Even the brightest students question whether college is right for them. After high school, you have access to many possibilities and many roads to success. Whether college is right for you depends on a number of factors, including your particular talents, interests and goals. College provides many opportunities for personal, social and intellectual growth, but it is not necessarily the right choice for everyone. Keeping some key considerations in mind may help you make the best decision for you.
Many educators have adopted the mantra “college for all,” based on the assumption that college leads to greater prosperity in adult life. However, high unemployment rates among recent college graduates have called this notion into question. A study prepared by Harvard University suggests that “college for all” is neither necessary nor desirable, given that only one-third of all jobs require a bachelor’s degree. A college degree will not guarantee you the job of your dreams -- at least not right out of college. However, a great number of careers will be completely closed to you if you choose to forgo a college education. Thus, deciding what career best suits you and determining that career's requirements should guide your educational decisions after high school.
There is no doubt that college graduates, on average, earn a lot more money than those without post-secondary education. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with bachelor’s degrees can expect to earn twice as much during their lifetime as those with only a high school diploma. However, there are those who manage great financial success without completing a college education. Usually, these people are entrepreneurs with great talent and drive to succeed. If financial abundance is important to you, you should think twice before skipping college, because it might make earning a high salary much more difficult.
There are other ways besides attending a traditional four-year college to obtain the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in a career after high school. Technical colleges offer programs that allow you to gain proficiency in a particular career area, such as information technology or culinary arts, without requiring a broad general education. You may also be able to find an apprenticeship, which allows you to gain on-the-job training in a particular field. In the United States, the Department of Labor registers recognized programs in most states.
If you are simply tired of classes and homework after 12 years of education, but you are pretty sure you want to earn a degree, you might consider taking a gap year, which means taking a year off before starting your college program. Many young people use this time to travel or gain work experience, both of which are educational pursuits in their own way. If you are uncertain about your future goals and aspirations, a gap year allows you some time to consider your options. However, some students find it hard to return to academics once they have left, so be sure to make specific plans about when you will return and where you plan to attend after the gap year is complete. Some colleges will allow you to delay admission after you have been accepted, but if you need to apply, take careful note of application deadlines and procedures.
- Harvard University: Pathways to Prosperity
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Education Pays
- US Census: Work-Life Earnings by Field of Degree and Occupation for People With a Bachelor’s Degree: 2011
- Pennsylvania Association of Private School Administrators: Making the Choice Between a Career School and a Traditional College Is Difficult
- United States Department of Labor: State Apprenticeship Information
Based in Sedona, AZ, Nicole E. Dean has two decades of intensive experience as a writer, editor, educator and book coach. She is a regular contributor to "BrainWorld" magazine and created the blog Mystic@theMovies. She also taught college writing for 11 years and holds a master's degree in English literature.