We just graduated our second child from our homeschool. The first question everyone asks upon discovering this is—you guessed it—“Where is he going to college?” Well, he’s not going to college.
The question is uncomfortable, and I wish people would broaden their view of post-high school life. When I say that he isn’t going to college, the barely-concealed disappointment says volumes about the expectations of our youth. Seventy percent of high school graduates attend college as their next step. The generally accepted wisdom is that college is necessary for a successful career and life. Here are some reasons why my son is not going to college.
College Does Not Equal Success
However, a large percentage of these students start college, not knowing what they are there to study. Most will not finish in four years, and many won’t finish at all. Those who do finish very likely won’t find work in the field that they studied. Meanwhile, the national college debt burden is more than $1 trillion. There are many, many college graduates saddled with more than $35,000 in debt, working at low wage jobs. (About 100 graduates have student debt of $1 million or more!) They can’t find work in those promised, lucrative positions for which they went to college in the first place. I know millennials who must work two jobs in order to make ends meet. My oldest daughter works with these unfortunate young people while she takes classes in the Adobe Creative Suite and builds her design portfolio. Like her brother, she is not going to college, either.
Why pay for expertise you can get for free (or almost)?
If my son was interested in pursuing a licensed profession—think doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, architect—then I certainly would bend over backwards to help him do it affordably and successfully. But his interests, like his older sister, are in the digital arts—things like 3-D animation, videography, 3-D modeling, design and illustration, and podcasting. He has already begun teaching himself the software and experimenting with his own storyboarding. If he can teach himself, why does he need a professor?
With YouTube, Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, MIT Open Courseware, Skillshare, Instructables, Lynda.com and many more, anyone can learn anything at any time from anywhere in the world, and even learn from industry leaders and experts; all this at a fraction of the cost of college, even for free. The only downside is that students need to prove their knowledge, somehow, since they don’t get a degree for self-educating. But a college degree doesn’t necessarily offer the proof employers are looking for. (Click HERE to find out what skills your teen really needs.) In fact, in my discussions with some corporate folks, they complain of a skills gap–a gap between what they need and what new college graduates know. Hmm…
Most colleges don’t offer what businesses are really looking for: experience
Again, those entering the licensed professions must go to college, but most people don’t study those fields. They major in English, History, Psychology, Business, Computer Science, etc., believing that the degree itself is enough to ensure higher wages. I thought that, too, and hold a BA in Psychology. However, what is the number one requirement on almost every job posting? Experience; experience that most colleges do not offer. Homeschoolers are uniquely positioned to gain work experience, start businesses, and build portfolios while still in high school. We have the ultimate advantages of flexibility, out-of-the-box thinking, lifelong learning, and work ethic, to do things differently.
I like to think that the values my children learned from being homeschooled don’t end just because they graduated. The propensity to think critically about their educational options, and the desire to pursue their dreams on their own terms, burns brightly in their hearts. With so many paths available to our teens, let’s not put them in the college box unless that is truly the only option.