It turns out that kids get older. In fact, they get so much older so fast that my oldest is about to enter high school. There’s something about high school that’s a little intimidating. As both a homeschooling parent and a mom I feel the hot breath of separation breathing down my neck. “She’ll be leaving soon…”
I am not, I think it’s fair to say, overly clingy as a parent. It’s my job to raise them up to be capable, strong, functioning, independent young adults who can leave me. If I do that job right, my hope is that they will leave me as minor-child-dependents and come back to me as adult-child-friends.
Not that there aren’t heart clutching moments of loss at even imaging my daughter leaving our home. This is the home we broke ground on 24 hours before I went into labor with her; the home where she slept happily in uninstalled kitchen drawers as my husband and I supervised the installation of plumbing and flooring; the home where her infant footprint is stamped into the concrete of our patio.
Once, as we neared the end of construction, she soiled her diaper in a particularly spectacular fashion. We changed her, but the pants she had been wearing were a hopeless mess, so we left them off. Somehow we didn’t have a complete change of clothes for her, so she spent a few hours against me in just a onesie, my arms around her legs so she wouldn’t get cold in the unheated, unfinished house.
Our carpenter was working on some of the finish trim and nodded a stoic approval of our pantless child. “Goot,” he said – and you have to imagine this in a thick Russian accent – “Dis vill make baby strong.”
This home grew in concert with her own tiny body, and though she doesn’t remember those days of parallel construction, I will never forget nursing her on the subfloor, and looking out through unsheathed walls at the area that would one day become my garden. Memories of her childhood are built into every inch of our home. When she leaves, the walls themselves will weep for the loss. I will be inconsolable.
But that is all a few short years away, and in the meantime there is the practical urgency of preparation. Because we homeschool it feels very much on us to make sure she is prepared both personally and academically to walk out the door and into adulthood.
So in between general parenting, establishing specific educational plans for the next four years, researching the best way to get her the math classes she needs, and writing a course plan for the medieval history class I’ll be teaching next year, I find myself talking to my daughter a lot about decision making.
I suspect she thinks of these gentle talks as “mom rants” and she’s not half wrong, but she humors me and even seems to enjoy our talks. There’s just so much I want to tell her, so much I want her to know.
This is what I tell her about college.*
You don’t have to go to college immediately after high school.
Take a gap year to work and travel and figure out what you want out of your college experience – please! Go teach English for a year in Asia. Join the PeaceCorp for a couple years. Get an internship. Get a job.
There is a reason adults who return to college after some time in the workforce often kick the ass of their 18 and 19 year old compatriots, despite in many cases having greater outside responsibilities. When people know why they are committing to something, they get more out of it.
900 years of scholastic tradition has carved out this opportunity for you. Don’t blow it.
When you decide to enter university, treat your time there as precious. Read, debate, write, and challenge yourself with unceasing urgency, because you will never have an opportunity like this again. Although learning is and must be a lifelong endeavor, the opportunity to dedicate a big chunk of your young life to mostly just learning is one of the biggest privileges the world has yet managed to devise.
The degree in Hanoverian Jello Sculpture that means everything to you may not mean much to anyone else.
There are many wonderful things about the university experience, and many ways in which attending and graduating from college is an experience of immense personal value. However, the primary market value of an undergraduate education is to signal to other people that you are reasonably smart and can dedicate yourself to something then see it through. Don’t conflate the personal value of a university education with the market value of your degree.
You can’t ignore the cost/benefit ratio…
You cannot make a decision about which university you will attend and which degree you will pursue without considering economics. College is simply too expensive these days to aimlessly wander through extended years of 100 and 200 level classes at a private liberal arts college, hoping you stumble onto some magic subject area that will make work feel like play.
Any college loans you take on should ideally be self-extinguishing, meaning the additional earning power conferred by the degree and/or the institution should allow you to rapidly (or at least eventually) pay off the loan balance. Consider this aspect of university education logically and dispassionately, because student loan debt has become terribly insidious.
…but don’t assume there is only one right degree.
