Our daughter started college this fall and was so ready. It is absolutely the right move for her.
She likes school, and is good at it. She’ll benefit from the new social scene college provides, as finding her people in high school proved difficult for her. The safety net her school offers comforts her, and allows her to have one foot in the adult world while still living in a more structured environment.
Our other teen isn’t sure college is for him. He doesn’t love the academic side, although he’s good at it. He’s a risk taker and doesn’t need safety nets. He’s not even close to narrowing down a professional pursuit. And combining these scenarios with the fact that much of his college expenses will fall on him causes him to seriously question the sensibility of obtaining a college degree.
Having a potential non-college bound teen doesn’t concern us, though. For young Americans today, there is a shift away from the necessity of a traditional college degree. For kids who are burned out on the rigorous academic schedule of high school, unsure of what career they may want to pursue, and who will struggle to pay today’s astronomical, ever-increasing tuition rates, other viable options can make more sense.
In our view, it comes down to each individual child.
Where we see our son come alive and demonstrate his best qualities are in the workplace.
On his own volition, he’s already secured himself three different jobs—each better-paying, with better hours, and with more potential for growth than the last. All because he loves to work. He enjoys learning in the workplace. He gets jazzed about acquiring new sets of skills. Work is something in which he obviously takes pride, and he demonstrates ownership over his role and the mission of the business. He prizes being valued and appreciated by his co-workers and supervisors.
Our son already knows how to network. Because he’s a stand-up kid who has an easy camaraderie with people, each job he’s landed was because he “knew a guy”. Other than asking for a little help with his resumé and how to fill out a W-4 form, he hasn’t needed any assistance—let alone prodding or encouragement—to get up off the couch and find the gainful employment he enjoys.
He shines in the workplace. Each time the college conversation comes up, we take all this into account. We take his apathy towards obtaining a degree in stride, pivoting to direct him towards options more suited to his distinct personality.
We want him to move in the direction of the opportunities that will bring out the best in him and give him his best chance at success as he defines it.
For instance, the .gov website in our state outlines 35 different apprenticeship or journeyman programs. Each requires minimal schooling/training hours (compared to earning a four-year college degree). Each earns a wage between $20-$52 per hour, and most averaging $30-$35.
Also, based on his personality, we encourage him to consider creating and owning his own business. We’ve shared how his local city government has programs to help people start small businesses. We’ve also discussed how being a business owner helps mitigate job loss and can provide for a much higher income over his lifetime, giving him an increased ability to invest in and secure his own retirement.
Our son has shown us the person he is, and we believe him.
We celebrate who our son is—and is becoming– by tailoring our support to help him achieve goals that make sense for him, in real time as he fleshes them out, no matter what they are.
College isn’t the only or necessarily right path for every young adult. There are many other legitimate avenues to explore today. And for our family, we’re open to traveling each and every one.