Today on Twitter, I was participating in a chat on this very subject. And, as always, I was truly fascinated by the answers to the question and a little concerned. As a majority, we tend to see college as a must. We even go so far as to look down on those without a college degree. But realistically, college isn’t for everyone and in many cases isn’t even necessary. College is only worth the investment if it is needed and if it is approached wisely and with a plan.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to go to school debt free. And it was understood that I would go to college when I graduated, basically for the reason I stated above. No one bothered to ask me what I was passionate about – no one bothered to help me find out what I would love to do every day if money wasn’t a factor. I just went to college and got a degree in a subject that I was good at in school and had a decent pay grade in the workforce.
And I was miserable for the first 15 years of my adult life. Many of our youth are heading to college because they are pressured into believing that it is the next logical step. Guidance counselors are giving out the emails of all students with decent grades to colleges so that they can bombard them with propaganda to come to their school. The pressure is high and as a result is creating a problem in this country. We currently have $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. And much of that debt is for degrees that were never finished or never used.
When deciding for yourself or helping your child decide what to do after high school, consider these 3 tips and consider them in the order that is presented.
- What is your passion? – Many careers don’t require a college education. Some require no experience, some a certificate and some a small amount of vocational schooling. Before you can decide what education path to take, you must first decide what you want to do – not just a j-o-b, but a career and a passion. I always throw out the question “What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?”. The saying “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” is so true. Unfortunately, I didn’t find this out until later in life, but I am so happy I did. Because now I am doing what I love and I am guiding my 17 year old daughter to her passion – which by the way doesn’t require a college degree. And odds are she will make more money than most because she will be working for herself. Owning a small business is a great way to accomplish your passion and make lots of money if done correctly. You should take some business courses, but it doesn’t require a degree – just some awesome mentoring from those who have been successful.
- What is the best way for me to get the education I need? – Once you determine the level of education you need, you then need to find the best way to get that education without becoming part of the statistic above. You can pay for a 4 year degree with cash and without the help of parents, but you can only do it with a plan and determination. You have no idea what your first job is going to be or how much you are actually going to be making. Don’t mortgage your next 20 years if you don’t have to (and you don’t).
- Pay cash – This option is harder and may take a little longer, but I promise you it is the best way to invest in your future. This is where I lose most people – if I haven’t already. First of all, people don’t believe it can be done. And secondly, they don’t want to do the work to make it happen. Yes, it is easier now to sign up for the student loan. But as millions are finding out, it is not the easiest in the long run.
Here’s the bottom line – I loved every minute of my college experience, but I wasn’t a fan of the 15 years I spent being miserable and not doing something that I was passionate about. I was working a j-o-b to pay the b-i-l-l-s. So find what you love to do, wisely get the education you need to get to follow that passion and do it with cash. Live your dreams!