The job market is changing faster than anyone can really predict. There are dozens of ways to earn a living today that were hardly conceived of 20 years ago, and many people end up working in fields that have very little to do with their undergrad major.
An education – independent of the earned degree – that trains you to think logically and critically, evaluate claims rigorously, find answers independently, work efficiently, write and speak articulately, and solve problems with creativity and flexibility will serve you well in a future of disruptive change and potential.
What advice do you give your kids?
* Note: This article represents the personal advice I give to my daughter, who will most likely continue her education at the university level. It should not be construed as universal advice, or the belief that university is the only or best option for every young adult. I am a huge supporter of the trades, internships, entrepreneurship, the community college system, and alternate learning options based on individual interests and learning styles.
I would offer up that having *a* degree can be more important than *which* degree, for a great many jobs out there. Having or not having a college degree is just too easy a filter for many employers. They often don’t care what degree you have, just that you have one. I watched my husband get laid off from a 10-year position, a job he’d excelled at, and had experience in the field far longer than even those 10 years.When he went looking for a new job, he couldn’t even get an interview. He found a now-defunct program with our unemployment department that would pay for him to finish out his college degree – he’d gotten 3/4 of the way done, couldn’t afford to finish, and had found a decent job at the time, so he hadn’t gone back. Well, he completed this program, got his college degree in something super-vague (akin to an English degree), and the first three jobs he applied for following his graduation, he got asked in for interviews.
And yes, there are lots of specialized fields out there that want specific degrees. Well worth exploring and making sure you attend a school that trains you well for those jobs. But many of those require master’s degrees anyway, and you can always do the post-bac requirements to get into those grad programs later. For right now, get your BS/BA and get your earning potential started.
My concern is that the, “just get a degree, any degree” advice that’s been given to our millennials has trapped many of them with a piece of paper that isn’t bumping them into an earning bracket commensurate to what they are now indebted to pay off. It’s like there’s been a “signalling shift” so that the undergrad degree is the new HS diploma, and the grad degree is the new undergrad degree.
Yeah… speaking as someone who is still paying off student debt close to hitting 40, and the spouse of a college professor, we will be talking honestly to our children about the option of trade school. College has turned into the expected, assumed (and sometimes defult) path but is not the only option. There are multitudes of graduates out there with degrees who are underemployed. Contrast that with a serious deficit in the type of skilled craftsmen and women who we rely on every day (electricians, plumbers). For creative people who enjoy this kind of work a trade school, possibly supplemented with college courses to further personal growth, can be an excellent alternative.
Big fan of the trades, I would really like to see a national drive to invest in trade education and get away from this idea that the only socially acceptable path is 4 year education.
I totally agree with what Cottontailfarm says. I also think there’s a ton of value in a break before college – AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, whatever. Community college was a great start for me…no need to spend thousands at the university to just take English 101 and pre-calculus when you can do it cheaper at the community college, and get more personal attention from the teacher to boot. The lower cost of community college gave me the opportunity to try lots of different subjects before I settled on one.
My biggest piece of advice (and what got me a job right out of college) is get an internship. Get several internships starting as early as you can. I had different internships 3 summers in a row! Employers want to see that you have actual skills…you’ve written reports, you’ve done different kinds of work, not just “learned” about it. Some universities have hands-on classes, and that’s great, but it’s no substitute for 3 months spent in an actual work environment full time. Plus, you get to look around at the people around you and thinking “would I want that job?” That helps you get an idea of what classes you might want to take to get where you want to be.
Love your point about the internships. I didn’t get into it because it’s not really relevant to the general advice, but our daughter will taking classes at the local community college as soon as next year (in 9th grade). I am the proud graduate of two community college programs – I did my general ed requirements at one before transferring to Uni for a 4 year degree, and went back to another for a trade degree in culinary arts. I have had exceptional instruction in the community college system and push it highly for my own kids.
Did a quick recap of people in my life who went to college. Even 50/50 split of who ended up using their degree in a vocation directly related to said degree. Their level of financial success and overall happiness is very mixed. I haven’t found a solid correlation between a degree and quality of life so I would say it all comes down to the individual.
