Parents, stop acting like college is the only option for your child...
When I was a kid, it was go to school to get good grades so that you can one day go to college & be successful. The GPA mattered, the report cards mattered and the SAT scores mattered. For me, school came pretty naturally but it wasn't something that I really cared about. I didn't study, I didn't put in extra effort, & I did my homework in homeroom or at lunch the day it was due. & by doing my homework I mean copying someone else's. Not because I wasn't capable or wasn't smart enough, but because I just didn't care. I got good grades, I did well on tests & presentations, & for me that was enough. My parents never really cared if I did poorly on a test if I actually tried, they cared because they knew that I wasn't trying at all.
College was never really an option in my world, aka I was going. But I wasn't going because I knew that I needed to, it was going because I felt like I had to. I was going because that was the 'thing' to do. We live in this society where you're made to feel like you won't find success without that piece of paper called a college diploma. & forget a bachelor's degree, you need a master's if you ever want to make any money! That was the story that my generation was fed. & honestly, it couldn't be further than the truth.
I learned valuable lessons in college, this I will not deny. I learned to leave my hometown. I learned just how small minded I was when it came to diversity & culture. I learned how to survive on ramen noodles & rice to pay my bills. I learned a whole lot about sustainable agriculture. I learned that I love to be outdoors & to hike & how to snow shoe. & while I learned all of these valuable lessons, what I didn't learn until afterwards was that a college education wasn't really what I needed. What I needed was to simply be away from home.
The stress and the pressure that we put on today's youth in regards to college is incredible. We act like if someone doesn't get a perfect score on their SATs or get into a big name school that they will never amount to anything. Parents wait with their children at the mailbox for weeks straight giddy about the thought of an acceptance letter being inside for an application that they probably completed for them. An application full of stretching the truth & enhancements to make their child sound like they have had all of these incredible and life changing experiences in their short 17 years of age. Let's be real, people...they haven't. & there is more ways to show your children that you are proud of them than just a sticker on the back window of your car.
I think a lot of the time, the parents feel more compelled to pressure their kids into college to make themselves feel successful as parents. The pressure for their kids not to drop out because it will make them feel like a failure. But wouldn't you rather your child learn what a hard days work is earlier in their life, reach financial freedom sooner, & actually grow up? I can't tell you how many people I know that go to college because they're told to & then go to graduate school because they LITERALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO. 46% of recent college graduates begin a career that doesn't even require a college degree. Sitting on their mountain of student debt making a near poverty level salary and deferring their loans because they can't afford them. We are setting this generation up for failure.
Before I was 21 years old, I put myself $50k in debt. $50k was more money than what I was even making when I graduated college. $50k would take me 15 years to pay off if all I ever made was the minimum payment. & honestly, I got off cheap with only spending $50k. I know others that are well over $100k in debt for their college education in a field where they are never going to make more than $65k, even at the peak of their career. DOES NO ONE ELSE SEE THE PROBLEM WITH THIS?!
It has to stop. We have got to encourage our youth to make educated and well thought out decisions when it comes to their career path. I am not saying ditch college all together, if you want to be a doctor than clearly you are going to need it...but if you don't know what you want to be? Please, for the love of God do not go to college as a "general studies" major. Instead, explore what truly excites you without putting yourself in debt. What lights that fire under your ass to get out of bed in the morning? If that is getting up and going to work & not going to school, than GO TO WORK! There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing that a college education is not for you.
I know 20 year old 'kids' that are making more money than me, working for construction or electrical companies, than I do currently. & I have a four year degree. Guess what? They're also doing it debt free. They paid for their training by working through it, or even better, their employer PAID for their training. No room & board, none of that @$$hole Sallie Mae, and no pressure to be someone that they are not. That is what I want for my kids. If they want to go to college, great, I hope they reach their dreams. If they want to go to vocational school & learn to be an electrician, by all means live under my roof while you do to save yourself some money. If they want to be farmers and never further their formal education, I will encourage them to do so.
We need to be realistic as a society about the economic return, or the ROI, of a college degree. I wish that I knew what I do now. I wish that I gave myself the time to figure out what I truly wanted out of life before throwing myself into school. I wish that my parents were more educated on the student loan process & that we didn't together make some dumb decisions (F you Sallie Mae). I wish that our education system didn't put the pressure of college on our youth the way that they do. I wish that what they did do in school is educate us on real life expenses & interest rates & taxes.
When I look at the loved ones in my life, and some of the smartest people that I know, a large portion of them did not go to college. They learned through hands on training & through real life experience. & sure, they may not be the best speller or may take a little longer to read, but they can build you a house. They can grow your food. They can fix your car. They can bid a job. & they can fix that electrical issue that you were having.
Parents, stop acting like college is your kids only option. Stop acting like that piece of paper is going to determine how successful they can be. Stop acting like you child's diploma is your own gold star for being an excellent parent. Instead, encourage your children to be leaders. Encourage your children to have a creative mind but how to utilize constructive criticism. Encourage your children to be realistic about their goals & aspirations. Think about what you thought you were going to do at age 17. Are you doing it now? If I had to guess, most of you are probably saying 'no' in your head.
Don't rule out college but also don't rule out an apprenticeship, trade school, or community college. Don't rule out what is going to be the best for them & their own financial future. You can't 'experiment' & toy around with $50k when trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, it just doesn't make sense. If your parents are paying or paid for your school, consider yourself blessed but recognize that it is a privilege and not to take it for granted.
One thing that college taught me to do was a cost benefit analysis & let me tell you something, I've done it on my degree. It doesn't make sense. Literally ZERO SENSE for the career that I am in.
There are millions of jobs out there that do not require a college degree. If I were to do it all over again, I would do it so differently. I wouldn't turn my nose up to the idea of community college & I would even consider the option of not going to college all together. Because here is the reality...I am 24 years old and I am already financially behind. I have a mortgage in student loans. I am getting married to someone that is agreeing to take on my debt (I honestly cannot imagine if we both had student loans how we would ever make it work). I have a college degree that I am not utilizing and the chances of me ever are, well, slim to none. I am losing my hard earned dollars in interest rates every single month.
Parents, stop acting like college is your childrens only option...there are so many more.