There are more and more people skipping out on the four-year college grind and forging their own path instead.
Personally, I did the school thing — and during my undergraduate career, I went to four colleges in four years. I switched my major three times, moved to three different cities and shelled out a lot of money.
Though I learned a lot, the best part of college was the people I met, the discussions I engaged in and the learning how to accept and navigate through different viewpoints. All of these are things you can accomplish without paying thousands of dollars.
Over 66 percent of the American population does not have a college degree. For those that start college between 18 and 20 years old, nearly 40 percent drop out. For older students, the number of students who drop out before completing their degree jumps up to 60 percent.
But even if you drop out, you are still saddled with the debt you have incurred while in school. As of 2017, a four-year college education costs about $100,000 — roughly $25,000 a year for tuition, room, board and other fees. With those statistics — and that price tag — you want to be sure that college is the path for you.
Here are some reasons it might not be:
1. You would rather learn a trade.
Trade and vocational schools are great ways to get yourself into a career ASAP. Being a mechanic, electrician, medical administrator and hair stylist are all examples of trades that pay well and don’t require a bachelor’s degree. Trade schools are an awesome alternative to college; you're still learning, but you’re honing your job skills faster because you are only taking classes specific to the career you're studying.
2. The career you want doesn't require a degree.
Maybe you know the job you want and it only requires a certificate. You can get that online for way cheaper than going to college. Or, maybe you have a start-up idea and it’s already exciting investors. Crowdfunding is an easy method to earn start-up money that doesn't require a fancy diploma. Good ideas know no educational bounds.
3. You already have a job that you want to turn into a career.
If you started a job in high school and know it's the career you want, leaving for college may not be in your best interest. If you really enjoy where you are, a college degree wouldn’t translate into more money. You may want to skip out on the four years and focus your energy into your current job.
4. You would rather travel with the money you’ve saved.
The idea of immersing yourself in other cultures and learning on the road is great for some people, but maybe you don’t know what you want to do and don’t want to shell out a bunch of money in college to find out. That's when taking the time to travel can be very beneficial.
You may learn a lot about yourself and the world around you, but you won’t come back with any discernable skills that will help you launch a career. In order to pursue your wanderlust, take a “gap year” to find yourself. Use that time to determine your next steps. Whether that is a more traditional path to ensure you gain the skills to make you marketable, trade school or something else will be based on you and your experiences.
Overall, the most important post-high school path to the one that lets you be true to you as that will lead to your success. Whether that’s a traditional four-year school, an online learning platform like Udemy or traveling wherever your gypsy heart decides, choose what makes sense for your career goals.
Alexandra Deabler is a writer and editor. She has published articles about California history, travel, food, and short fiction. She can be reached through her website: alexandradeabler.com.