It's a Horned Frog World

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

College isn't for everyone, at least not right away

College is no longer a choice. Americans have made attending college directly out of high school such a norm, that students are no longer presented with the alternatives.

It is true that a college graduate is more likely to be successful than a less-educated person. But what is the big hurry for this so-called success?

Many students entering college in the fall, after their high school graduation, have no idea what they are there for. They don’t know what they want to do and can’t fully commit themselves to their studies. This is a waste of time and money.

In Australia, it is strongly encouraged to travel and work after high school graduation. The importance of a college education is not emphasized any less. But there is a greater emphasis on the commitment to college.

The Australian point of view is that once students do go back to school, they are ready. They can choose a major with a better view of the real world.

Also, is college the only alternative? For students who just aren’t made to be students, is their only alternative to struggle through college? I don’t think college is for everyone, and I think alternatives should be emphasized more.

Denise Daly


  • Denise,
    This solution may not appeal to all, but may I humbly (and strongly) recommend a tour of duty in one of our oustanding branches of service for those not quite ready for the college plunge?

    LCDR Tammy Swofford, USNR,NC

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:38 AM  

  • You're right, college isn't for everybody, and taking a year off after high school might help many young people focus once they start college. But for kids who come from less affluent families, not going immediately may mean not going at all. The pressure to work, and keep working, to help the family may rule out college.

    I'd support something similar to Ms. Swofford's suggestion, only not limit it to military service. What is Americorps, the national service corps, became mandatory? There is something valuable about realizing you owe a lot to the society that raised you. Like military experience, it would also expose high school grads to others from very different backgrounds. Plus, it would be extremely educational -- you'd learn about the project you're working on (could be conservation, education, health, adult literacy, and the part of the country you're working in). The most educational experience I ever had wasn't college or graduate school, it was spending a couple years as a police reporter for the Dallas Morning News. I had had a pretty sheltered, suburban life, and cops reporting showed me how lucky I'd been.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:17 PM  

  • I took quite a bit of time off after high school. I had a good career making $2.42/hour in radio, so why did I need college? This was 1974. By 1987 I realized that I needed college and I had really messed things up. The great thing about our country is that no matter how badly you screw your life up, there is always a second chance. In my case, I finished 2 bachelors degrees and my professional education with a GPA WELL above average for the schools. Oh, and one other thing: I did so without the benefit of high school. I was so convinced that I was onto a great career in radio (read: high paying) that I dropped out of high school in my senior year. The point is that a year or two after high school is trivial and either joining the service or working a job will not hurt you. It may help. The real world will open your eyes to your own significance very quickly.

    By Blogger Mark Homer For State Representative, at 8:49 AM  

  • As one whose academic career is nothing if not picaresque, I can speak to this question. In many respects, college, like youth, is wasted on the young.

    There are so many things in the world that taking a year or two to look about one is a pretty good idea. In some countries, Switzerland, for instance, a year of national service is required before college.

    But given the choice of an imperfect college experience and not going at all, I am not sure that not going should be that much of a tragedy.

    What is reprehensible would be to be thrown into the "real world," possibly including family responsibilities, without the tools to succeed. Surely, our secondary schools ought to be able to prepare high school graduates who wish it, with a trade or craft by which they can earn a living, and perhaps enough to pay for college.

    It may take time. My mother didn't get her bachelors until she was 45. I didn't get mine until I was 31. But we are the exception. The minimum end of the wage scale is full of community or four year college drop outs who will never get far enough ahead to go back to school.

    This, like most questions, cannot be answered in the abstract. Only on an individual basis. But a year or two in national service of one sort or another would provide a benefit to a great many people.

    By Blogger Tom in Dallas, at 4:11 PM  

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