Any 20 something I know has faced the costly decision of whether or not to pursue higher education. “Even if I do go who’s to say my degree will reimburse itself ? And then what if I start in a particular field but change my mind”? How the hell am I supposed to know what I really want to do when I can barely pick out my own cereal? Will a degree really earn me more, or will I be buried in debt and scraping through paychecks to put out $1,500 per semester in textbooks”? No matter how you spin it, the odds are probably going to be stacked against you. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but I am going to encourage you to stand up against the odds.
Here’s why you should keep the conversation in your head going:
- Employers don’t necessarily want to see undergraduate degrees because it automatically makes you an expert. They do however, like to see that you can commit to a disciplined process that involves being responsive to authority (i.e. professors). You will always have to be trained and mentored, but will you be trainable and responsive? A degree vs a non degree will often lead employers to believe you will.
- You are marketing your face value. It’s messed up, but true. Employers often relate you investing yourself in something else as being more intent on investing yourself on the job. You are automatically “better” than that guy with the GED. It is wrong and it can feel unfair but it is more often than not the truth.
- If you can be patient and approach higher education like the business it is, you may be able to afford it. Start off at a junior college and take as many classes as you can. Get your momentum and minimalize your cost as best you can. Grab that associates degree and reasses your plan accordingly before moving forward.
- Avoid online schools. While they are convenient and ideal for individuals in rural areas they often come at a cost. Tuition is typically significantly higher and even if the digits don’t look different, you have to rememeber they have an extremely low overhead so either way they are selling you on convenience and nothing more. Online schools also tend to have hidden “exceptions” in the fine print. They will get you excited and on board with a nursing or teaching program only for you to find out after graduating that only 6/50 states will actually license you. Now, once you are moving toward a Masters it is much more likely Online Coursework is the way to go. For one you will have already established undergraduate/licensing in a state which then can be transfered to other states. Secondly, you will have a larger income base to work from, thus reducing overall debt.
- Just start. When people think College they often delve right into the overwhelming facets of finances. If you can’t take a full load, do what you can and ask as many questions as you can about what your time frame for completing the degree looks like. So often I see people get gridlocked and unhappy because it feels like they can’t go to a University, but they also hate where they stand in a given situation.
- Network at every turn. Whether you go to college or not, networking is everything. The reality is that most careers sit on a foundation of who do you know, how do they know you, and what value can they attest you will bring to your given field of work. It can be really difficult at times to put yourself out there, but you very rarely have anything to lose.
- Make your vote matter. Vote for state and federal officals that intend to improve the affordability of higher education (GO BERNIE). Also pay attention to the regulations the federal government intends to enforce regarding for profit online education companies.
- Find a trade school. Our country needs MORE trade schools. Not only can you often finish a program in a year or less but you have the opportunity to secure yourself with a specified skill in the job market. Not only will you make more money, you will feel good about having a “safety net” of sorts.
- Don’t let debt decide for you. Yes debt is scary, but you know what is worse? Not going if you really want to because of money. Just go. Not for anyone else but just for you. At some point if you want to build something better for yourself you will have to invest money you don’t have to get the job done. 90% of the time that is just how it works in this world. Employ a plan and stick to it.
Nothing in this life is guaranteed, but there are some things worth investing. If your dream job requires a degree, then go after it. If you don’t know what your dream job is but you are pretty sure it will require higher education, GO. I’m not saying it’s a fair system out there, but you can choose make the most of what exists. If you are satisfied with your life’s work and it didn’t cost you a fortune, bravo. Keep going and capitialize on every opportunity. Before you say no consider these as options, and if you are sure your answer is no, I would be interested in understanding what led you to that decision. Carry on my fellow brains.