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Should I Go to College?

It’s graduation season, and all of the fresh-faced high school graduates are eager to start the college experience, but here are a few things to consider before applying:

Think about taking a year off

I highly recommend taking a year off between high school and college. Personally, I feel it should even be federally encouraged. For many, college is just a continuation of high school, but college is most useful when you know exactly what you want from it.

It’s easiest to get somewhere when you know where you’re going. If you have a goal set in place for when you plan to graduate, then college can take you anywhere. But if you wander through college with no direction, then college can very really take you nowhere.

Before jumping into higher education, design your college experience so that it fits in with your life plan, or so that it fulfills those goals you hope to accomplish before you enter the job market.

As I said in my post about grad school, there are much more fulfilling ways to postpone adulthood than more expensive schooling. Travel somewhere, learn a new religion, pursue a love interest. School isn’t the only place to learn, but when you do enter college, use your time wisely. It’ll pass quicker than you think.

Ask yourself, Do I need college to do what I want to do?

I don’t want to discourage anyone from furthering their education, but I think it’s important to take a look at exactly what you want from life. Many new baccalaureates look out into the job market and find that a degree is not the same thing as experience, and often, experience is preferred.

Many famous writers never went to college. Many musicians only go to college to meet other musicians (and drop out when their band is formed). For all intents and purposes, college is probably a good idea (even if only to network), but don’t let college get in the way of what you want to do.

Ask yourself, Is this the right college for me?

After you decide you definitely want to go to college, carefully consider your options. There are so many schools out there with very precise degree programs, that you should consider a program that gives you exactly what you want, because when you’re spending that much time and money, there’s no such thing as close enough.

Consider beginning at a community college

Community colleges have an unfair stigma in our culture. We tend to think of them as pretend colleges for people who can’t get into a real school, but there are plenty of great community colleges that will give you the same education as a state school. So why pay $10-20 thousand per semester when you can spend $2 thousand for the same education?

Community colleges also tend to allow their students greater independence and flexibility. For those of you with life obligations other than school—or for those of you who just don’t want to be trapped in the sometimes over-protective college environment —community colleges are a great option.