Should My Teen Go to College?

Guest Post: Abigail Endsley written to the teen that is wondering if college is the right choice for them

College is important. Especially in today’s society, with so many jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree as a minimum bar to entry.

But is college important for you?

This can be a challenging question to answer. Especially because the college experience has become so important to our society that when you do stop and question whether you should get a degree, both colleges and college haters are quick to weigh in.

Most arguments for and against going to college focus on broad societal statistics, like the earning potential of a degree, or the national student debt garnered by college graduates.

These various arguments are interesting, and they’re worth considering when making your choice. But deciding whether or not you should go to college is far more complex than Googling a pro/con list.

In my opinion, the only question that should determine whether or not you should earn your bachelor’s degree, is this:

What do you want to do with your life?

It’s a big question. And it’s even harder to answer than the first. But when it really comes down to it, college is all about preparing for your future, right?

For some, this decision is simple. If you want to go into law, engineering, the medical field, or similarly specialized fields, there’s no question. You 100% need a degree. Stop questioning your decision, and instead focus on figuring out the best (and most affordable) way to earn it.

But what if you’re considering work as a missionary, welder, graphic designer, or any of the various vocations that may not require a college education? It’s possible you could benefit more from earning a specialized certification tailored directly to your chosen career, letting you start working sooner and with a much smaller financial investment.

So, hard as it may be to hear, the choice between whether or not you should go to college depends entirely on what you want to do, and how you can best prepare for that future.

I know that isn’t the cut-and-dry answer you were looking for. But did you really expect a stranger on the internet to be able to make this choice for you?

I don’t know you personally, and therefore, I can’t tell you what’s best for your life. So instead, I’ll encourage you to stop Googling and start thinking.

Here are some resources and ideas you can pursue to help you make this decision for yourself.

Ask yourself these questions

  • What am I good at?
  • What kind of work brings me fulfillment?
  • How much money do I want to make?
  • Who do I want to work for?
  • Do I want to turn any of my hobbies into a job?
  • What resources and opportunities do I have around me? (Friends who can recommend you, connections to education or internships, etc.)
  • Do I like academic, classroom learning, or do I learn better on the job?
  • Am I very self motivated, or do I need external motivators?

These aren’t the only questions that can help you discover if college is right for you. But they’ll give you a good foundation for understanding yourself, how your brain works, and your own goals, which will lead to clarity.

Get a job

Start earning basic work experience in a job that doesn’t require a degree. You’ll get both a head start on your resume and a good perspective of the real world (outside of school).

Get an internship

Find an internship or volunteer in a field you’re interested in. You’ll be able to learn about that field first-hand and get some hands-on experience for your resume too!

Take affordable courses

If you’re leaning toward college, there’s no harm in getting started now—as long as you’re not isolating yourself from the world or going into debt to pay for it. Try taking affordable courses you know will transfer into your chosen degree to learn what subject areas you may want to pursue further.

Ask a professional

Find someone working a job you think you may want and strike up a conversation! Ask what they do and don’t like about their job, and hear their own opinions on what it takes to “make it.”

Seek counsel or mentorship

Sometimes it’s worth talking to someone who has seen a lot more of the world, even if they’re not working in your field of choice. They might have the perspective you need to develop a wise plan for moving forward. (Your parents are a great choice for this, however they may be too emotionally invested in your decisions to provide the clarity you need. In addition, consider talking to a close adult friend, academic counselor, or church leader.)

Start learning on your own

You don’t need to be enrolled in college to learn. Find online resources like Udemy, or another, and just start! Use this time to assess what career and lifestyle you want, as well as the best way to achieve it.

Try choosing at least two ideas from this list and pursuing them in tandem: if you’re thinking of becoming a veterinarian, volunteer at a local vet’s office while pursuing a flexible, affordable education.

No amount of reading other people’s opinions for and against college will truly help you make this decision. As long as you take time to think through your options and begin broadening your life experiences, you’re headed in the right direction.

Just consider carefully and make the wisest choice you can with the information you have.

You’ve got this!

~Abigail Endsley

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