Unlike many high school students today, I always knew I was going to go to college. My mom says that when I was younger, I joked that I would have to choose between Yale or Princeton. Maybe it was growing up with parents who believe education is the key to success or maybe it was my middle school and high school teachers who talked about college as if it were the best path.
Either way, by the time I was in seventh grade, I knew that I had to take the right courses (meaning honors and AP courses), get good grades, and get involved in extracurricular activities in order to get into a “good” college and land a “good” job. And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Most of my peers (and their parents) were also set on college, not because they wanted to go, but because it was the only path that they knew. By the time I was a high school senior, everyone I knew was taking their SATs for the last time, finishing up college applications, and evaluating financial aid packages.
So fast forward five years later. Imagine my surprise when my younger brother shared that he didn’t want to go to college.
To Go or Not To Go?
Our argument went a little like this:
“I’m not going to college. I don’t need to go,” he said simply.
“No one’s going to hire you without a college degree,” I argued. “And college graduates make more money, you know.”
“That’s debatable. There are lots of good jobs out there that you don’t need a degree for,” he fought back.
“But college will help you become more well-rounded,” I argued relentlessly. “You’ll learn so much about yourself.”
“I’m smart. I’ll be fine. And college is so expensive. I can learn skills now and I can always go to college later.”
And in some ways, he was right. While I had never considered any other option other than going straight to college after my high school graduation, my younger brother, as well as his friends, found themselves wondering, “Is college worth the cost?”
The more research I do on the topic, the more I am convinced that it’s a question without a clear answer. There are many factors that go into making the decision to attend college:
- The high costs of college: Can I afford it? Will I be able to pay off my debt?
- Job security: Even with a college degree, will I be able to secure a job?
- Salary: Will I really earn a higher salary with a college degree than a high school diploma?
- Skills: Will I learn valuable skills in college? Can I just go to trade school?
These are questions I didn’t ask as a high school student. And while they are difficult and frustrating questions, they’re important ones, considering the amount of money and time that goes into a college education.
If you’re a high school student struggling to make a decision of whether you should attend college, you’re not alone. Here is a list of resources to help you make the decision that is right for you:
- Is College for Everyone? The Pros and Cons (The Art of Manliness)
- Should Everyone Go to College? (Forbes)
- Don’t Know If You Should Go to College? 5 Things You Need to Do Before Making a Decision (Life and Learning, Cairn University)
The Argument Against Higher Education
- Do You Really Have to Go to College? (The Choice blog, The New York Times)
- Why I’m Telling Some of My Students Not to Go to College (PBS)
The Benefits of Higher Education
- College: What It’s All About and Why it Matters (Collegeboard)
- Here’s Why A College Degree Is Still Worth Its Price Tag (Business Insider)
- 7 Reasons You Should Go to College (Life and Learning, Cairn University)
Alternatives to College
- 5 Proud Alternatives To Going To College (Forbes)
- Is College for Everyone? 11 Alternatives to the Traditional 4-Year College (Art of Manliness)
Making the decision to go to college is a tough one. I hope these resources are helpful to you as you make the decision to attend college, take a gap year, or find an entry-level job. And for those of you wondering, my little brother ended up going to college.