College Education

March 05, 2024

As my kids get older (11, 9 and 7 years old), I think more and more about the need for a college education or the waste of time and money that it could be. I struggle like most parents on knowing what is right for each kid, and that’s difficult sometimes.

Then I think back to my college years. Those were good years. I did get a good education and learn a lot. Some of it was useful. Other parts were necessary as an engineer. I also matured during those 4.5 years. Probably the best part of college was the ability to transition to being independent with a job and a place of my own. Having those years to make this shift was nice and convenient and made growing up a little easier.

There are some risks in going to college. You may incur large student loans. You may not graduate. You may graduate but not have a job that needs your college degree. The biggest risk is that you waste years of your life and that you might have been better off if you had jumped into the workforce after high school.

There are other aspects to college that some people experience like fraternity and sorority life or the cult-like passion for the school football team. There’s also the exposure to roommates and bills and independence, which can affect each of us differently.

Additionally, the decision is often left in the hands of the 18 year old who doesn’t have the life experience or the clarity to know what else is possible. They have only been advised to get into college and get a degree; there are too many stories about this being the default reason for going to college.

I don’t know what is right for my kids. I want them to succeed and become the women they were meant to be. Does that involve college degrees? I don’t know. I feel like that will be the default path for them if I don’t say anything since much of their childhood is about going to school and learning. College will fit into that mentality very naturally. Therefore, I feel it is my responsibility to show them and tell them about alternative paths. It is tough to do this since I don’t know all the alternative paths that may be right for them. I just know they need me to be supportive of their decisions, and I feel the need to highlight non-college options.

One desire of mine is to let them shadow adults for the day to see what those adults do during the day. This may connect the dots for my girls in ways I can’t predict. I am also hopeful that there are resources for high schoolers that guide kids with and without college degrees. All of this is in the hope of enabling them to find their own right path with or without college.