I recently read a blog titled “College isn’t for every young adult; and it’s time parents accept it”. The blog caught my attention from the outset because it started out talking about a friend of the writer who owned a hair salon. Other than high school, the only training the successful salon owner had was a year in cosmetology school and on the job training. According to the article, she worked three days a week, leaving the remaining time, including weekends, to devote to her children and family. She’s able to go on all the field trips, take care of household necessities, and go on vacations whenever she wants. None of this as a result of spending years in college pursuing a degree, we all have heard, that will make our lives better.
From my earliest memory, I’ve heard the same thing that millions of others have heard, “go to college, get a degree, get a job, and live happily ever after”. Who started the narrative that you need to get a college degree in order to have a good career or live a good life? College is a choice, but it may not be the best choice for many. Remember as a kid someone asked you “what do you want to be when you grow up?” If you were like me, you probably didn’t have the faintest idea what you wanted to be. Maybe you romanticized about something you saw on tv or in the movies like being a cowboy, an astronaut, a doughnut taster, or even movie star. We all had dreams of living the good life, doing that thing that made us smile. But, so many of us ended up working in a field we felt would simply allow us a chance to pay our bills.
The truth of the matter is as adults we have responsibilities. Most of our days revolve around going to work and paying bills. The question then becomes what type of work and where do we get our training to do what we do. We know that choosing to work in a professional setting that requires a degree from a college means we must attend college. The problem lies in telling young people that getting a college degree is the only option to success. This pressure tactic usually starts in the junior or senior year of high school. Parents, teachers, and counselors begin constant reminders of preparing for and taking the ACT or SAT tests. Next comes the college visits, the application processes, the research for scholarships or financial aid sources, and the constant checking of grade point averages. All of this is fine if this is the route the student wants to take. The reality is that many students don’t fit in this category – and that should be okay.
All parents want to see their children go off to college, do well in every area of study, then walk across the stage at graduation with the diploma in hand. College may not be their choice. Many students today say they don’t want to deal with the entire college experience, especially the debt they will incur. I’m here to offer a very reasonable and viable alternative. Trade School! That’s right, trade schools, community colleges, and professional training programs cost a fraction of what it would cost to go to a traditional four year college and will allow you to go to work in a trade field almost immediately after completion of your training or study. Many of these fields pay a beginning salary equal to or better than a five to ten-year veteran of a degreed job.
This in no way is asking any parent or student to lower their expectations. It is asking you to consider a viable alternative that may lead to an opportunity to reach your potential without the pressure trying to live up to the expectations of others.