Word on the street is that being enrolled in college is the thing to do these days, especially in your 20’s. Not only is it all the rage, but it almost seems required. “You’re not going to get a job without a degree, darling,” seems to be the punchline to every American’s early adult life. This is an outdated notion we need to consider kicking.
Our society seems to be coming out of our conventional ways slowly but surely — in ways such as accepting the LGBTQ+ community, not tolerating racism and promoting equality for everyone. My hope is that we can define our journey to success not so much by a degree from college, but through experiences and what people can bring to the table.
College, according to the ever-so-accurate Urban Dictionary, is defined as “The place where you accumulate an exorbitant amount of debt to ‘learn’ things you will never apply once to your actual occupation. Basically, an expensive four-year waiting period for a paper called a ‘degree.’” I hear similar perceptions of college all the time by people in my generation. How true is this view, and why are we still feeling the pressure to succumb to this expectation of being a college student in our early twenties even though there are extreme financial burdens that come with it? It’s a gamble and a risk that we all feel pressured to pursue.
This is an issue that many students become concerned with starting their freshman year of college after submitting a 10-page paper and realizing that the only person reading it is their professor. Or, when they see the amount due for their tuition, or when they buy their first $400 textbook. All of this creates a sense of unfulfilled purpose and consistent financial hits. These feelings beg the question of why we are even in college, and whether we could drop out, go to a trade school for a couple of years and pretty much be guaranteed a salary of around $40,000 a year. David Curtis, a former University of Utah student, seems to think the latter is the better path. In fact, he had an experience identical to this. Curtis got a job and took off time from school to work at a machine shop. He adored his job and was making more than most college students make years after graduation. “Even though I loved my job and was making a decent wage, I was constantly feeling pressure from society to go back to school. Everyone made me feel like I was doing something wrong.”
This isn’t uncommon. We all have that friend who isn’t enrolled in college and when asked the daunting question of “what are you doing nowadays?” they feel insecure to answer. This shouldn’t be the case, no one should feel like they aren’t doing anything worthwhile just because they aren’t enrolled in school. College is expensive, and the expectation of enrolling immediately after high school or your future is doomed is a notion that needs to be eradicated. If someone is going to spend thousands of dollars a year, they should make sure they know exactly what they want to go into and be passionate about it.
Curtis continues to explain his opinion on this issue. “I could have spent a few months going to a trade school, like welding, for example, and made a very livable wage. Society, however, frowns upon this. Kids go to school, get meaningless degrees and end up in debt, with no job, no work experience, and barely any skills, so they can’t find work.”
Our society needs to stop pressuring young adults to immediately figure out what they want to do in life. We need to stop assuming that college is a mandatory way to succeed. We need to become more accepting and embracing of the nonconventional ways to success such as entrepreneurship, or years of job and internship experience. People need to better understand and accept that individuals have their own paths in life, and stop judging their progress simply based on whether it’s a path to graduation.