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No, I Won’t Encourage My Kid To Go To College And Here’s Why

As a parent, I worry about my kid’s future. I try to arm him with knowledge, social skills, and common sense so that he can one day become the man I believe he can be. At no point do I want to stunt his eagerness for learning or education, as I believe these are cornerstones to building a well-rounded human being.

But I WILL NOT force him to go to college. In fact, I secretly hope he shuns the idea of pursuing higher education. This may sound blasphemous and counterintuitive to my original statement, but allow me to explain.

Over the last decade, it has become increasingly clear to me that the American Dream of pursuing higher education is – for lack of better words – a total sham. I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, I was one of the millions of people seduced into the ideology and promise that college was an answer to all life’s problems. It was hounded into me at a very early age that getting your college degree would ensure a future of success and security. There was no alternative; no other option that didn’t cast you aside as a delinquent or failure. College was just something you did. 

In high school, college was presented to my peers and me as an institution that would arm you with the sort of knowledge that wins wars, slays dragons and cures cancer. We were romanced with promises of old libraries where the words of great philosophers and medical journals leaped off the pages and mingled with the smell of leather bound books and hushed voices under low-covered lamps. We were sold on the dream of campus coffee shops, buzzing and brimming with brilliant, eager minds that discussed the kind of things that would help cure world hunger or ensure a political revolution. Images of enthusiastic professors, standing on desks like Robin Williams, declaring “Oh Captain, My, Captain!” fervently invoked excitement and invincibility that we certainly never experienced in the rooms of our stuffy high schools. The world was our oyster and college was the key to opening that shell.

Though computer labs replaced libraries and dive bars were more frequented than coffee shops, college was still, in essence, everything I thought it would be. Maybe even more. I made lasting friendships, had classes that sparked amazing debates and new ways of looking at the world, and eventually graduated with a somewhat admirable degree in Health Science.

I also graduated with almost $80,000 in debt and found that the workforce climate my peers and I were entering had changed. Employers were no longer impressed with a 4-year diploma – they wanted a Masters. See, as more and more parents, banks, institutions, and employers pushed for us kids to pursue college, we listened. We took out the loans to pay for classes. We used credit cards to buy new addition textbooks each year. We worked two jobs in between classes to keep our refrigerators stocked. Why? Because we believed it would all be worth it in the long run. We were bound to get jobs. That was the whole purpose of college, right?

But suddenly, everyone had their degree. The world I was competing in was saturated with kids who also had my degree. I became my own worst enemy – “too experienced” for half the jobs I applied for and “under experienced” for the rest.

10 years later and I’m doing something in a completely different field. I had to work my way up from an entry level position to where I’m at now. Nobody gave a crap what my degree was in or how much I paid to earn it because most jobs right now actually don’t require a four-year diploma.

That’s the big secret that colleges and banks don’t want you to know. Why? Because they are raking in billions of dollars on this misguided belief that, to be successful, you have to get your college degree.

For the record, I don’t blame any of my financial struggles or lack of employment on anyone but myself. I could have chosen differently. I could have gone to a trade school or a junior college or no college at all. Ultimately, that responsibility falls on my shoulders. But I certainly don’t want that same responsibility to fall on my son’s shoulders.

Gen X and millennials are getting absolutely crushed with student debt. Even those who end up with great jobs like lawyers and doctors are suffering from these astronomical loans we are indebted to. It’s easy to blame younger generations, claiming they should have known what they were signing up for.

But should they have known?

Isn’t it kind of insane to assume a 17-year-old has any real grasp on how bank loans and interest rates work? They can’t possibly set realistic expectations as to what they’ll make in the future and how much of that will be allocated toward student loans with soaring interest rates. Do you honestly think a teenager has a grasp on what will happen to their credit if they miss even one payment on their loan? Kids are too busy dreaming about joining fraternities and study groups to be thinking about the long term consequences of the loans they are signing up for. Essentially, we’re asking kids to make preemptive decisions about what their future holds under the false security that a diploma will get them a job. And it’s simply not true.

This is why I won’t be encouraging my son to go to college. I won’t make him feel like a failure if he decides to take a year or two off before he decides if this huge undertaking is something he’s ready for. I won’t pressure my freshly-graduated son to make life decisions under the faulty guise that college is the only answer. Because it’s not.

