Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Are You Going To College?

A new month has dawned. With it, October brings the beginning of the research and application process for millions of highschool seniors preparing for post-secondary education. Believe it or not - there are hundreds of scholarships which have deadlines this month, but we'll talk about that at a slightly later date. The biggest decision students need to make right now is, 'What am I going to study at college?'. I think the more important question is actually, 'Why am I going to college at all?'.
With the spiralling costs associated with college, the decline in the number of well paying jobs in related fields for graduates (How many waiters do you know with a PhD?), and the overall lack of direction many of today's teens feel, is going to college right now really the best option for you? Are you going to spend thousands of dollars studying something which you might decide isn't what you really want to do for the rest of your life? Is there something else you could do for a year or two which will help you better define what your future goals are and the direction you want your professional life to take?
My oldest son, a highschool senior, was born in September. That means he could realistically graduate from highschool and start his first month of college as a 17 year old! I love my son dearly - but I don't believe there is any way that a 17 year old boy can have a firm grasp on what he wants to do for the rest of his life. We've had lots of discussions about what he wants to do. There is a general sense of the field he wants to enter but nothing specific just yet. How do you justify spending the kind of money needed to go to college if you aren't sure what you are studying is what you want to be?
A lack of direction has got to be a major contributing factor to the dropout rates at colleges and universities. Students get into their field of study and then realize they don't really want to pursue that area for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, they've spent thousands of dollars on tuition, living expenses, etc - and for what? The realization that they are heading the wrong way. That's a steep price to pay for a wake-up call.
Don't get me wrong with the theme of this post. I believe that a solid college education is the foundation that terrific careers and lives are built upon. However, I think the time has come for students, and parents, to really start looking at exactly where the teenager wants to head with their life - and decide if going right from highschool into college is the best overall option. Now I'm sure some will say there are studies that show actual enrolment drops off by x% every year a student waits to go to college. I understand that. However, if students and parents sit down early (as in the start of senior year early) and make a concise plan of what is going to happen and when, there is no reason a year or two delay in starting college should be the end of furthering their education. Delaying college can give students, and parents, time to save up some more money. It can give the student an opportunity to really think about what course of study they want to pursue.  It can also give students extra time to investigate all the options available such as overseas studies. It just may save a few years, and thousands of dollars in expenses, when the student decides they are heading in the wrong direction.
A college education can be a stepping stone to a terrific future - but do you really need to go right to college from highschool? That's a question only you can answer yourself!
What are your thoughts on this subject? Did delaying the start of college help you to better understand where you wanted to go with your life? I would love to hear what you think!

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