If you told me when I was a senior in high school that I should just skip college and dive into entrepreneurship instead, I would have thought it ridiculous. Only crazy people did stuff like that! But, now at 28, I am seriously regretting I didn’t find out that was a totally realistic plan until after I graduated college.
Honestly, I believe we have a wrongful mentality in the United States that if someone doesn’t go to college immediately after graduating high school, they never will find a “good” job and they will have ruined their entire life.
The horrible part is that we brainwash even the kids themselves to think this! I know I had that mindset once upon a time.
In reality, the only thing this does it push many students who are too young to really know what they want out of life to go into massive debt just “figuring it out”. Let’s face it, how many people actually know what they want out of life at 18? This is why you shouldn’t go to college just to figure out your life, it’s just too expensive for that! A much more practical alternative would be to figure out what exactly you want before you even go. You may discover that you don’t even need college at all, or at the very least, save several thousand by not wasting years trying to figure something out.
You don’t have to spend $10K – $30K + a year to “figure out your life”
If I learned anything, it’s this – if you aren’t sure what you want to do, figure it out BEFORE you start college. I mean, you don’t need to take Psych 101 to figure out if you’re interested or not. Did you know you can take college courses online, for free (little known fact)! Websites like Coursera.org and Edx.org offer complete college courses that include video lectures, homework, and even tests. Many of them even offer certificates of completion. They’re not going to hand out your degree or anything, but if you are interested in just learning and exploring options, it’s better than having to invest your money, right?
In my case, I went in to college with little idea of what I wanted, and was only encouraged by guidance counselors to “explore my options” by taking different classes and seeing what I enjoyed and what I didn’t. Yeah, that is horrible advice considering college is nearing an average of $10K per year for public universities and $30K for private institutions. And those are strictly tuition prices, you must then add on room and board and textbooks, two major additional college expenses.
Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to college at all, you definitely still need a degree to do many things. But don’t fall for the mentality that it’s the only option for you. There’s lots of possibilitites waiting out there. High schools and parents don’t teach kids about things like entrepreneurship anad put little emphasis on trade work.
There are so many things out there you can get real world experience from instead of throwing yourself immediately into college.
Don’t get a degree if your profession doesn’t require one!
I mean, for example, they offer photography degrees, but most photographers are independent, sole proprieters upon graduation – they don’t work for anyone but themselves. If you’re interested in photograpy, instead of thinking you need college, invest in a nice DSLR camera and teach yourself instead. Grab your camera and start practicing. Offer to take engagement, maternity or wedding shots for free to build up a portfolio. Experience and proof that you know what you’re doing is much more valued than education. You don’t need a fancy photography degree to make money.
Internet marketing is another field in which they offer expensive degrees that are absolutely not needed. If you examine any companies advertising for positions like “search engine specialist” or “content marketing writer” or “social media manager”, they are looking for people with hands on experience, not degrees. By the way, it’s actually an incredibly in demand field these days with so many businesses in need of marketing their products and services online. You can actually learn those types of skills for much, much cheaper than the price of any degree.
You can definitely get a lot of value out of a college education, but in many cases the cost doesn’t justify going when you can learn on your own, for free or at least at a mere fraction of the cost.
Reality Of Student Loan Debt
We all know that college is expensive, but many are so convinced they’re going to get an amazing job after they graduate that nobody really takes a hard look at the reality that exists for many in the years post graduation. Nearly 70% of college graduates are stuck with studen loan debts averaging the $30K threshold. That being said, I know tons of people who have way more – $50, $60, even $100K+ in student loans! Federal loans have an average interest rate of 6.8 percent, but private loans for students can reach as high as 11% (according to debt.org).
If you just take the average of 6.8% interest, if you pay it off over the course of 20 years, that’s enough to nearly double a $30,000 loan to $55,000!
Given the state of the economy, I’d say those who can pay it off in 20 years would be lucky. Even if you were to pay it off in half the time, you’re still adding on nearly $12,000 in interest. The job market is tough on new graduates, and more and more are taking remedial secretary or sales positions, and in many cases minimum wage jobs.
And for those that argue kids these days are “over privelaged” to expect an amazing job immediately after college, I bet their first job out of college wasn’t McDonalds. The truth is, there’s way less opportunity for college graduates than there was once upon a time and thousands of graduates are taking on minimum wage jobs. In fact, in 2013 there was over a quarter of a million in the United States making at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour (according to cnn.money.com).
This is very real and something I’ve experienced first hand, having to take a near minimum wage job myself after I graduated. I also personally know many others that were in the same boat.With how expensive college actually is these days it doesn’t make sense to even go to college if you’re going to be stuck in a $15- $20K/year job.
If you are lucky to land a great paying job after you graduate than the cost of college totally makes sense as it can end up paying off big time over the course of your life. But the reality is jobs like that are becoming fewer and far between, and you have to go in with the intention of becoming something like a doctor, lawyer or engineer to even have a chance of finding a really good paying job like that. Let’s face it, we aren’t all cut out to be engineers.
Stop and think before you just “do”
College is definitely an amazing experience, but unfotunately it’s also a very costly one. If you’re not sure what you want out of life yet and are thinking you must attend a university straight away to figure it out, just stop and think about it for a minute. College isn’t real life, and in many cases you aren’t learning actual applicable job skills, and when time comes to apply for jobs, you realize that all the education in the world can’t compensate for your lack of real experience.
Spend some time exploring your options and interests. Take free online courses somewhere like Coursera.org, go explore your interests straight within the field to get a feel for what exists. Heck, try turning your true passion into a business, you never know what the world has to offer until you jump outside of your comfort zone.
I consider myself lucky for finding my true passion, even though it didn’t happen until after college. I’m just lucky I didn’t have any student debt to worry about.
Did you waste money on college trying to figure out what you wanted to do with your life? Were you able to become successful without college? Drop me a comment down below, I’d love to hear about your experience.