There are many important questions students should ask themselves before diving into a college program. The answers to those questions are incredibly valuable, but far too many prospective students enroll without the information they need. Students, young and older, enroll into programs without an idea of overall costs and without much direction – all for the glory of a college diploma. There is still this old idea wafting across America that a college diploma is another one of Wonka’s Golden Tickets to paradise. Like Charlie, these aspiring grads are excited to embark on the journey and expect rivers of chocolate to float them to graduation. And also like Charlie, they soon realize the sweet paradise is not so auspicious.
It’s like a man who dreams of sailing across the wide blue ocean, but without a navigation system and without basic compass skills. All he knows is that he wants to jump on a boat and set sail for East…or West…well, he doesn’t even really know. The aspiring sailor hasn’t even asked himself that question. Similarly, most of our students aren’t prepared to make a realistic and affordable college decision. They’re not stupid, they’re just unprepared. They are unprepared to make that decision and have not been told the warnings. They have no experience, and little information to work with. This fault is collective.
Deciding to attend college, and then choosing a college, can be an overwhelming decision; and it is often times confusing for new and returning students. Most students struggle through the decision, and hope for the best. Can we blame them? College preparation just isn’t encouraged across all sectors of society. Finding help navigating the world of higher education is a rare finding for lower income families, but also for higher income. Our youth are burdened, without even knowing it, with making a decision which can cost them a house, car, and adequate retirement savings in the future. Yes, college can be that expensive, so expensive it can derail future plans. Again, the fault is collective.
If you are not a potential student, put yourself into the shoes of someone you know who is. It’ll probably be someone young, but you may know an adult who is returning to school or just starting out. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself or the prospective student you know…
Are you willing to pay $50,000 or more (50K is on the cheap end) to learn a subject, or can you learn that subject another way and inexpensively?
If it’s a specific skill you would like to learn, do you have to go to college to learn it?
Is there a trade program that can certify you instead?
Are you going to college simply because you feel you should?
Do you tell yourself that you’re getting older, so now is the time to start college before it’s too late?
Are you feeling pressured to attend college, but you don’t have the time or desire to go right now?
Does going to college have anything to do with finding your identity,or proving something to someone?
Are you fairly certain that the degree you want will land you the job you want?
Do you have a career goal in mind?
Have you interviewed graduates from your program of interest – to see if they are in the job they initially wanted?
If you’re taking out student loans – do you have a plan for paying those back quickly?
Do you know how student loans work?
Just like any other major purchase in life, a person should never feel forced into saying “yes” to a decision that they are not comfortable making. A college education is wonderful. No doubt. It’s still very valuable. But it’s something that must be approached carefully and with a lot of information in hand.
If you are currently making this decision, or you know of someone who is, you (or they) are not alone in making it. There are hundreds of people enrolling into college programs every day – and many of these college bound hopefuls either change majors, withdraw, or are withdrawn because they leaped too soon. Don’t leap too soon and unprepared.
This decision must be explored carefully and given time. Our students will gain the most from a college education when made with sheer confidence.