I think “it all comes down to the individual” is totally fair.
My husband and I (mostly I) homeschooled our three kids for 15 years. Then the oldest one’s hormones kicked in, and he wanted to go to school, because he noticed girls were fawning over him at all-comers track meets and other events.
So all of my three kids went from homeschooling to public school – a very small school tucked close to the wilderness in the Pacific Northwest… and not a very good school academically. But it’s great for social stuff, sports and getting a 4.0 grade point average for all my kids.
Thank goodness for Running Start. My kids will have to commute one hour and 15 minutes each way to get themselves to Mount Vernon to the community college once they start Junior year and can start taking Running Start Classes, but we’ll cross that bridge (or that long stretch of scenic highway) when we get there.
My husband and I are both college educated (and I grew up in Germany where it’s really intense academically), and we encourage our kids to definitely NOT go to college right away, if at all.
How are you supposed to know what you wanna be when you grow up at 18?
Go travel! Work your way around the world! Do some odd jobs, have some awesome life experiences (or maybe not so awesome)… Hopefully don’t get pregnant (or get anyone pregnant) too young.
And then, if you really want to go to college to study something that interests you, do that. But don’t expect us parents to pay for it. We’ll help as we can, but I put myself through college in the US solely on scholarships, financial aid, and a teeny tiny loan of a little over $2,000, with which I promptly bought myself a motorcycle.
Running Start is wonderful. Most of the kids at the homeschool co-op we attend do Running Start in 11th and 12th grade. I graduated with my AA and HS diploma simultaneously through the program…big fan. Good luck on the commute!
Like a lot of the commenters, I am going to encourage my kids work for a year or two and figure shit out before college, if college is even what they choose. A bit early even for my oldest to start planning, though, as she’s only going into 7th grade next year.
Ien van Houten says
Erica, are you familiar with the blog and books of Charles Hugh Smith? Google “Of two minds.” One of these books is about getting a nearly free education. Formal Education is turning into a racket and student loans are a death trap. The world is changing so fast that it is impossible to know what to tell our young people. In the end, the homesteading skills may be as valuable as anything else. Good luck!
Ieneke van Houten says
Nancy E. Sutton says
Thanks for this, Len… really enjoyed the history and advice : )
I was not familiar, but I’ve just skimmed the first chapter sample of The Nearly Free University. I think I probably agree with the “cartel” argument (I’d need to read the actual book to assess) and I am definitely familiar with the factory-model legacy in education. I think I mentioned that I perceive the market benefit to an undergrad degree to be mostly a signalling mechanism. When alternate, technologically innovative education is able to provide the same signal to the market as the degree from an accredited university for a tiny fraction of the price, I think the university system will crumble under its own weight. To a certain extent, this is probably already happening – enrollment in non-prestige schools, for example, is down, while competition for prestige universities is sky-high. Why? Because a degree from Yale or Harvard or Stanford still has a substantial signalling value no matter what your degree is in. I guess my point here is, top-quality education is already free, or nearly so, for anyone who reaches out and gets it, but there is not currently an effective alternate signaling mechanism to prove you’ve done the learning. Anyone in favor of educational disruption through technology needs to fix that problem.
Ien van Houten says
I get that, about the signaling thing. Makes me totally want to drop out of the whole job market place. Oh wait, I did that about forty years ago. :). I have been blessed with the old age security form of basic income for almost ten years now but apart from that I have been happily underemployed and living the simple life in the country. I loved my post secondary education, but back then and over there it was as good as free. I suffer from generational guilt…Time to stop the senior discounts and start giving millennials a break instead.
I agree with OrangeSnapDragon. There is no one right answer. I took a year off, had a baby. By the time I graduated I was pregnant with my fourth. I loved college but my degree really didn’t get me anything.
But, I will saw that my youngest two, one already has a degree and one will graduate next year, have done so without any debt. It can be done. Biggest thing is you have to be flexible. Being open to different schools and majors will greatly increase your opportunities for scholarships and grants.
