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College: Should I stay or should I go?

To Go to College, Or Not?

To Go to College, Or Not?

“Mom, I’m quitting college.” I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when my daughter called to tell me the news. She and I had been battling school since fourth grade. Exceptionally bright and gifted, she was definitely a square peg in the round hole of the one-size-fits-all education process. And toward the end of her …

College: Should I stay or should I go?
College: Should I stay or should I go?

“Mom, I’m quitting college.”

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when my daughter called to tell me the news. She and I had been battling school since fourth grade. Exceptionally bright and gifted, she was definitely a square peg in the round hole of the one-size-fits-all education process.

And toward the end of her freshman year in college, she was done. She walked away from her scholarship.

She didn’t have a plan, other than to pursue her love of acting. We discussed a couple of different options, including other schools, but she was definitely done with the college route.

And she’s not alone.

According to the Census Bureau, college enrollment has been declining since 2012. The high cost of a four-year college education is one deterrent.  The average price of a four-year degree ranges from $9,000 to $32,000–and this doesn’t even include room and board, books, school supplies, and the occasional money you send to your kid. College graduates are starting out with large amounts of debt that will take years and years to pay off. The average salary hasn’t kept pace, so as a result, some graduates are moving back home to be able to make that first payment.

A college degree is still the ticket needed for many jobs, but I believe one of the biggest reasons behind the decline is the rise of entrepreneurs who are making a living in alternative ways. The web has made global entrepreneurship possible for the average guy. Self-published books are on the rise as well as information and service-based businesses, especially virtual assistants. Today’s generation no longer has to rely on a brick and mortar business–all they need is a mentor, a great data plan and a smart phone.

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Many colleges have jumped on the trend and have added entrepreneur tracks and degrees.

Two of my nephews did not complete their college degrees. Both of them are extremely bright, but they were simply going down the wrong path with their classes and their passions. They both left college to pursue other interests. Along the way, they learned more about what they wanted and what kind of job fit them well. One of them went back to school to become a nurse. The other worked his way up in a job that he loved.

Contrast this with my oldest son who absolutely loved his college years–the socialization opportunities and the learning process. He selected a degree in Economics–something that I didn’t see coming as a parent.

So one thing to consider, what degree does your child want to pursue? A recent article in Forbes lists the top degrees for 2016: Accounting, Computer Science, Finance, Business Management, Mechanical Engineering, Information Science and Systems, Management Informational Systems, Electrical Engineering, Logistics/Supply Chain, Economics, and Marketing.  Way at the bottom of the list are Psychology, Social Work, and English majors.

Every kid is different. College may or may not be right for your child. Here are some questions to consider: What’s your child’s personality? What does he/she love to do? What kind of lifestyle would be a good fit? How self-driven is he/she?

And take a good, hard look at the numbers and finances: what is the bottom-line cost of each decision?

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As for my daughter, when she came home, she started looking for a job for the summer. By mid-summer, she was becoming a bit frustrated and discouraged, but still very much sure that she did not want to pursue college again in the fall.

Out of the blue, (that’s usually how life takes a turn, doesn’t it?), she learned about an audition for a Broadway play. She flew to New York to audition and took a swing role in the Spring Awakening play. A few weeks later, she moved into her first apartment and started a whole new path. What remains after this, I don’t know, but the journey itself has been the learning process.

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