Graduate from high school, go to college, start a career, get married, have a couple kids (and a couple dogs) — that’s the dream. Well, that’s my dream. But, it’s also the dream in which seems to be forced upon students today, especially in affluent areas such as ours. However, there’s danger in teaching teens that college is the only path after high school that leads to an eventual prosperous life.
Preparation for college honestly begins when freshman year of high school does. My high school career has been defined by the various activities I’ve involved myself with in order to build a competitive résume: studying for the ACT, enrolling in rigorous classes that will count for college credit and answering questions from adults about where I intend to go to college; it’s the first question anyone asks when they find out my age.
As a senior, I receive a newsletter on a monthly basis that highlights the steps I need to be taking to easily transition to college. While this is helpful information for many, including myself, it isn’t applicable to everyone because ultimately not everyone is “college material”. This doesn’t mean that not everyone is intelligent enough to do well in college, but some personalities flourish more than others in structured academic settings. Many other individuals instead find passion in skills that either cannot or do not have to be taught in a traditional four-year institutional setting such as art, carpentry, plumbing, etc. Our society physically couldn’t function without individuals holding these jobs, so it makes no sense to discourage students from doing so.
Additionally, the cost of attending a four-year college is outrageous, and only increasing exponentially. As of the 2018-19 school year, according to US News, the average cost of attendance at even a cheaper, in-state, public university option is $9,716. Then, for an out-of-state public school option, average tuition is $21,629, and a whopping $35,676 for a private university. Consequently, also according to US News, the average bachelor degree holder spends 21 years paying off their student loans. Because so many can’t afford this investment, it’s critical students are made aware of the fact they can be successful without a degree. And even if one can afford it, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should.
Again, college has always been my dream — I’m set to attend Kansas State University in the fall. I love learning and always have, and don’t at all discredit the importance of higher education Nevertheless, if we want a well-functioning society of individuals diverse in their career choices, we have to stop fitting all students under the blanket statement that college is the best route after high school. It is of course an option, just not the only one.