparedness, or maturity create the ideal environment for you to attend college right now?
A lot of us don’t even think twice about college being “the next ‘logical’ step” just months after we graduate college.
But you need to ask yourself: do I need a break from school? Would I benefit from taking a gap year, or two? Do I have a lot going on in my personal life right now?
These are all valid reasons to consider, at the least, putting college on hold. Don’t focus so much on the direction society is trying to push you in. Focus on what you need from life.
Or if you feel ready straight out of high school, then go for it! (I am a nerd who loves school, so I was getting antsy to start college as soon as I could.)
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4. Are you going to college just because others expect you to?
Okay. Here’s the deal.
Your parents, your friends, society, or anyone else that’s expecting you to go to college aren’t going to be the ones going through it or doing all the hard work. You are.
So stop for a second and ask yourself not only is this something you can handle, but is this something you want?
Will going to college benefit you in the long run? Will it allow you to achieve the career or the life you want? Are there alternatives to get where you’re trying to go?
If you’re unsure of your direction or the career you want, I highly recommend reading What Color Is Your Parachute? It’s all about finding what types of careers you would be best suited for, specific to your personality type.
This book really helped me a lot and gave me SO much clarity. You’ve got to give it a read! I swear to you, this book was life changing!
5. Can you tolerate school enough to go through 4 more years of it?
You just thought about if college is something you want to do. But now think: is it something you can tolerate?
Some of us jive better than others with the structure of school. Some of us are killing the game as a student, but struggle as an employee. Or vice versa.
Do keep in mind, however, that college is nothing like high school. So don’t necessarily base your decision off of how well you handled high school.
I personally had a very miserable time in traditional public K-12 school, and mostly because I had to be somewhere 5 days a week for 7 hours a day with no real freedom or flexibility.
But in college…I did SO much better.
I usually only went to school twice a week for 4 hours at a time! (And never did I give myself an 8am class, haha!) Of course homework is a factor, and you might have more of it than you did in high school, or you might not.
But as you consider how well you might tolerate “more school,” just remember that the structure and environment is very different from the school you’re used to.
6. If university is too overwhelming/expensive/etc., have you considered community college?
If all your peers seem to be heading off to fancy 4-year universities, you might not think of community college as an option.
But I’ll let you in on a secret: community college is a great way to get the same, exact education for cheaper and a little less stressfully.
And you’ll all end up at the same place when it’s all said and done and you eventually transfer to university yourself. So you really aren’t missing out.
I compared the curriculum at my community college to the curriculum at the university I transferred to. It’s the same. damn. thing.
Community colleges have to meet the transfer requirements of the universities they funnel into.
Which means community college students need to take the same classes that the freshmen and sophomores at universities take.
And in my case, a lot of the professors I knew taught concurrently at both my community college and my university!
My community college also cost 1/7th of the price of my university’s tuition. So definitely don’t rule it out!
(For more things you may not know about college, definitely go read 7 Essential Things No One Tells You Before Starting College!)
The question of “should you go to college?” is one that only you can answer for yourself.
Don’t let society or anyone else sway you one direction or another. Think about what you truly want to achieve in this life and let that guide your decision.
And guess what else? College will always be there!
So don’t rush the decision if you are on the fence. You can always attend it later when you are more sure of your direction in life.
Overall, most people will find that they need to obtain a degree, and therefore need to go to college. But it depends.
College is something I advocate for in most cases. But don’t be afraid to question it if there’s a chance it may not be right for you and your path in life.
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