I have a different point of view. I was able to finish high school at 15, due to home schooling, and went directly to college. I finished my BA in three years and by 19 was in grad school. By the time I was 23, I was done with my PhD and was free. Meanwhile, the friends who had taken time off, with every intention of going to college afterwards, seemed to fall away, one by one. Seduced by earning money, or becoming parents, they are now degree free and those jobs that seemed to pay so well have dead-ended. It is very hard to go back to school when you have increased responsibilities (like kids). It is also harder to get back into the mindset of going to school when nearly everyone around you is work-oriented. I would never urge my child to take time off until after they were done with their degrees—whether that meant college or completing the requirements for a trade.
Great perspective, I have many friends who were hyper-motivated and were done with their first degree before 18. Some of them went right into advanced study, some went to work, some went back for advanced degrees after working or raising family. At least one managed to have his employer fund two advanced degrees. The slow one of my peers, I only graduated with my B.A. at 19. 🙂 But I noticed that plenty of my age-peers (and plenty of people several years older) seemed to have no idea why they were at university. I conclude that a pretty healthy internal drive is a prerequisite to early university entrance.
Erica, the community college route can be helpful in another way.
My four home schooled children all began community college classes early (as you mentioned your daughter doing), and my oldest son received extremely high grades in upper level math & sciences (including organic chemistry), as well as working in the science lab there – and doing tutoring to earn extra income.
During his second year at the community college, my son attended a ‘school fair’ – the end result being that a prestigious university accepted him as a transfer-in junior, and gave him $10,000 a year in scholarships. He works as a research chemist today, mostly in the medical field. Many of his community college classmates went on to become pharmacists, but he said that he didn’t want to count pills.
Oh. And he was accepted at that university without ever having taken an SAT test or similar – in fact, he had never even taken a GED test at that time! (He later took one after acceptance, to qualify for FAFSA.) So much for my worries about the necessity of a high school diploma or transcripts! 🙂
Going to college immediately, or after a gap year, or ever is such a personal decision… I am a forty-something mom of a 23yo and a 19yo. The 19yo is finishing his first year of college and got so many AP credits in high school that he had hoped to finish his BS (in applied physics!) in 3 years (not happening) and then go straight for an MS in astrophysics. But he worries that there might be a t would make him happier. So he worries.
My daughter is bright, but struggled with lots of the same mental health things you’ve struggled with, Erica, and she hated high school. She tried to go straight to a university because that’s what everyone else was doing, and it was miserable academically and emotionally. When she’s ready to go back to college, if that’s her path, I’d like her to do it on her own terms, when it’s right for her.
I’m also back in college myself for a second BS. I should’ve gone with my heart back in the day and gotten a degree in something that made me swoon. So I’m doing that now. Still, I wonder if the degree will pay for itself or not: consider the few years that I’m not earning a living, consider that I’m paying cash for out of state schooling (I moved to go to college), and it begs the cost/benefit issue, consider what kind of work a new grad with a climate degree will do. But it makes me happy, and I can afford it, and it’s my life,ya know?
Btw, I’m by far a better student than I was in my 20s, and I was pretty good then. The young adults I have classes with have commented that they’d probably better students if they were a touch older. And the older ones agree. Oh, and internships—so important!!!
Nancy E. Sutton says
Thanks, Len, for that link… valuable history and lead 🙂
Just a quick comment – while you make some good points, I must strongly disagree with the notion that a gap year is a good idea. As parents of two very successful adult sons who did go straight to college and then graduate school, we have seen far too many kids who decided to take a gap year but then somehow never did make it back into school.
It’s just too easy to let it slide. And you may find yourself rootless and out-of-place with your friends scattered elsewhere. It goes without saying that their future success and adjustment as adults can be severely compromised.
I think it really depends on the person. I always knew I wanted to go to college, but after HS I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to Portugal for a year. So I took it, and it totally changed my life: I still live in Portugal, have an amazing family and a job I love–and a degree from a top Portuguese university. That degree cost (not to make you jealous) less than 15.000€ TOTAL for FOUR YEARS.
Like I said, everyone is different. But I’m a fan of gap years, based on my personal experience!
