A friend recently told me that their daughter is finishing up college with over $200,000 in loan debt! I immediately began to wonder how it would feel to begin life with that kind of burden.
I went directly into college after graduating high school not knowing what I wanted to do professionally. I made the best decisions that I could at the time to choose a major that I felt I’d enjoy and could get a traditional job fairly easily with.
Most of my decision was based around the marketability of the degree, not whether it could be something that I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. Looking back, I’m not so sure that I would’ve done it any differently but it is a little disturbing that we’re expected to make lifelong decisions at such a young age.
Take a Break?
I think about what I would’ve done if I took a year off before going to college and if that would’ve helped me in the long run. I’m really not sure that it would’ve helped. The ‘freedom’ of college life away from my small hometown hindered me due to some immaturity but having some daily structure and direction helped.
I do think that given the right mentality, support, and motivation that a person could benefit from delaying that first year to learn some real-world skills, gain some valuable experience, and ponder their future a little more.
A Broken System?
I know (and know of) highly successful and intelligent people that don’t have a degree but have gained knowledge through experience and other means. A lot of folks have a degree seemingly unrelated to their job. This doesn’t mean that the system is broken but it is not as cut and dry as we’d typically think or like it to be.
I work in software (when I’m not blogging about family finance) and know for sure that I could do the job without a degree but the degree helped me get a boost of quality experience upon graduation and a professional advantage. It gave me some credibility, along with an internship, to help me land my first job as an engineer early in the spring semester of my senior year.
Times and the job market have changed though and I’m not so sure that I would’ve had the same results now.
What will our kids do?
My academic time, in the sense of traditional learning, has likely passed but I have to think about my three young children and how I can help them to make the right decisions as they get older and eventually will go on to college or take another route into adulthood. By the time that they’re old enough, 10 plus years ahead, the educational landscape may be and likely will be completely different. My hope is that they’ll do what makes them happy and can contribute to society.
I think that college can be worth it if that’s what you want to do. College is not worth the money or time if you don’t want to be there.
Parents, don’t force your kids to go to college. It’s not for everybody and you might end up losing a load of money as junior finds his way.
Kids, be sure that you want to go for the right reasons and are ready before committing. Make the best decision for you.
I was inspired to write this post after talking to my friend with the daughter in massive loan debt and after listening to an episode of the Starve the Doubts podcast with Jared Easley and Kimanzi Constable. Kimanzi had mentioned a thread on his Facebook page going crazy over this topic, one that I hold near and dear to my heart.