By Jennifer Smeltser
Even before I received my diploma from high school, I knew what was going to be my next step; I was going to college. It was not a decision that was forced upon me, but instead just something the members in my family do. We finish high school and then move on to college.
College was (is?) all important. I never questioned that step in my academic career. I just knew the next step was college and all I had to do was decide where I wanted to attend.
I only applied to two schools. One was on the West Coast (my father’s alma mater) and the other was in the South (my mother’s alma mater). Of course there were more options, but I wanted a guaranteed return on my application fees. Those fees seemed high at the time, but compared to now, I guess not so much. Yes, applying to only two schools reduced my odds if they both said no, but fortunately, responses from the schools were positive. Just in case you are wondering, I went to the South only because my roots were on the West Coast and I wanted to experience something new.
A few months after I graduated from college, I would have a reoccurring nightmare that I lacked the sufficient amount of credits to receive my degree. Needless to say, I always woke up in a cold sweat. Moments later, I was comforted by the realization that I did walk (or rather ran and jumped) across the stage and was awarded my degree for the five years of hard work I completed. One of my five years was spent hanging out (literally and not attending my classes) in the drama department. Despite that, I did get serious again my last year and hunkered down to complete the last courses on my schedule and be awarded my diploma.
Hmm, my diploma. I had earned it, but it was not until more than one decade later that I started working in positions that reflected my education.
Lately, I have been wondering if college is really worth it. You have the degree, but then you have the student loans unless your “ride” was free. You have the social experiences of being with your peers and the knowledge of your professors, but who is to say that the same or more cannot be acquired while riding the subway or serving on a foreign mission field. You have an Ivy League name (or Berkeley or Stanford) permanently inscribed on your diploma and the connections, but Bill Gates did not graduate from college before forming his empire, although he was eventually awarded an honorary degree from Harvard in 2007. As far as connections, I am sure he has plenty of excellent ones.
A few years ago, I would have told you that my children would definitely be attending college once they finished high school. I just cannot imagine the amount of tuition by the time they reach that level.
Lately, I have been reconsidering my view on college and the need for my children to attend. Although I learned a lot in college, my skill was mostly honed in high school. College just enhanced it, but that could have also happened in whatever other direction my life may have taken. If my children attend college, then it will be their decision. As their teacher, I will continue to prepare them so they will be college-ready. I want them to have a choice.
How important is college to you for your child in his education? If you have a high school student, then is he considering college in his future? Do you think he would be better off learning a skill to immediately join the work-force or move into self-employment?
The fact remains that, although there are many scholarships available, college tuition is high and continues to grow each year. Degrees and professions that used to be “hot” are no longer. I am proud that I earned a college degree, but times ‘are a-changin’.