Is The College Education Route Best For You?

Are you a high school student who has been thinking that perhaps you were not meant to go to college?  Maybe you are right and College is not the best choice for you.  College was certainly not the route I took right out of high school.   Maybe you are feeling pressure from teachers, parents, relatives and fellow students to go to College.  Let’s explore the pros and cons of going to college vs not going, and look at some options that might be a better match for you in your particular situation.

The Big Decision – College or Wait

This post is not intended to talk you out of going to college, nor is it intended to talk you into going.  The intent is to help you as you make one of the most significant decisions you will have made up to this point.

In my case, I did eventually get a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and ultimately a Masters’ of Science (MS) degree.  But that is a long way from where I started out.  Early in my senior year in high school, I enlisted in the US Navy; October 28 to be precise.  My GPA in high school was not very high.  In fact, I often joke that I was a high school push-out.  My French teacher made me promise not to take another level of French before she gave me the passing grade I needed to graduate.  She said that if I didn’t promise, she would not give me the passing grade.The Big Decision - Go to College or Wait Click To Tweet

The decision as to what to do after high school graduation can be daunting!  What will happen if you don’t make the right decision?  Like, what if you go to college, but it is not right for you? What will be the worst case scenario?  Failing out and returning home? Disappointing parents and grandparents? No one wants to let our parents down.  What if you don’t go to school?  What will you be labeled by your family and friends?

Before you make the decision to go to college or take another route, let’s examine the options and make sure you are equipped with knowledge to make the best choice for you.

What are the Options besides College

There are too many possible options to list them all here, but here are a few to get you thinking about your possible future:

  1. The first option is obviously going to college right out of high school, either for the summer or fall semesters.
    1. Choosing a school and major will be sub-sets of this choice.
  2. The second option would be to take a short break before going to college, starting college in the next calendar year.
  3. The third would be to start a career that does not require a degree.
  4. A fourth option might be to study part time at a community or junior college
Choose best college education route

Examine the options and make the best choice for you

Making this Decision is Not the End of Your Story

Just because you decide to take an alternate route upon graduation from high school; that does not mean that you will never get a degree.  When you do eventually get a degree, there is a great possibility that your GPA will be higher than it would have been had you gone straight to college after high school.  I completed my Master’s program as Suma Cum Laude.  That never would have happened if I had gone straight to a university.  Life experiences and exposure to the world added much needed information and motivation to excel in my studies.

Success begets success.  Finding a vocation aligned to my aptitude gave me the first taste of success.  One of the many things that the military system has developed well is an aptitude alignment system called the ASVAB, or Armed Services Aptitude Battery.  It is a battery of tests that helps to determine what career field an applicant is naturally suited for.  In my case, the tests showed that I had a high aptitude for electronic repair technician.  That finding and my interests worked well together.  Some people find that they have a high aptitude for something that they are not necessarily interested in pursuing as a career field.

Deciding Factors

Some factors for you to consider before committing to college include academic proficiency, motivation to complete the curriculum, work skills aptitude and finances. Finances might be an excuse to not go to school rather than a reason. If college is the right path for you, the finances can be worked out through a number of means. Alternatively, lack of financing could be a cause of not completing the degree plan.

Let’s consider the some of the deciding factors one by one (academic proficiency, motivation to complete the curriculum, work skills aptitude and finances).

Academic proficiency

Have you been a good student in high school?  Was the academic work challenging and rewarding?  Will your high school grades qualify you for scholarships?  Yeses to these questions would go in the Pro column of a T chart and no’s will go in the con column.

Simple T-Chart

Simple T-Chart

Academic proficiency should carry a good deal of weight in the decision.  There are a lot of things to look forward to in the college experience, but getting the education (i.e. engaging in academic study) is the primary focus.  Later we will discuss adding weights to factors going into your decision.

Motivation to complete the curriculum

Does the school you are considering offer a program that is aligned to your aptitude and motivation?  Finding a field of study that appeals to you is probably more important than school reputation or football program (unless you play football).

Work skills aptitude

You might want to go take the military ASVAB or a civilian counterpart to identify your aptitudes early in life.  This will likely lead you into some good choices whether you go to college, military service or any other profession.  Aptitude tests are not exams where you try to achieve a high score; it is an opportunity to assess natural abilities and giftings.

In the end, once you have completed the education and received a degree, successful employment is the ultimate purpose of going to college.  There are numerous employment opportunities that do not require a degree.  There are also a considerable number of college graduates whose degree does not lead to successful employment.