Agreed. I did my gap year after college (hah), but along with other people my age who were gap-yearing before their Master’s. I went to France instead of continuing to work in museums and getting a higher-level degree in Museum Studies, and while my life has been all over the place since, I think it looks more like me. I’m also happy to have had a moment to freak the f* out and be the wild young person I never got to be by going to college right after high school. I definitely don’t regret forgoing school for travel, and have since gotten my Master’s (not that this really matters, in the end, IMHO. Degrees and happiness are not correlated, unless the degree serves your happiness. Degrees and ‘success’, maybe, but what’s success when you’re miserable?). Portugal is a place I would LOVE to visit at some point! The food! The vinho verde! (Am I being a total cliche here?) Yum!
I highly recommend community college courses in high school for anyone who can swing it, and especially for those who aren’t feeling tied to “the high school experience.” Minnesota actually does a paid PSEO program that covers the tuition and materials for high school students earning college credits in high school and kids could earn their associates for basically free and finish their post secondary education faster if that is what they choose. I wish my parents had pushed me towards that instead of what I consider the worthless IB program they made me do that I hated.
That being said, depending on a kid’s interests there are SO many options for other free or really cheap learning/training if you put in the research. For instance people interested in programming can be largely self taught and there are programs like codecademy and udacity to help facilitate that training. They also have inexpensive “mini-degrees/certificates”. Other topics can be learned through Coursera and I believe Udemy. Personally I also recently received a SQL (a database language) through my local community college’s continuing ed program for ~2k that help can help give people an edge in the job marketplace.
And honestly, I’m one of those millennials that thought college was my only option and am very disillusioned by it. Post secondary education is a very personal choice – and if [our] kids aren’t interested, we should respect that decision. Let them go straight into work, or work after a gap year and get experience. They can figure out college later when they are hopefully working for an employer that will pay for at least part of that degree while they go part-time. Know your kid and support and encourage them through their drive and personalities, not yours 🙂
Deborah L says
On the community college front: depends on the state of community colleges where you live. California has a finely calibrated system of community colleges and state universities (excellent). Indiana, where I grew up and where my father was a university professor for 40+ years, is an entirely different story. The community colleges are not taught at a high enough level and don’t adequately prepare students for the university level courses… meaning they they have to go back and take remedial courses at additional expense. Heartbreaking for those students who were sold a bill of goods about saving money.
The advice my dad gave me, when I was stressing out about my son’s college applications, was this: “DO NOT go into debt for an undergraduate degree. At all. Graduate degrees can be worth going into debt for, in the right field. But an undergraduate degree in almost any field is still a generalist degree, and there is almost no correlation between where you got your undergrad and your future career trajectory, earnings or happiness.” He used to head up a university honors program and he had the data to back that up.
So my son went to the local state university, got merit scholarships by keeping his grades up (nearly half his tuition — do your homework on this!), and paid for all of his living expenses by holding down a job part time during school and full time in the summers. I paid for the remaining half of his in-state tuition out of pocket by belt-tightening, and he graduated with honors and zero debt.
That’s the rosy picture. The not-so-rosy picture is that he didn’t enjoy college at all — mostly out of deep frustration with his fellow students who were there to party and screw around rather than take classes or learning seriously. He probably would have gotten more personally out of the experience at a more high-powered (i.e., expensive) school. Who knows what role that will or will not play in his trajectory.
Everything is a crap shoot. But at least he feels lucky and grateful not to be carrying tens of thousands of dollars of debt at age 24… sigh.
Hey, that’s the greeatst! So with ll this brain power AWHFY?
auto insurance says
Adobe innovating? Paying 600$ for a new icon and pretty bare bones innovation, really? Content aware fill amazing? nope. 3d paint? nope. Sorry, but that's a laughable assertion, especially fromt he company that has taken forever to go 64 bit native or to even properly support osX.Commentary fail.
Your advice is terrific. I taught in a state university system campus focused on providing affordable access for the first two years, and advised incoming and continuing students for years. “Learning” in those first two years is usually mostly about the students’ own selves and HOW and WHY to learn. It all is a process, and every student is different.
