In earlier generations, college was neither necessary nor expected of every single person who graduated from high school. However, today it is rare to speak to a parent who isn’t trying to find a way to prep their kid for college and figure out how it will be funded. While college can be a great tool for many, it is not for everyone. Here are a few things to think about before making the decision to invest in a college education.
What are their career aspirations?
In addition to using the resources provided by their school, the Bureau of Labor Standards has an Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) ( https://www.bls.gov/ooh/) which provides hundreds of occupations grouped by categories. Information such as educational requirements, median pay and projected growth rate is provided. Reviewing the options will help the student hone in on their areas of interest and decide whether college is necessary for them.
Whose idea is college?
When my girls were young, it was always assumed that they would go to college. Then it came time for Number 1 to go. She did one semester and decided it just wasn’t her thing. It’s nearly impossible to help someone succeed in a dream that belongs to someone other than themselves. She moved out to find her way in the world shortly after. I had to detach from MY dream of someone else’s college education. She’s been living life on her own terms ever since. I’ve been tremendously proud of her for each new endeavor. Her invaluable life experience can take her anywhere at this point and I won’t stand in her way.
Is college required for their particular career interest?
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, if reviewed early enough in high school, can provide ideas for finding summer jobs in places that you may have never thought of. These jobs can lead to full time positions after high school. There are well-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. A few examples are in the construction industry, real estate sales and postal service workers.
Is trade school more appropriate?
Let’s face it, some people are just better suited for working with their hands. The electrician who wired my house had a very important and necessary job. Every day when I flip the switch, the lights turn on without fail. He or she might not have been able to ace a test on American History. Conversely, a college educated history buff may be able to tell me everything I never needed to know about the topic. But if not for the skilled, vocational school trained electrician, we’d be having our one-sided conversation in the dark!
Has anyone considered the training provided by the US Military?
The US Military has excellent training programs. Don’t settle on one branch of service just because they have better uniforms. Also, do not exclude anyone in your family because of their gender. If I had to guess, and I do have some personal experience here, many people join the military not because they particularly like to fight but because there are some great training opportunities. Keep in mind that any pre-enlistment training promises should be in writing.
Is there a reason college needs to be done right after high school?
I know a multitude of people who completed college over a period of time while working a full time job. Some of them even had families! These were some of the most motivated and goal oriented individuals I have ever been associated with. What was their motivation? In most cases, it was the opportunity for free or greatly reduced tuition benefits offered by their employers.
The preceding ideas should help stimulate some outside of the box thinking. If you mutually decide that college is the best option for your student, great! Check out some information on the US Department of Education website (https://www.ed.gov/) to learn as much as you can. Spending the time in advance to focus on the variety of career options available should be helpful in focusing on a definite path from the very beginning without wasting precious time and money. I checked the OOH for Underwater Basket Weaving. Its absence implies that the outlook is bleak to non-existent. That said, I would feel justified in refusing to fund that or any other career that is equally obscure. I can think of fewer financial calamities that would drive a dagger through my heart than assuming personal debt to educate my offspring only to have them end up at a job that they could have gotten right out of high school!