College is not for everyone. In fact, 28% of all college freshmen drop out. Are you ready for college or do you need to find something else to work towards? Whether you are currently in college thinking of dropping out, in the workforce wondering whether a degree will help you progress, or in high school unsure about your next steps this is the article for you.
Can you afford it?
This may seem like an issue you can just brush over, but it is actually a really big consideration. The high tuition rates account for 31% of all drop outs. If you don’t see a way to pay for the tuition throughout the entire process or you don’t want to dedicate four years of your life 60-80 (40-60 if you want a part time job) hours a week of managing studying and working, then maybe you should save yourself thousands of dollars and not attend. 60-80 hours a week?!? It sounds like a hefty workload, and it is. You should treat your studying as a job, which means buckling down as a full-time student. Managing the equivalent of 2 jobs is very time-consuming, especially in the science and math heavy majors. 54% of dropouts reported there reason for dropping out was they could not handle the work-school balance, so maybe rethink your college plans if you plan to be working.
What do you want to be?
You have been asked this a million times about now – What do you want to be when you grow up? For the wanna-be doctors, nurses, professors, and engineers college is the right place for you. However, for everyone else it will take a bit more research to figure out if college matches your vision. Political science and psychology majors have the opportunity to have a well-paid career path. However, the supply for lawyers and therapists far, far out ways the demand.
Psychology, and political science majors along with the wanna-be doctors (most likely biology majors) will have to prepare for an extra 4 years of schooling after they graduate. Political science majors will often have to be paralegals for years before they can open up their own practice, and the paralegal occupation is at risk for disappearing entirely as it will likely be taken over by AI in the next 15-20 years. The US has about 100,000 licensed therapist but 3.6 million people with psychology degrees, so the competition to get a well paying job with a psychology degree will be long and difficult. If you don’t want to commit likely 8 years of your life to a questionable chance of having a good job and you decided you didn’t want to be a doctor, engineer or professor than you might want to reconsider your degree. Unless you want to become a researcher or professor, sciences and math degrees are not marketable to most employers. You will likely re-educate yourself into the software development industry or get a master’s degree to become an engineer.
What about art, history, humanities? A degree will not give you a competitive advantage in these fields. The arts – including acting, dancing, and graphic design can be self-taught, and it would be more cost effective to just practice continuously for 4 years than to spend thousands of dollars learning about unnecessary theory. History, “studies”, and most humanities are not sought after laborers. Thus if you were planning to major in this, and didn’t want to become a teacher than maybe college is not the right path. Business and economic degrees can be highly lucrative fields, but that does not mean it is a guaranteed avenue towards success. These two degrees are really a toss up. If you don’t have the skill sets to do well in a business setting and are just passive about your whole education without any plan for the future, then its unlikely a college degree would be a good choice.
Where are you going to school?
Are you planning on going to an elite and very competitive school? Individuals that go to highly competitive schools, like Harvard or any other ivy league, tend to be high salary earners and are unlikely to dropout of school. Harvard has a 98% graduation rate and earn an average salary of $138,000 after 10 years. Going to an elite school would be a worthwhile investment of your time and money. It doesn’t matter as much what your degree is if you are going to a highly competitive school, as the average salary tends to be high for all fields.
Do you want to learn?
For younger audiences: Only going to school for partying and excessive alcohol use may be fun short term. However, it won’t provide you with any meaningful long-term value, and you can do the exact same thing while working(aka not going to school). You hate reading books or learning than obviously college is not the right fit. Engage in something more useful, before wasting thousands of dollars. For older audiences: Retirees or those that have been out of school for a long time miss that learning environment, and want to return to the classroom to educate themselves on the world in general. That is absolutey awesome for wanting to improve yourself and grow your mind. That is a perfectly rational option, especially if you are looking into extension classes at your chosen university. However, going to the university and spending the high tuition fees are unnecessary as you can find the same material online. EDX, MIT Open Course ware, Udemy, Skill Share, Master Class, and an textbook on amazon will provide you with the exacts same, if not better, education. You would be spending your money rehashing the college learning experience, not so much the actually learning (as that is free). If you value that experience for that steep price, then awesome and go for it, but it is important to know the alternatives
Are you looking to switch careers?
This is for people who want to go back to school after being in the workforce for a long time. Assuming you are dissatisfied with your current job, or are looking for new opportunities in another industry, you might be considering going back to college. Now, this can be a good idea if you want to get into the engineering or medical fields. If you want to go into the software development or programming, then a boot camp, EDX courses, or freecodecamp.org is an equally viable option that is way less expensive (the last two are free). Employers in software development care about your skill sets, and whether you can solve their coding problems. Having a degree makes no difference to them. Learning to code does take thousands of hours of work before you can reach the professional level, so you may be looking for guidance on how to get from where you are to a job.
I would recommend programming classes at your local community college or at extension from a nearby 4 year. 4 years often provide their own programs and certificates in coding alone that will teach you everything you need to know for about 2 to 3 thousand dollars. That is way cheaper than the price of a degree. Anything in the arts, humanities, or “studies” will be unlikely to give you a competitive advantage over the other workers, as most of it can be self-taught and is not in high market demand. You should practice your art skills at home during your free time. Instead of sitting in front of the tv or playing on your computer, work on your craft. You can work your job while gaining skills to be employed (or self-employed) elsewhere.
Will you be taking remedial college courses?
Remedial college courses are high school courses a student needs to take before enrolling in college courses if they do not have a proper understanding of the material. Less than 1/4 of all students taking remedial college courses will graduate. If you don’t have a solid grasp of high school curriculum nor the work ethic to learn the material, then you aren’t ready for college. Put your time into something you care about and want to get better at. Don’t waste time at college because if you don’t care enough to learn basic fundamentals, you will be too far behind to learn the complex information at university. Also taking remedial courses is an indication you are not serious or invested in your learning. If that is the case, go to a trade school, become an entrepreneur or find/work on something you are passionate about.
Do YOU want to go college?
This is the most important question right here. Being pressured by family and peers to go to college isn’t providing you any value if you don’t want to go. If you are unmotivated to to study or work on your degree, save yourself the academic suspension and don’t go. If you are willing to put in the work, but think you will be miserable over the next 4 years then start planning out profitable alternatives to a four year degree. That way you can transition out of the toxic environment into a profitable venture. Come up with a game plan, whether that means going to trade school, self-employment, or starting your own business. That way you can still make a living wage, and not have to spend the rest of your life in an industry you hate.
It is important to plan out what you decide to do with your life irregardless of going to college. Aimless wandering will get you nowhere. You have to plan and take actions toward a specific and measurable goal. Whether that means dropping out of school and becoming a real estate agent, or studying for 8 years to become a doctor. It requires a daily habit of practice to become a high-skilled, laborer that can suit that market’s needs. Spending 6 hours a day watching tv, then dropping out of school because its “too hard” or an article told me to is not a valid excuse for achieving nothing. There are other alternatives to college in order to reach success, but college or not, dedication, learning the right skills, and strategic planning are what get you there.
Comment down below what you wanted to be as a kid.