Is College Right for You?
College can be the most significant academic experience of a person’s lifetime. It can also be the wrong choice. One could easily spend anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 per year on the endeavor, and that price tag continues to increase. Although there are many reasons students should choose to go to college, a university education is not the only pathway to success. Many students do not need a Bachelor’s degree to achieve their dreams. Homeschool educated graduates should weigh their options according to their future goals and desires.
The most obvious reason to pursue a college education is career advancement, yet the diploma should be the end result of an incredible educational experience. Students can study in foreign countries, gain access to cutting-edge research, and meet people in the heights of their chosen professions. College also gives students the freedom to explore their interests and dabble in a variety of fields. Before declaring a major, many students explore a variety of introductory courses to whet their appetites to new fields of study.
Higher education also allows young adults to slowly ease themselves into the real world, and for the most part, college allows students a gradual introduction to real-world responsibilities. Classes often require students to work independently and develop self-discipline. For a homeschool student, projects can provide opportunities to learn team work and problem-solving skills—maybe for the first time-- opening opportunities to discuss ideas with a variety of people from diverse backgrounds.
Even with all the advantages of a university education, many students should still refrain from going. If a student is not motivated enough to do the work, he or she should not go. Otherwise it would be a disastrous waste of time and money. College students have to balance many different factors (work, study, extracurricular activities), and if a student isn’t prepared or willing to handle this task, college may be a terrible option. College is also a terrible option for those who have a workable life plan that does not require a college degree. No one should waste four years and countless thousands because everyone else is doing it.
Students who have career aspirations in technical or artistic fields probably should think twice before committing to a four-year degree that may not be as beneficial as four years of working as an apprentice. Also, a community college can be a terrific low-cost option for many civil service jobs. Some students who are great self-starters and have entrepreneurial minds may find college a stifling waste of time. The military is an increasingly good option for all sorts of students. All of the branches have in-service job training programs and job placement services after separation. These are just a few options a non-College path can take someone. Do not assume that college is automatically the right or best path to a fulfilling career.
At the same time, please note that there are some excuses that keep some people from choosing a higher education, even when it is the right choice for them. Some students believe that college is too expensive. While earning a degree can be costly, there is an assortment of options for financing it. Scholarships, grants, loans, work-study programs, and military stipends—all can be used to drop the cost significantly. There’s also the possibility of transferring from a bargain-priced community college after two years into a four-year school. Further, some states are pursing extremely low cost options, such as Texas’s new $10,000 Bachelor’s degree program.
Other students may worry that college would be too hard. With the increased difficulty level of classes, they may not be able to keep up. This fear is especially prevalent with students who struggled academically in high school. However, there’s nothing to worry about. Most universities offer free tutoring and remedial courses for students having a hard time. College professors do not want their students to fail, and many will go the extra mile to help their students clearly understand the information. For these students it may be preferable to choose a smaller college that has a better student-to-teacher ratio so the student is not lost in the crowd.
Timing is another factor to consider. Students do not have to go to college directly after high school. Some students choose to delay college because they are not ready to commit four years to higher education and want to seek other options. That’s okay. If students are undecided about college, they should apply to their favorite schools and consider asking for a deferral if they need to take more time. Students who choose to wait a year before going to college can participate in a “gap year.” This gap of time between high school and college can be spent earning money, trying apprenticeships, traveling abroad, or teaching English in a foreign country. These are all positive and viable options in place of or in delaying college.
For many, college is a fantastic place to learn and grow. Students should give some serious thought about what they would gain and lose by pursuing a higher education. All choices have an opportunity cost that must be weighed carefully. Every high school senior should consider his or her post-graduation plans carefully. If chosen, a college degree can be a reality for anyone who really wants it.
Jean Burk is a homeschooling mother and author of College Prep Genius: The No Brainer Way to SAT Success! She has been the featured SAT expert for FOX, CBS, NBC, and The Homeschool Channel. Both her children received full-ride scholarship offers because of their SAT and PSAT scores. Her revolutionary program is taught in schools and homeschool co-ops across the country and helps thousands of students raise their SAT scores as much as 600 points.
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