Sue Kusch says
Your advice and the many comments reflect exactly the kind of diversity of thinking I encountered as an academic advisor for 20 years in a community college.
Over the years, I developed the following advice to traditional aged college students (18-21):
1) It’s ok to be undecided and/or unsure and often taking a year or two to explore the non-academic world is a great way to help solidify an interest or conversely, to make indecision worse. It’s also ok if your academic and career goals are straightforward and ready to go – as long as the decision you make is YOURs and you have done ample research including a reality check on what a person does in that profession. Many parents consciously and unconsciously influence/manage/program their children’s college program and career. Sometimes this is ok but when it’s not, it is setting up a no-win and miserable scenario. Many students are influenced by what they have observed on television. When CSI hit TV land, we suddenly saw students wanting to declare a major in criminal forensics – the state of WA did not even have a program in the field! A little research showed there are limited employment opportunities and the few academic programs in criminal forensics were at the graduate level and was a solid science focus. I can still see the disillusionment on the faces of several young women who wanted to be CSI investigators.
2) Money is not a strong enough motivator. Ask the MD who is making a solid income (and has the debt of medical school to prove it) but who has become a cog in the healthcare wheel. I have had two doctors tell me that if they knew this is how they would spend their days, they would have not pursued medicine. Passion for a field is great but not all of us develop a strong enough passion; some of us have many interests and we enjoy that diversity.
3) And the last thing I often asked (and later, introduced as an assignment when I was teaching a College Success course) is in the end the most important consideration: how do you want to live your life? What do you want to achieve personally and professionally? Will your chosen field continue to offer opportunity or will you be returning to college to retrain in a technical field (this is a bigger issue than most people realize)? Ask your child to write their obituary – in fact, each of us should do this every couple years. What’s the footprint you want to leave? Many of my students and advisees initially identified material items as the way they want to live their lives: nice/big house, nice car, money to spend, travel to exotic places, etc. When I eliminated those as possible responses, most of my students struggled with this concept of creating a way of life. This is so important: something like 70% of working Americans dislike what they do each day. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce and unhappiness with their lives and their careers are often the beginning source of discontent. And part of all of this is the simple acknowledgement that many adults change much as they mature.
I do have to say that I am partial to community colleges and found public universities that I attended and later worked with to be less interested in individual students. Even at the smaller campus branches, I found a lot of faculty more interested in their research and know a few who disliked teaching intensely. So, research college choices carefully and consider the needs of your child. The drop-out rate is high in higher ed (50% at some public schools) and in my opinion, that is because big schools don’t have the resources to provide individual help to struggling students.
I will end with some of the best advice I have heard: “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
― David W. Orr, Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World
Late to this post but loved it and very relevant to my current life junction.
I went to school for engineering, left with 2 degrees and 90k of debt. Got a great job, paid off the loans, and now, just shy of my 30th birthday I am considering transitioning to a lower paying, different career into something that I have found myself increasingly passionate about. The expectation of needing to go back to school to learn a new career is optional depending on the job. Other things to step into jobs are: taking one time non-degree classes, attending conferences, grabbing coffee with people in that career, volunteering for a non-profit project. Anyone could do this at any age.
Nearly all adults recommend being employed (part time or full time) while you ramp up skills for a different career instead of being full time students. Its very surprising how different the culture of going back to school is once you are an adult and can clearly calculate how much longer your savings can last.
I just finished my Master’s at Bordeaux University in France (the courses were conducted in English, the major was anglophone studies).
My two cents: Check out foreign universities that offer courses in English. If travel is your kid’s cup of tea, other countries have excellent programs for way, way, way cheaper than the US. The total cost of my Master’s? Less than 500 euros. Books, transportation, and all that included (not housing, but I have my own place as I am an adult returning to university after a decade-long hiatus, and I completely agree that this time around it is so much more fun! I got so much more out of it as an adult than as a teen/early twenties person. Loved it). But, anyhow;
500 euros = Master’s degree
Even my scholarship-funded university undergrad in the US was more expensive than that—more like 500 a semester (still a good deal).