During high school, have you explored career field that are of interest to you?  Does your school offer vocational courses in a field of interest?  One of my daughters took a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) qualification course in high school.  Upon graduation from high school she went to Florida State University and earned a BS of Nursing and is now a Registered Nurse (RN).  So vocational courses don’t necessarily mean you won’t go to college.  But taking these courses may even better prepare you for college.  Another way to explore career fields is through programs such as Police Explorers for high school students interested in law enforcement careers.  Is there any such program for a career field that you have interest in?  It is a great way to find out whether a college degree is required and what fields of study are appropriate for that career field.

Finances

Finances can be a make or break deciding factor.  College is expensive and the bill has got to be paid.  However, there are a number of creative ways to get it paid for.  The two most talked about means are Scholarships and Student Loans.  Student Loans get a lot of bad press and can be a nagging source of stress for years after getting out of school – especially if you don’t graduate or get a degree that does not lead to productive employment.

Decision Making Process

Academic proficiency, motivation to complete the curriculum, work skills aptitude and finances are just some of the most common factors, but you might have many more.  And some of yours might carry more weight.

Let’s take a look at a slightly more complex, yet much more effective tool than the simple Pro/Con T-Chart.  The table below is an example of a decision matrix:

Sample Decision Matrix

Sample Decision Matrix

You would assign a raw score, say between 1 – 10, to each Criteria Factor.  Assign each of the criteria a weight by how important that factor is on your decision.  Multiplying the raw score by the weight multiple will give you a weighted score.  Apply that score to the criteria for the Option in the top row.  Finally, Add up all the weighted scores for a Total Score in the bottom row and the Option with the Biggest Total Score wins.

Sample Decision Matrix with Notes

Sample Decision Matrix with Notes

 

Download a Blank Decision Matrix Form that you can fill in!



Blank Decision Matrix

Blank Decision Matrix

There is not a limit to the number of Options or Criteria you can use in making a decision.

Resources to Help Make the Decision

In the event that financial challenges are a major reason that you are unable to go to a university full time right away, there are a number of options available.  Many employers, including Dyncorp International where I worked before, offer tuition assistance.  A potential employer may help you to continue making progress toward a degree program without going off to college.  Night classes at a community college, junior college or on-line courses offered by many universities are another option to work on the goal of getting that degree while concurrently earning a living.  Bob Lotich has a good post on this topic on his Blog. Additionally, there are many sources of funds for your education.

Starting College First and Deciding on Major Later

Many people consider going to school for a few semesters before deciding on a major as a good route. That may be true for many.  There are lots of general education courses in the first few semesters.  Taking those courses while firming up a direction for your studies and your future career field can get you moving while deciding.  If you decide to go that route, I would encourage you to set deadlines for the decision. Then lay out a strategy for reaching the goal before the deadline you set for yourself in this area.  You can get more information on setting and achieving goals from my post The Startling Truth About Goals Objectives and Campaigns.

Researching potential degree plans is much easier now than ever before.  It would consist of looking at catalogs of schools you are considering and learning what jobs that degree would be suitable for.  With the loud whaling from graduates over the past few years, this part of the research process should be very important to you.  Matching your aptitudes to career fields and matching major choices to those career fields will get you on track.

College is expensive; so avoid wasting time and money on courses that do not move you in the direction of your goals.  Not that you will be able to avoid all wasted effort.  However, multiple changes of major is an expensive way to go through your college years.  Start developing habits of assessing your progress on a periodic basis and seek good counsel from a trusted adviser to help navigate this challenging phase of life.

Conclusion

Now you have some information to help with the process of making the determination whether to go to college right out of high school or wait.  If you decide to wait, the next step is to determine what you will do to either continue developing yourself such as with a vocational school and/or start working.  Remember that not moving forward is a really bad choice.  Breaking the inertia of doing nothing is a really big challenge.  Harder than the decision you are making now!

All those that care about you should be looking out for your best.  Hopefully they will support the decision you make about your education.  Doing the research and laying out the information that you used to make your decision will help them get behind the choice you have made.  They may add some factors into your decision matrix and help you recalculate the deciding factors.  Be open to this kind of support.

Drop me a note in the comment section below and let me know how this has helped you.  Or ask me any questions you have to help you if you get stuck.  You can read more about my personal college experience in an earlier post: Why Didn’t Education Get Me Where I Wanted to Go?

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