Is College the Answer?

I read an article from The New York Times about not attending college as a viable alternative for some students. When I first started reading the article I thought, “Yes, someone else is thinking outside the college box.” The article stated that, “Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” This means that there will be more jobs available, like nurse’s aides and customer service representatives, which do not require a bachelor degree, but rather, can be accomplished through vocational schooling or an apprenticeship.

The Argument

Some might argue that if you tell high school students not everyone will go to college, then you’re causing low achievement and setting them up for failure- or even worse- a lack of trying. The article continues to state that a college experience adds more than just knowledge, but the ability to think critically, improved communication and social skills, and even better health.

On the flip side, the article argues that some students waste time and money at a college just to drop out or enter into a position that doesn’t require a college degree. Think of what could have been bought- like a house- or invested in with the amount that was paid for a college degree.

The Options

It may seem simple- either choose to attend college or not to attend college. But there really are other options that can help in making an educated decision on such an important topic. Let’s consider a few other alternatives, like vocational training, apprenticeships, internships, or a gap year.

Vocational training can actually occur during high school (if your school offers it) or after high school.

This type of training is usually associated with some type of career that requires technical or work-content skills. Some options include dental assisting, auto mechanics, and other trades.

Apprenticeships are another alternative that can occur while attending school, or independently.

One example, which The New York Times article applauds, is a CVS pharmacist assistant program. This is an on-the-job training program which gives you a glimpse into the life of a pharmacist. What better way to determine if a certain career is right for you than to “test-drive” it first? Internships have the same benefit and can occur during both high school and college.

Gap year is a term that describes the year in between schooling and a career or additional schooling.

There is nothing wrong with taking a year off to explore careers, other environments, and (to risk sounding cliché) find yourself. This can help determine if your career goal requires additional schooling or not. There’s a great gap year resource that Butler University, in Indiana, put together for those considering a gap year and how that will impact his/her overall career goals. Use this resource to keep yourself focused and utilize the gap year experience effectively.

The Decision

The decision ultimately lies with the individual. I always recommend talking to friends, family, and professionals in the career industries you are interested in, but these people can’t make the decision for you. You are the expert on yourself, and you have to live with the decisions that are made and the consequences that come as a result. Take your time to explore your options, but make sure that you don’t just run on idle. Keep working, review the options, and make decisions. At some point, you’ll just have to jump in and embrace the decision that was made.

Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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  3. Making the Most of the College Application Process

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