For decades, it has been preached that the only path to a successful life is through obtaining a college degree.
For many, attending college and acquiring a 4-year degree might be necessary to live out their dreams and work in the industry they are passionate about. But for a growing portion of the population, college isn’t the way forward.
And for many recent high school graduates, they should at least delay entering college until they’ve had more time to think about their future.
PEOPLE ARE CHANGING THEIR MINDS ABOUT COLLEGE
It’s interesting – I’ve been writing and speaking about this idea for a while, but now I’ve been hearing more parents begin to question if they need to be paying for their kid’s college education, especially at such a high price-point.
And those who are still interested in doing so are at least looking for more cost-effective ways to do it.
Whenever I have this conversation with parents there are a handful of points that I like to bring up that tend to help them in their decision-making.
A TYPICAL CONVERSATION ABOUT COLLEGE
My college funding spiel tends to go something like this…
The statistics still show that having a college degree will greatly increase your lifetime earnings potential. On paper, and for the average person, going to college still makes a whole lot of sense. So, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t consider it. What I’m saying is that there needs to be a deeper assessment for your kid’s individual circumstance.
It’s very common for people to talk about “following your passion” and trying to make that your career. I believe that is truly great advice, and something that does wonders for increasing happiness.
The problem is that most 17- or 18-year-olds don’t truly know what they are passion about and what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Heck, many adults in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond are still trying to figure that out.
At this time in a kid’s life, it’s important to take a moment and think about the future and contemplate what the best course of action is for them, at that moment.
If they aren’t 100% sure about what they want to do, spending $50,000+ each year for four years is a very costly way for them to attempt to find their passion.
I say attempt because there is no guarantee they’ll find it in college.
If you are truly interested in your kid being happy and helping them find their passion, you could even send them around the world for a fraction of that cost. This would allow them to explore and discover new cultures, find out about new careers they never imagined existed, and get a stronger understanding of what they want for their future.
And at that point, if college is the right path, maybe they should go to a 2-year school and knock out a bunch of those electives and prerequisites for a much cheaper cost, and then transfer into a 4-year school to finish up and graduate with a degree.
NOT REQUIRING COLLEGE FOR YOUR CAREER
Or, maybe it turns out that what your child is truly passionate about doesn’t necessitate a college degree.
I have a friend that was never really interested in school and studying books. They barely made it through high school, and had no intention of going to college.
When they graduated from high school, they went into trades school and became an electrician. Now, this individual is making a really good income and loves what they are doing.
More people should have this level of self-awareness. And if they did, they would save themselves a lot of time and money.
THE FINANCIAL BENEFIT OF NOT PAYING FOR A HIGH-PRICED COLLEGE
If it so happens that you end up not paying for your child’s college costs (whether they paid for it themselves or never went at all), then this could be a big windfall for your family.
If they never use the money you’ve saved for their college education, you can do whatever you want with it!
You could give it to them as a funding mechanism for their retirement.
You could bolster your own retirement accounts and get their even faster.
You could even split it up and do a blend of those two, or anything else you imagine.
The possibilities are plentiful.
There Is No “Correct” Path
In the end, I have no real issue with going to college, or not.
If it’s necessary for what your kids want to do (think – Doctor, lawyer, etc.) and they are certain they want to do it, then it’s of course the right path.
But the second part of that sentence is the big “IF.” If they are certain they know they want to do it…
Because that’s just the point – it’s tough to see into the future. In fact, it’s nearly impossible.
My main recommendation is that most people could do really well to take some time and delay that decision in order to really think it through. And no matter what you choose, try and do it in the most cost-effective way that isn’t going to hurt your family’s financial future, and isn’t going to leave your child graduating college with a mountain of debt chained to that lovely diploma.