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You might be doing some soul-searching right now, wondering if going to college in the fall is what you really want to do. Let’s think about this, with the understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this dilemma. If you want to delay college – for a year or permanently – here are some questions to consider.
- Do you have a plan? Maybe you want to travel across country or volunteer or start a business. Do you have a plan for how this will happen (where you will go and how you will get there, which organization you want to help, what market your business will reach)? The more well-thought the plan the more reasonable it is for your parents to endorse it. If your ideas of what to do instead of college are vague and poorly-formed, then the structure a year of college provides might still be a good idea.
- Are you running away from something? Escaping for escape’s sake is not a positive foundation for the future. So if you are rejecting college because you just don’t want to do what your friends are doing or because your girlfriend ditched you or because you can’t make up your mind about a major, then not going is a way of avoiding things instead of a way of embracing something.
- Do you know what happens next once the plan is in place? If “what happens next” is “I become a rock star and land a six-figure recording contract and go on a twenty-city tour” then a dose of reality is in order. Continue the conversation with “yes, and… if that doesn’t work out what next?” Having a back-up plan and a realistic appraisal of Plan A’s chances keeps you from chasing after moonbeams again in another six months.
- Is there an alternative schooling or training that you might consider? A four year college resulting in a Bachelor’s degree is not the right path for everyone. There are many technical schools and training programs, such as for mechanics or builders, that lead to successful careers without the time and financial commitment of a four year college. If academics are not for you, have you researched programs in your area that might give you the job training and certification for a career in one of these areas?
- Where do you see yourself in five years? If you go to college, in five years you will have a degree and probably be situated in a job that pays the rent. If you don’t go to college, but instead get a job right out of high school, will that job pay enough to support an apartment and a car and a cat? If you don’t go to college but instead get married right out of high school, will you (and your spouse) someday feel trapped by your lack of work experience and lack of college degree? Most young people envision themselves living large in five years or less. Will the path you have chosen lead to that?
College is not perfect for everyone and not every successful person went to college. But many eighteen-year-olds need a few more years of structure before they’re ready to stand on their own. Evaluate your options.
© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.