I’m 16. Should I plan to go to college?

I stumbled upon your page because it came as the top result when I googled “random trash colleges”. I google this because one of my classes requires me to sign up for a college. In all honesty I don’t know whether college is the right choice for me, I have a 3.9 GPA and 1300 SAT which is considered good, but I don’t think going to college is worth having the crazy high tuition nowadays. My question to you is, if you have gone to college, was it worth the tuition?

7 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    College serves two purposes: gaining a pedigree and a network (think: Harvard) and gaining time to figure out how to enter the workforce (think: unqualified for anything after high school).

    If you are a great candidate in the workforce, you can skip college and get a job. And If you’re not a great candidate then college gives you time to collect work experience. The aim here is to make a good transition into adulthood. Your first chance to do this is in high school. If you miss out on taking that chance, you can get a second chance during college.

    If you are a great candidate for college you can get free tuition. If you are not that good a candidate then you can go to a cheap community college and get a degree. In any case, you should never graduate with a lot of debt. There is no degree that’s worth it precisely because the best schools make sure their students aren’t tied down in adult life by college debt.

    If you go to college to get extra time to position yourself as a candidate for the workforce, don’t worry about keeping up your grades in school — no one will ask your GPA. But you do need to stay in school and not fail out because you will have access to the best internships if you’re a student.

    Remember that no one gets a free pass in college to just have fun. The entry into adult life is difficult for anyone — even from a top school — if they have no experience relevant to the on-ramp they are taking into adult life.


  2. Mysticaltyger
    Mysticaltyger says:

    Overall great advice. I do, however, think grades to matter more than you say, Penelope. For some majors, you have to have a certain GPA to even get into the major. Same idea for MBA and medical school programs. But you’re right in that many fields that isn’t the case, and grades shouldn’t come at the expense of making contacts and getting relevant work experience.

  3. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    This completely resonates with me. As someone who graduated from a top-5 school in 2009 and now owns my own business, I can safely say that 1) I don’t use anything in my job that I could only get in college (read: you can google pretty much everything your professors would teach you) and 2) as an employer, I look at someone’s skills, not their educational history, and never hire based on education.

    If I’m honest, the only reason I ask people about college is to see what they studied, because usually you can tell by their major whether they were there for a reason or spent 4 years with no plan and no understanding of the real world (if I think they wasted their time in college, the degree actually counts against them because I don’t want to hire someone who has no goals).

  4. Cat
    Cat says:

    The scholarship system is, in general, set up for people straight out of high school. So, to the extent that you are scholarship material, you should not procrastinate until next year to apply.

    Many professions require a certain amount of schooling for entry. (ex: civil engineering/architecture, law, medicine (you don’t want the jobs that you can get without at least a bachelors in nursing).

    Some professions like a degree, but a qualified candidate can get in the door without it because the demand is high enough. Computer science is the most famous of these, but be aware that you’ll be working in tech hubs exclusively if you don’t have the degree, because hiring managers in flyover country are not nearly as forgiving.

    Many professions (plumbing, carpentry, auto repair) require specialized skills, and in some states an apprenticeship, but no degree.

    Be aware that any profession licensed at the state level, from lawyer to HVAC repair, is not very portable.

    Figure out which profession you want for your first job. Do the minimum amount of schooling at the cheapest place possible that is necessary to secure the job. You’ll propbably be re-training (formally or informally) multiple times in your lifetime, so don’t worry too much about screwing it up on the first go round.

  5. Caro
    Caro says:

    Another option is to start at community college and finish at a real school to save money and get a more valuable degree. There was a special program for this when I attended the University of Victoria many years ago and it can’t be the only one.

  6. Tubalcain
    Tubalcain says:

    To supplement my day job, I teach part-time evenings in a 9 month welding program at a community college. The school also offers machinist, millwright, electrician, HVAC, heavy equipment mechanics, plumbing programs, etc. Every day, I deal with companies in my day job who are crying for skilled welders and machinists. The school can’t graduate students fast enough to fill these jobs. The median age for welders and machinists are now in the mid-upper 50s. This young man might consider 9-18 month vocational training in a trade. If not, at least do his first 2 years at a community college (cheaper, live at home, work part-time, not so much goofy SJW shenanigans, Greek life foolishness, etc.), then transfer to a small or mid-size second tier college and finish it out if he feels he needs a college degree. I will say that STEM is not all its cracked up to be. I have 4 young men in my welding classes that are graduate M.E.s who are good students, but they spent over a year job hunting, were willing to relocate, and were not expecting doctors wages to start, but they either found no jobs, or they were offered low ball salaries in the $30Ks. These guys are re-training so they can at least get entry-level welding jobs in welding to be employable. This young man might also investigate OJT, or finding an entry- level job to earn while he learns, or he may look at starting a small business. He sounds sensible , ambitious, and level-headed. IMHO, he needs to ignore any and all bad advice from counselors and helicopter parents. The last thing I’d want to see for this young man is another casualty of worthless toilet paper degrees and no marketable skills from some ivory tower man-hating university.

    • anabag
      anabag says:

      Why do you assume the OP is a young man? I envisioned a 16-year-old girl. Which is not to say she shouldn’t consider a career in welding.

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