OPINION: College After HS is Not for Everyone

By: Naomi Metoyer
Opinion Section Editor

For as long as I can remember, the words “future” and “college” were interchangeable. From at least the age of 10, when I was assigned to present on a college of my choosing in fifth grade, I have been convinced that because of modern society and my own intelligence, I would have to go to college straight out of high school.

Photo Credit: College Recruiter

The same can be said by nearly every young student today. College is, without a shade of doubt, the goal, the dream, and the expectation all in one. Every other avenue after high school is a one way ticket to condemnation by teachers, family, and everyone in between.

Now, I am grateful that a higher education has become closer for so many people, something that before was reserved for the privileged. However, this has come with downsides.

The unfortunate fact is that college has been exaggerated and romanticized. College, despite what educators and other influences will tell students, is not for everyone. It has been geared in a way so it encompasses countless career paths, yet the curriculum, lifestyle, and cost of higher education does not cater to every type of person.

This is what we do not learn in high school.

We’re told that we’re a bum if we opt for a 9 to 5 instead of college after high school–either because college is too expensive and they’ve decided to take a gap year to save or opt out altogether, or simply because they don’t have any interest in it. We are told that the military is a trap and, in my case, a waste of one’s potential. Vocational school has less of a stigma, but it is still so far from college level that it is never promoted to young people.

College is the be all or end all, with no thought or discussion of the implications of this. Students are led to believe if they get good grades throughout high school, college and then a career will follow suit with little to no bumps in the road.

That’s why so much of my senior class is struggling right now, alongside the seniors from last school year. Bumps in these seemingly straight paths are appearing in all forms for both groups, from student loans and tuition costs to unpreparedness for college level curriculum to sinking realizations that one’s dream college is looking a lot more like a dream every day because they hadn’t realized what was required to make it a reality, and now it’s too late.

This is nobody’s fault, completely. College is spoken of in such vague terms for something that is so expected of young students. We know nothing of the meticulous path to get there, and if we are able to find one, it is nothing we expected, and oftentimes, something many are unable to manage.

Though too many would like to ignore the fact, college is geared for the success of a few types of careers. Yes, you can study almost anything you would like, but that’s a lot of work and time and money spent on something that in an overwhelming amount of cases has no obvious gain.

Countless young people go into college straight out of high school not having seen anything of the world other than their limited scope, one limited in most cases by their lack of exposure to things outside their immediate community and, in all cases, their age.

College right out of high school is detrimental for various reasons, all of which seem to stem back to naivety, and the lack of check upon such naivety. This can lead to regret in the form of haunting student loans and degrees with little to no real world applications or opportunities.

Too many attend school for years only to learn something with no correlation to real world realities. It has implications that begin and end with college.

Not only do these people waste money, but they have also sacrificed potential work and life experience. While they learned something with little bearing on the rest of their lives, others were getting a head start on building the solid foundations that would make for a more secure future.

Even for those who go into college with a degree that has potential to affect their future, it too often fails to prepare its students for the world beyond its walls in the same way high school does.

Internships are sometimes the only real world experience college students have in those four years, and yet many still don’t complete one. Even if they do, no experience and an internship does little to compare to someone with four years of experience under their belt, along with domestic stability that is not provided to students (owning a home, a car, etc separate from an institution).

Of course college is the right choice for many, but not for as many as high school students are led to believe. In so many ways is college romanticized and pushed when the actual applications and careers connected to it are representative of a mere fraction of the workforce and overall population.

This societal push for college is trying to erase the fact that we need people to work jobs that are not college careers. It also glazes over the fact that people genuinely enjoy and live successfully and comfortably on these jobs without those extra four years.

We need to familiarize students in the various colors of the American Dream, because it is no longer a picket fence and a pretty degree.

Sometimes it is coveralls and a one-story home, falling in love and growing a family. Sometimes it is the satisfaction of serving your the country you call home and seeing the world in the process, returning to loved ones and an early retirement. Sometimes it is a stage and a hundred cities in 365 days, the peak of a climb endeavoured alone. Sometimes it is college and the beautiful years after. Sometimes it is a mix of it all. And that is okay.

One’s life is not defined by a piece of paper or the expectation of everyone that is not them, but rather by their ability to dream and their willingness to create that dream for themselves.