I happen to live in an area that has an excellent school district. From an early age, the schools and community are grooming kids to reach for the stars academically. All good and a privilege to live here for sure! However, what if you have a kid who doesn’t perform like all of the others due to dyslexia, ADHD, or other cognitive learning disabilities? What if you happen to have a kid who is gifted in so many ways…such as work ethic, intelligence, and resourcefulness, but can’t perform in the classroom? Maybe he or she has a desire to do something artistic or in the trades. Do you still need a college degree? I wanted to walk through this dilemma by addressing what the pros and cons are of going to college. Spoiler alert…it’s not for everyone. And that’s okay.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Going To College
Before I raise a few eyebrows on this post, I want to begin by saying that this is NOT a plug for skipping college. It’s addressing a very real issue that many parents face when their kid isn’t showing any signs of wanting to attend a 4-year university. Maybe he or she is willing to go but you know that due to their lack of maturity, they are just going to be siphoning off 50k+ per year from you to play video games and party, without any real academic goal in mind.
I never attended a 4-year college. For a long time, it was a huge regret of mine. Not right away of course. I was very practical in my reasoning at the time when I made my decision.
Being the firstborn child of my family, I was always smart and studious. I was quiet and loved to read. I loved drawing and painting and thought I would go to art school instead. The thought of going away to college terrified me for so many reasons.
I knew I was good at art and always had visions of doing something creative. But then my lack of self-esteem kept me from pursuing a professional degree in art. Besides, I had a serious boyfriend who I planned on marrying and having kids with. Out of practicality, I surmised that I didn’t need a degree to change diapers and do laundry. Wow! Frightening how big my goals were back then!
Instead of an art school or a 4-year university, I decided on going to travel school. Which ended up being perfect for reaping the travel benefits for me and my family. However, try tapping into the travel industry today…it’s shriveled up to almost nothing. Especially today during a pandemic.
Pros Of Going To College
Let’s start with the Pros. I know there are many more than 5 pros of going to college, but here are the big reasons college makes sense:
Earning A Degree
Having a college degree validates your intelligence before you have to prove yourself. Most careers require at least a Bachelor’s Degree to get in the door, and many require a degree as a basic stepping stone towards more advanced or specialized degrees. Without a degree, you have to work extra hard to prove that you’re not an idiot. Usually taking jobs beneath your intelligence level until you’ve proven your worth. However, this is most relevent in your twenties. As you grow older, no one really cares if you went to college. Life experience is what you’re mostly evaluated on.
Fifty years ago, maybe even 30 years ago, not everyone went to college. It wasn’t seen as something that everyone HAD to do. Now you are looked at as a pariah if you didn’t go to college. Even people who currently have jobs that don’t require a degree, have a degree. This now means you need more than a college degree to differentiate yourself from everyone else.
Learning To Be Responsible
Leaving home into a communal experience where mommy isn’t doing your laundry anymore, telling you when to wake up for school, and do your homework, etc… teaches you how to be responsible. It’s training wheels for adulthood. Although, some may argue that their kid still has executive function issues post-college.
Gaining New Experiences
Living in a new town and meeting new friends opens your eyes to new experiences. The college experience can introduce you to things you never would have tried back at home. Meeting new people from different parts of the country or world during college can add a lot of spice to your life. When trying new classes or extra-curricular activities you may find that you have talents or interests in things that you never even knew existed.
Spending 4+ years with a very close group of friends produces strong bonds. Maybe the girl you’re rooming with becomes president of a company someday. You never know when you may need those connections later on in your career.
Cons of Going To College
Student Loan Debt
According to the College Board, the average cumulative student debt balance in 2017 was $26,900 for graduates of public four-year schools and $32,600 for graduates of private nonprofit four-year schools. Earning a degree is a lot of money these days. If you plan on going, make sure that the degree you are going for will get you a job that can at least pay off your student loans. So many people today get degrees which pay around $40k with not a lot of upside later on. Try paying rent, living expenses AND paying off your stutdent loan debt with that paycheck. It’s not easy.
The Job You Want May Not Require A Degree
Maybe you are an artist. Maybe you like to work with your hands and see yourself in the trades. There are a lot of great jobs that you can get with a high school diploma. They just may require a bit more hustle and some post-secondary training. Read more in my post about 25 Great Jobs You Can Get Without A College Degree.
You May Learn Better In The School Of Hard Knocks
Some high school graduates are just done with school. They need a break. And some are driven to start working a full-time job right away, out of necessity. Believe it or not, some of the most financially successful people in the world, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, don’t have a college degree.
I feel like the things I learned in my early twenties as a young mom of a child with a birth defect, taught me so much more than I could’ve learned in school.
Now, I have way more real life experience under my belt, hopefully lots of maturity, and I’m devouring learning everyday.
Wasting Time and Money While Not Being Mature Enough To Reap The Benefits
In Europe, it’s not uncommon to take a GAP year after grade 12. I actually think this is a great idea when the kid is not ready emotionally to embark on a college career. I know I wasn’t ready at 18. It’s better to let them take a year off to grow into themselves and start fresh than to jump right into something they are not ready for.
College isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. It does take all kinds of people to make the world go ’round, and there’s no shame it that. The benefits of getting a 4-year college degree outweigh the cons. But, if you don’t have enough financial aid to get there or don’t know what you want to do with it, I would caution you to take a year off to figure things out. Too many people are strapped due to their student loan debt these days. Finding a career that is a good fit for who you are might be achieved at a local community college or trade school. Don’t fall into the stigma that without a degree you are worthless. It just may be the smartest thing you do.