On the Fence About College? How to Determine if Higher Ed is Right for You


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For many people, college may seem like the inevitable next step once they graduate high school. Your parents may be introducing higher education to you as a given or pushing you in that direction. It's a great stepping stone into the adult world, for sure, but if you're experiencing doubts, you're not without reason. College is ultimately a choice - so here are some things to consider if you're on the fence about it.

1. Career Goals

Think about the career goals you already have and if college can help you on your way to achieving them. Depending on the industry, you may need that secondary education to enter it in the first place. Higher-paying jobs in the medical field, education, and business, for example, usually require at least a bachelor's degree to begin. If you're interested in more artistic or literary work, then higher education offers necessary time to develop your skills. 

You might consider taking some college tours to figure out if a certain school specializes in your area of interest. Still, as mentioned previously, your career goals don't have to align with going to college if you already have opportunities. You might instead attend a trade school to improve your skills and earn certifications for the path you're already on. Or if you have connections, you might have an apprenticeship. These options can provide a good return on investment, and it also costs less upfront. 

2. Work Experience and Marketable Skills

Having a bachelor's degree is undoubtedly a boon to your resume, but work experience has its place as well. If you already have marketable skills or opportunities lined up, you don't necessarily need to shelve them for a degree. Taking your time building experience in your field can look just as good or even better on a resume. This applies most readily to careers in technical trades like plumbing and electricity due to their hands-on nature.

On the other hand, undergraduate study is ideal if you're right out of high school and don't have such experience. It's not uncommon to graduate with very little working history due to over ten years of full-time education. In this case, college can provide you with time to explore your potential and figure out your direction in life. You also get to spend those four years building experience that you didn't have previously.

3. Resources

The price of higher education is rising day by day and is, unfortunately, just not feasible for everyone. Even if you're able to take out student loans, you'll be paying them off for years, sometimes decades, to come. Time is a resource as well as money and both go hand-in-hand in this regard. You may decide that your time is better spent working or you don't have enough time to study as well. 

And remember, focusing on your career doesn't have to remove college as an option down the road. Despite how it's commonly portrayed and marketed, you can begin your higher education journey at any age after high school. Maybe you can't afford it but would like to go; you can take some years to save up first. You don't have to give up one option for another - just focus on one at a time.

4. School Performance

Deciding what path to pursue can even boil down to your academic history as long as you have alternatives. Some people learn differently than others or have learning disabilities that prevent them from getting the same out of higher education. For example, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder may have issues learning through memorization or lectures and thrive with hands-on experience. Education in the United States tends to favor the general learner, leaving those who struggle with typical teaching practices behind.

All of this is to say that a history of poor performance in school doesn't mean you're out of luck. It just means that going to college might not be the route you'll want or need to take, and that's okay. This is the time when you get to really think about that and make your choices accordingly. And, to reiterate, passing on college in the present doesn't mean you can't revisit the topic in the future.

5. Obligations

Your reasons for attending college will heavily affect your academic experience there, which is why it's good to establish some. Society has portrayed college as essential for so long that it's easy to forget that it's not. Ultimately, the choice to attend is about you. Make sure you choose what suits your goals best rather than out of obligation. You don't want to commit to four years of something you're not happy with for the sake of following expectations.

By now you've learned about different reasons why you could follow other paths instead. It's important to make the logical decision, of course, like pursuing college goals even if you're working already. But don't force yourself into other people's expectations for you unless they match your own or are positive influences. Higher education is an incredible opportunity for growth and exploration, but it's not possible or ideal for everyone.

Now is the time to decide how you want to move forward. Do you want to follow up on any current job offers? Do you just want a little more time to figure out your path in life? With these questions in mind, you'll have a better idea if higher education is right for you.

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