Even if it was the answer, it’s insane to believe most 18-year-old kids really know what they want to do for the next 50 years of their life. Hell, most of us are still trying to figure that out. Some of us never do.

I loved college. I still love college. Or, more accurately, I love the idea of it. I love that it encourages learning in a unique environment where one can really find oneself and (if lucky) one’s passion. But letting our kids get so wrapped up in the heavily-flawed belief that one can’t make it in life sans a college diploma could have detrimental effects on so many other aspects of their life.

It’s time we change the way we view success and intelligence. It’s time we approach education not as a learning facility, but as a business that has no invested interest in our kids other than money.

I promise, college isn’t everything. I promise there are other means to a great life. I promise some of the most business-savvy and creative entrepreneurs of our time never sought a college diploma. College does not make or break a person. Grit and hard work does.

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19 comments

  1. I encouraged my daughters to get a four year degree because they are raising my grandchildren and will be better equipped mothers.

    I told my son that he could work at whatever he wanted to as long as it would pay the reasonable expenses of the family he raised.

    I did not attend college. in 1965 I dropped out and made a good living without it. In 2015 I dropped out again, realizing that 50 years later it is still a waste of time and money for me.

  2. Very well said. College and University is a huge financial undertaking. University degrees do not guarantee people will acquire wisdom and the passion to care for the well being of their nation and its relationship with Creation and other nations.

  3. Stephen Moreland

    Great points. I have some college, but never finished my degree. I worked in a lab at a health care company, and sometimes had to explain fairly simple things to college-degreed lab techs, such as the metric system. I am kind of anal about grammar and spelling, and notice that emails I receive from managers with Masters or PHd’s are fraught with bad grammar and misspelled words.

    My wife also has no college degree, but rose to be the best Executive Assistant at JPMorgan Chase. Together, our annual salary is in the top 5% of incomes in the U.S. College was responsible for none of that. As you said, it was grit, hard work, and spirit of excellence.

    • I have a college degree, almost a Masters. I taught for 5 years and outside of those 5 years I have never used my college education to earn a living for over 40 years. I put my 5 kids through college but made sure that they had a specialty not a liberal arts degree, 2 nurses, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist and a former SPANISH teacher. College is fine but unless your child is a genius or has a specialty, 2 years of Community College followed by 2 years of a public college in the state where you live should adequately hold down the cost of that education. My oldest grandchild is getting ready to start applying to colleges next year and my daughter is considering the above plan.

    • Amen. I have seen to many folks with mid-level jobs working all there lives with a “College Degree”. Success is earned in the trenches not with a piece of paper on the wall. I just read an article of folks who can’t afford to retire because of the debt from college. Sad

  4. There’s also the issue of the leftist socialist education in colleges today. Conservative students voices are being muzzled. When I saw what they were teaching my daughter in law I realized that parents were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars so the elite globalists could brainwash our kids into their way of liberal thinking. Both my kids went to college but if the decision were to be made now, they would go to trade schools.

    • You’re so right, Mary! I work for a large university and the fact I’m more conservative forces me to put up with a lot of BS. The FEW others I know who are also conservative, we have to keep our conversations to a hush so as not to create any conflicts. Liberals are constantly ‘bragging’ how more educated Democrats are BUT the truth is they’ve created a society of ‘tools’ unable to think for themselves! They’ve been taught HOW to think – but not outside the box! Furthermore, the antics some of these college students (if only their parents knew what they REALLY do when they’re not around) might stun some of them to see how their money is being spent (hint: LOTS of alcohol!).

  5. The fault in your thinking is that even if the student chooses a different field, it shows a prospective employer that the student has determination and can follow through on something.

    • So a “prospective employer” can only see that if you went to college? That’s a flaw in your thinking.

