I work at a college prep school, so the whole point of attending is to go to college after high school. But that’s not what every student needs to do, so this school is not for everybody. It’s interesting, though, that many problems students have while they attend this school comes from that issue – that the college path is perhaps not their path.
30% of the U.S. population has at least a Bachelor’s degree. That’s a lot. But there’s certainly more of the population who don’t. And for a high school student, it appears a large part of figuring out college is, do you want to go?
But that question, certainly for many of the families attending my school, is not a real question. The assumption made by families is, of course my child is going to go. Why is that the assumption? Because anything else honestly feels like failure to families. Which makes conversations about alternatives to college, difficult conversations indeed. Go abroad to do service work? Admirable, but forget it. Start your own business? Ambitious, but too risky? Gap year? Worrisome, because the kid might not actually go to college. What of, heaven forbid, a kid just getting a job? This, feels like the biggest failure of all.
But college is no guarantee of success. The percentage of the U.S. population with bachelor’s degrees is only rising, so the degree will not (or, one could argue, is not now) a distinct indicator. In short, going to college doesn’t mean anything.
If you say, what of the learning of self that happens during college? What of a kid striking out on their own, becoming independent? What of the idea that going to college helps a student figure out what they want to become? All good things; that was certainly a major part of my college experience. I do say this, however: the average in-state college tuition cost is $22,000, the average private college tuition cost is $43,000. In my opinion, that’s a lot of cash to pay for figuring out life. Why a kid can’t figure out life while working at T-Mobile is beyond me.
So, for parents of college-bound kids or future college-bound kids, I ask: why is your kid going to college? And a different question, although it looks like the same question: why do you want your kid to go to college?
Both parents and students should ask this question.