Considering whether or not to go to college? There are a couple different things you should consider.
Going to college is generally one of the most expensive purchases a person will ever make in their life, and almost always the most expensive decision made up until that point. If you are on the fence about going to college or not - we recommend asking yourself the following questions (or going through them with a friend or loved one) to help gut check if you are making the right decision.
Where are you planning to go? What schools can you get into?
If you are planning on going to any Ivy League school: stop reading and go. In general, if you find yourself in the fortunate position of being able to attend a Top 50 College, statistically you will find yourself with the means after graduation to pay back any loans you incur.
What do you plan on majoring in?
Do you have a specific major in mind? Or maybe a short list of your top 3-4 choices? This is crucial to determining if college is going to be worth it for you. If you are going to a non-Top 50 college and planning on getting a fairly generic degree (like communications, history, or general studies) - be very careful. Your career prospects are great if you intend to major in a science or specific, useful field (accounting, engineering, chemistry). If you find yourself unsure of what you want to study and you plan on attending a non-elite university, my advice would be to think about taking a gap year before jumping in and incurring a lot of debt. College will always be there, so don’t rush into a bad financial decision.
Also, keep in mind the following statistics:
- 34,000 students graduate college with history degrees every year. There are only 3,500 total working historians in the US
- 94,000 students graduate with psychology degrees. There are just 174,000 total practicing psychologists
- 83,000 communications graduates. There are just 54,000 total people working in roles like reporter, correspondent, or broadcast analysts.
If one of these degrees was on your shortlist – it simply may not be worth the money!
What are your specific financial circumstances?
Are you able to get a scholarship to offset some or all of the cost? Do your parents have a college fund for you to help cover some of your tuition? Where will you live during school? Even if it’s just a rough guess, it’s incredibly useful to go through and try to approximate the costs of school. Make aggressive guesses for how much you think everything will cost and how much you have saved.
The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money (or get yourself into a lot of debt) without a viable method to pay it back. Student loans stick with you forever - even if you declare bankruptcy.
What do your job prospects look like after you graduate?
This ties directly to what you are planning on majoring in, but also do your homework here. If it seems like you are going to have a tough time finding a viable career (with a good income) after you graduate, then think twice about going!
Why is college pushed so hard?
For decades (if not longer), college has been pushed to every High School student as the safest path to financial security and a meaningful career. This is only partially true. College truly is a great pathway for millions of people. It teaches valuable lessons and life skills that set many up for success. However - the world is changing. College costs have soared over the last decades, while starting salaries for college graduates have stayed mostly flat. In today’s world and economy, there are a lot of onramps to success that don’t flow through the college system.
Keep in mind - almost 30% of high school graduates never go to college. And there are millions of successful, stable, and happy people who don’t have a college degree of any kind.
What should I look at doing if I don’t want to (or can’t) go to college?
If you aren’t sure about the best path for yourself, take it slow. You don’t need to rush into a decision that you will have to pay back for years to come. Think about taking a gap year, or even working for a little while.
We also highly encourage everyone who is curious about if college is right for them to consider learning a Skilled Craft. Learning a skill is truly an incredible way to not only build an amazingly successful career, but do so in a way that allows you to get paid while you learn and not incur any debt.