I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I’m not sure what God’s will for me is. Should I go college even if I don’t know what job I want to get? If you’re in high school and these thoughts have ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone. With the cost of higher education increasing every year, it’s wise to ask yourself if it’s worth it to go to college, especially if you don’t know what career you want to pursue after graduation.
If you’ve asked around, you know that the answers vary from “you have to go to college” to “college is a waste!” Maybe your guidance counselor has said that college will give you opportunities, so you should go no matter what. Maybe your uncle is a self-starter and says you should just go to a vocational/trade school. With so many differing opinions, it can be hard to figure out what you should do. If you’re on the fence about going to college, here’s what you need to do before making a decision:
1. Figure out what you want to get out of college
If you were to go to college, what would you want to get out of your college experience? Really think about the reasons why you would want to go. Is it to make friends? To get away from your parents? To play college soccer? To study abroad? Because everyone else you know is going?
There are a ton of reasons why people go to college, but the main reason should be to develop the character and skills to serve God — no matter what you do or where you go. For some, this means they learn the knowledge and skills necessary to land a job in a specific field. For others, it means they learn more about God, the Bible, and the church.
Even if you don’t know what you want to do, you’ll take a bunch of required general education courses. These courses may help you determine what subjects you enjoy and what you’re passionate about. And while you may want to consider taking general education courses at a community college to save money, four-year colleges offer a broader range of courses in various subjects and are usually taught by experts in their field.
2. Ask around
Making the choice to attend college is a big one. Ask your family members for their opinion, but keep in mind that your parents and grandparents may have had very different experiences. If you know of any recent college graduates or young working professionals, ask them what their college experience was like. Here are a few questions to help you get started:
- What are the most valuable lessons you learned in college?
- Do you feel college prepared you for your career?
- Can I learn the same skills at a community college or in an entry-level job?
- Do you feel college was worth it, taking into account the high cost?
If you know of anyone who is in senior leadership or works in human resources, try getting their opinion as well. Keep in mind that there are different criteria for different fields, so try to ask people in a variety of vocations. Here a few questions to ask them:
- Did you go to college and did you feel that it was worth it?
- Are there certain skills I can only learn in college?
- Would you hire someone without a college degree?
- Is it harder for someone without a college degree to get a promotion?
While it’s important to ask around and hear different perspectives and opinions, don’t forget to pray about the decision. It can be easy to get swept away with advice from everyone else, but set aside time to communicate your wants, needs, and struggles with God.
3. Write a pros and cons list
This may be the most clichéd piece of advice a person can give, but it really can be helpful. Write it down all the reasons you should or shouldn’t go to college on paper or type it up in a Microsoft Word document. By having a physical list, you can think about your decision more objectively, rather than trying to recall all the reasons to go or not to go to college.
4. Do your research
Even if you’re not sure what you want to do for the rest of your life, research possible fields and jobs. There are some jobs in which you will need to get a formal education such as teaching in a public school, clinical counseling, or performing surgery (and rightly so!) So if you think you may want to go into teaching, know that you are going to have to go to college eventually.
Also, make sure to research the salary differences between college graduates and non-college grads. The Economist states, “College graduates aged 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $17,500 more annually than their peers who have only a high school diploma, according to the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank. But not all degrees are equally useful.”
While you may not be interested in a field just because of its high salary ceiling, research different degrees to see which degree is useful and profitable for you.
5. Listen to your gut
Maybe you really want to go to college and see the value in it but you’re nervous about starting a new chapter in your life. Maybe you’re worried that the academics are going to be too rigorous and that you’ll fall behind. In both cases, it’s perfectly normal to be a little concerned. Going to college can be scary, but there are plenty of resources to help you get adjusted.
Maybe you feel it in your gut that college isn’t for you. That’s OK. If you feel like you just aren’t ready, there are other options out there for you. Join a gap year or first-year program, volunteer for an organization you’re interested in, try to land an entry-level job, or travel.
Making the decision to go to college can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Just know that you’re not alone. Not everyone who goes to college knows what they want to major in or what career they’d like to have. In fact, many people choose to go to college hoping to discover their interests and passions. And while it may seem like a risk due to the rising cost of college tuition, many people have done their research and have concluded that higher education is an investment worth making.