What homeschoolers should consider before deciding to go to college.
When I was in high school, we all assumed we would go to college, earn a degree, and use that degree in our chosen vocation. College was spoken of in terms that left no doubt it was The Next Step. This attitude was also conveyed in every high school television show and movie, especially if your dad was Dr. Huxtable. The message was constant and consistent. Graduate high school, graduate college, start a career. Not to attend college was failure.
Today's students are hearing very mixed messages about going to college. Statistics indicate college grads can expect to earn more than those without a degree, but reports of overwhelming student debt and the lack of quality in higher education make kids and parents wonder if college really is the best choice. If students try to reduce their debt by working their way through college and it takes six years for students to earn a four year degree, this negates the attempt to lower costs.
Pew Research published an article about characteristics of today's college graduates that shows both the advantages and disadvantages students may experience when pursuing a college degree.
For many students, the odds aren’t good. Less than 60 percent of full-time students who are enrolled in college for the first time graduate within six years. Part-time students have an even lower completion rate, as do racial minorities and older and low-income students. For some groups, the six-year graduation rate is well under 20 percent. The vast majority of Americans from advantaged backgrounds enroll in college, so the students struggling with the “Should I or shouldn’t I?” question are disproportionately members of groups with low graduation rates. From "Is College Worth It?"
What does this mean for homeschoolers? For many of us who have been outside of the system for awhile, the idea of remaining outside and continuing one's education in freedom has tremendous appeal. The scales no longer seemed tipped so far in favor of college.
It is now important to carefully consider if college is the best way to prepare for one's career.
It is still difficult for parents to not push their child to attend college because the feeling we need to 'prove' that homeschoolers can get into college.
It's one of the most common questions I hear - "If I homeschool my child can they still go to college?" Yes, they can, but don't assume they should.
There is nothing to prove, and a lot to lose.
Do students need to go to college?
First, what is college? A place to find yourself? A four year party? An escape from home and parents? A way to extend adolescence until you are in your twenties?
NO. College is a serious commitment of time, effort, and money. It is an investment in your future. College is where you learn the skills to work in your chosen field. It isn't something you do because you don't know what else to do. I can think of better ways to spend $40,000 than 'finding yourself'.
Before you can decide whether or not college is right for you, you need to know your career goals. This is something homeschoolers can begin to work toward very early. Even if your child is in the middle grades, it's never too soon to help them explore their interests and abilities. As they complete core subjects, let them specialize their studies and focus on their favorite topics and activities. This is how career options can emerge naturally.
Some vocations obviously require a serious amount of training and a degree, but you can prepare for many careers by:
- finding a mentor
- securing an apprenticeship or internship
- going to trade school
- taking a few workshops or online courses for a minimal cost.
Many businesses offer in-house training programs as well. Some students choose the military for job training and college benefits. But all these opportunities don't mean anything without a focus on your career goals.
Not sure what you want to do? Then take a gap year, get a job, and be involved in your community. Learn how to support yourself by budgeting your time, energy, and money. Explore your interests more fully. Find like-minded people who share your enthusiasms. They will help you stay focused, and you will learn how to make important connections.
The point is - be sure that in order to work in your chosen career, you need a college degree or other certifications.
This decision is important enough to consider all your options. Don't be in a hurry. There's nothing wrong with taking some time to plan the rest of your life. Look all the options available to you before deciding to go to college.
Where should I go to college?
Unless you need to go to a specific school because of the requirements of a particular degree you are pursuing, you should seriously consider a local college.
- Many state colleges offer deep discounts for residents.
- It is less expensive to live at home than in a dorm.
- A local college allows you to remain connected to your support systems - family, friends, church.
Big name colleges are like brand name blue jeans - they cost more, but they are still made out of the same material. Don't be obsessed with going to Harvard or MIT because of the prestige. That prestige costs the same as a really nice house in the suburbs with an SUV in the driveway, and is not worth much in the workplace. Your employer will be looking at your ability to do the work, not at where you got your college diploma.
Be sure to check out online schools, and programs like CollegePlus. Students how have the option of earning college credit for subjects they have already mastered by using the College Level Examination Program. You can accelerate your education at a much lower cost.
Even though many students look forward to college because they will leave home and be more independent, this is not a sensible motive for attending college. It certainly isn't very cost effective if there is a perfectly good school in your area.
Choose the higher education option that best meets the demands of your career goals for a reasonable cost.
Why should I go to college?
To graduate. It sounds simplistic, but the problem with college students not being able to obtain employment is often because they did not graduate. They still have student loan debt, but no degree. Just saying you went to college is not impressive to an employer. The ONLY reason to go to college is to graduate, so make sure that it is a commitment you intend to see through all the way to the end.
Whatever path you decide, don't be ashamed or apologize for it. Get the facts, make a plan, and move forward with confidence toward a bright future.