My French trade school degree (in the culinary arts like Erica) was around 50,000 euros for nine months, not including extraneous costs (transportation, housing, etc.). Trade school can be unnecessarily expensive, too. And let me tell you, working as a line cook does not facilitate debt repayment…hah! Luckily, it was a gift from a family member, otherwise I never would have done it, for the aforementioned reasons.
My other two cents is that I am SO GLAD my parents had me start working when I was ten. I worked for my dad until I was thirteen, then worked for my stepmom, and while working for her got jobs starting around fifteen at grocery stores and pizza parlours and things. I worked throughout college (sometimes up to three jobs) and honestly never noticed the strain—I thought and still think that just doing Uni by itself leaves you with way too much time to fool around (unless you’re going to some crazy medical school or something, in which case you probably need all that time. English Literature, not so much). My mom, who’s a full-time writer with a PhD, never expected me to do anything other than go to college, and if I had just done the whole “parents pay for everything while I devote myself to to higher learning” thing I feel like I would live in an ivory tower that is totally disconnected from real life. BUT as noted that’s just my two cents!!
Funnily enough, I now teach English and cuisine at a culinary high school here in France (oh how those paths have converged!), and I have to say that at first I was a little shocked by the French educational system, but I’m growing to like it more and more. I don’t think kids should be obliged to choose Trade vs. Uni at thirteen, but graduating from high school with serious technical knowledge is such an advantage.
Anywho! Really just my little opinion among the great sea of opinions. Best of luck to you, Erica. It must be extremely daunting, to say the least!
LJ Lyon says
Only go to school with purpose.
Erin B says
Are you still OK?
I would say, unless there is something you truly love and have an affinity for and passion to learn, forget colleges and universities. These days they are often propaganda / brainwashing or party centers which offer a poor, watered-down version of education which in years past, was of much higher standard. They are more money making debt-inducing corporations than true educational institutions. My husband, age 52, went to trade school – which he paid for himself. He is a maverick of knowledge on how everything under the sun works. No doubt, had he been raised by middle class parents (instead of blue collar folks who worked like beasts of burden) he would have been something extraordinary. But he is extraordinary. Phenomenal people skills, incredible knowledge and hands on skill in a vast range of areas, and he has only been out of work for 2 weeks in his entire life. He stays fit moving around, has a vast network of contacts from CEO to janitors. Can, and does, fix, make and build everything himself = which saves us tons of money. Welding, plumbing, electrical (up to 13,000 volts!) woodworking, large and small applicances, mechanics, cars, motorcycles, building, sheetrocking, painting, HVAC. Electronics, and builds and repairs computers, too. He can even cook and sew. Learns new things easily. And never had school debt. He is also highly respected at his workplace, given ample freedom, trusted to decision-make himself, frequently saves the day. I know because I met him at work when I was a high-paid Senior Purchaser there, and he was the Senior Building Engineer. He was turning wrenches in an oil-stained shirt while I was bored behind desk. Neither of us finished high school. Life was tough and we were learning to be tough, resourceful, and honest, decent people. It’s not school that will make or break you, it’s character, personality, resourcefulness, courage, strength, resilience, love, devotion, persistence. We have carved for ourselves a happy life homeschooling, gardening, winter gardening, on a little acre in the woodlands of PA. I have lost much respect for institutions of higher learning when I saw how they enslave the young and their parents in extraordinary debt, the inflation of cost is ludicrous, they have watered down the learning, and too often put politics into the classroom. Also, I saw too many friends graduate with degrees and higher degrees and were left with debt and working as bartenders, waiters, or other low-paying jobs they didn’t care to do. Think twice about going to college or university! Sheesh! These days you can do it online anyway!
PS, and despite our lack of higher education, we read and think and learn always. College and university are often overrated, and yes, I believe whatever they opt to do, young people should work and pay for it themselves. It builds character and make their education meaningful. Having it handed on a silver platter, in many (not all) cases can bring one to take it for granted. Also, if one has no true desire or affinity to learn something at college, don’t bother until you find what you want to do. Waste of time and money unless you have a purpose and passion.