  6. The writer IS saying what is the reality which every college graduate will encounter

  7. I think the main point that keeps getting missed is today’s education system is still operating under antiquated principles founded hundreds of years ago! Imagine a company still using a printing press and hand written ledgers….Doesn’t happen… but our schools still believe in a one-size-fits-all concept. I have met many people that have degrees in areas that they are not practicing in because they couldn’t get a job once they had the degree… so they ended up in a new career estranged from their college studies. Interestingly, they became are very good at what they do through hard work and OJT and a smidge of what they actually learned with their $80K plus debt. The ROI on that does not even compute. WORSE, is the amount of times I watch as Corporate America backs up these institution of “wasted learning” by requiring a degree in X, Y, or Z… and completely ignore (or filter out through their AI job search filters) those that are way more qualified than most with the X, Y, or Z degree simply because they have been DOING the work while others have wasted years of their lives getting a degree.

    It is time Corporate America (who complains about not having enough qualified candidates), to wake up and start pushing for Trades, Vocational, and proven work performance over some pig-skin on the wall.

  8. I agree for a different reason. Today’s colleges main goal seems to want to train students to be activists, not enriching their lives.

  9. I am a licensed professional counselor who works at a state university and I completely agree with this article! I often counsel anxious students who were “forced” to go to college when they would rather work in a trade or be an entrepreneur. I help them process what their passions are, as opposed to what their parents want for them..which is often not popular with parents – but I think everyone should spend their lives doing what they love! And the truth is, we need more welders, mechanics, and craftsmen. Salaries are quite high for those careers.

  10. Excellent article. It’s what I’ve been saying for years. I wasted 5 years of my life to get a degree in a field that you needed a Masters or Phd to get a job in. I eventually got a job in the Postal Service working with many people without college degrees. I was often asked “You went to college to work here?”

  11. Thank you so much for this article. I went to college and got a degree designed for graduate school. I was also the first in my immediate family to go to college. My dad wanted me to get a “real” job. He was a plumber. Thirty years later I owe $90,000 on a loan that was originally $16,000. None of the jobs I’ve had since graduating required a college degree. I encourage the teens I know to look at the trades. I tell them that a plumber makes $300, just walking in the door. I point out to them that being a car mechanic is more complicated than it used to be. Weekends spent tinkering on the car don’t happen any more simply because cars are too computerized now. Those are just two trades. There are thousands and they are hurting because everybody goes to college.

  12. The laws of economics apply here. Make something “free” or easily attainable in the name of diversity or equal opportunity or for whatever reason (even for the sake of the NFL), and lower the standards, creating meaningless curricula so that anyone can pass, and the value goes down.

  13. Mari Mari Quite Contrary

    It is very true that not everyone is suited for or motivated to go to college, and there should definitely be options for vocational training, specialty schools, which are often much better suited to impart the necessary skills, apprenticeships and two year certifications. Yes, I went to college, got an M.A., in the liberal arts, and have never used my degree as such. It was always the “icing on the cake” for the jobs and careers I held. Like the author above, college was expected, but neither of my brothers, for example, did more than two years. College was not for them. One became a very gifted travel advisor; the other, now in his 60’s, became a registered nurse and ORT, and is marvelous at his job. My parents’ philosophy about college and education in general: You do it for yourself. Education is something no one can ever take away from you. It is its own reward. And I fervently agree with that to this day!

  14. If college is paid for, military benefits, military academies, grandparents, scholarships, pay as you go, then I am all for college. If it is required for work – architect, doctor, lawyer, engineer, nurse, ect – go but end with as little debt as possible. Start at the CC, transfer to University, take classes in summer and during breaks to graduate in 3 years. Many kids in high school can go to CC before graduation and have a year of college by graduation. A lot of good jobs/careers are opening up as baby boomers die, retire, ect. With a good job and benefits and EXCELLENT money management skills, todays youth have more opportunities than anyone in the last 35 years. If you live in a tight job market, gift your child with help to move to thriving job market, that is a true investment in their future.

    • Great wisdom!! There is a good book, Debt Free College. All six of our children put them selves through
      college with some scholarship money from leadership roles, grades, etc. Several double majored, worked
      part-time ,played college Division 1 soccer. All kids worked in high school with no car. They are true
      Americans who work hard with goals in whatever they do. It was nice to go to graduations to see honor
      degrees because of their own desires to succeed. Our kids were raised to be independent of us in decisions
      by the time they graduated from H.S. All are married and the women enjoy being at home as homemakers
      volunteers, hobbies, etc. A unique bunch of interesting kids, mates and children. I am all for CC education.

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