Remember back in high school when everyone was talking about what college they applied to and which one they were going to pick? My high school even had a wall dedicated to the seniors, with their portraits printed on an 8.5”x11” and all of the colleges listed that they were accepted to. Wow, the girl in drama club got into Emory. Wow, this person got into UGA. I don’t think anyone from my high school made it to the Ivy Leagues, but some of the seniors found this wall important to show off their academic prowess… and the wall that showed off high GPAs and outstanding standardized test scores.
My high school offered college level (AP) classes and was a huge proponent of going to college right after graduation. What my high school failed to prep students for was life after college– your career. They didn’t teach us about different careers nor the qualifications you needed to obtain certain careers. For instance, if your plan was to be an attorney, they didn’t warn you that Pre-Law majors traditionally don’t score high enough on the LSAT to be accepted into law school. They didn’t tell you if that was your end goal, you should major in something academic like Philosophy, Economics, or Political Science.
“Vocation” was a bad word, and if your plan was to go to a trade school, you were a failure. My school was focused on grooming students to achieve high test scores but forgot that test scores aren’t as important as the students themselves. We weren’t groomed for success, rather a tiny little box to squeeze into.
Should I Go to College?
The decision to go or not go to college is one that should not be made lightly. However, often times it is. Some people go to college right after high school because they’re told they’re supposed to, but they had other plans in mind.
With the support and encouragement from my family, I took a year off after high school. All through school, my plan was to enlist in the Marines as soon as I could and say goodbye to Georgia entirely. By my senior year, I was training about two hours a day and once a week with a recruiter. Push ups, pull ups, running, ammo can lifts… I was dedicated.
Half way through that year, my recruiter sat down with me and told me the lies about my past that I’d need to say at MEPS that might help my chances in being cleared. I had to lie about my suicide attempts and ideations because of my extensive history with self harm that was clear on my body, despite the newest scar having been two years old.
That kind of deflated me. I’ve never been comfortable with nor particularly good at lying, so I didn’t know what to do. Then I went through a complete life change, and I had no idea what my purpose or direction was anymore.
This all brought me to my year off.
My Year Off
My “place holder” job was working for my dad as his social media manager. It turns out social media marketing is something I’m passionate about. I spent a year researching what to do, how to do it, and how to do everything right.
My boyfriend’s aunt does this professionally, so I spent time talking to her. My brother’s girlfriend was doing the same thing for the company she worked for at the time, so I spent a day with her at her job learning her process.
Social media is a world that is constantly changing, and I make sure I know about these changes so I can continually get better. There’s always something to learn. So when the time came around to apply to school, I applied to Kennesaw State University and was accepted. But there was this feeling I couldn’t shake that it wasn’t right for me.
My parents and one of brothers asked me why I was even going to school, mainly because their degrees weren’t the stepping stone to where they are now. A theology major, a music major/business minor, and a college dropout. A small business owner, a director of business development, and a bookkeeper.
For me, there’s not a specific degree to earn to be “qualified” as a social media manager. I could major in business, English, or public relations so companies will notice my resume and then learn the necessary skills after that. Or I could enroll in the specialized courses for learning social media and let my experience speak for me.
My goal isn’t to work for someone else. My goal is to work for myself, and I already have a job that I’m happy at and have no worries that it suddenly won’t be there. My next step is to be my own boss.
My year off went from exploring what I should major in to be successful to finding out that college isn’t the stepping stone I need to become successful by my definition.
I took to Instagram to ask my followers about their college experience. Most people went to college right after high school. Some people declared a major right away. Some people knew what they wanted to do afterwards. I also asked people to tell me why they did or did not go to school immediately.
Some of the responses I got satisfied my curiosity about college being worth it, like their goal requiring a degree or breaking the poverty trend in their family. Butt some of the responses deflated me.
“My dad wanted me to [go]. I wanted to take a break originally.”
“Honestly it was mostly pressure. I really wanted a gap year, but everyone I knew was matriculating. My first semester suffered from it.”
“Cause my mom wanted me to [go]. I definitely don’t need a degree for the job I want.”
“I wanted to go active duty in the army, but my parents said it would be disrespectful to not go to college because of all the Christmases they gave me. Now I’m unhappy and kind of resent them.”
What I’ve concluded is that the decision to go to college is one that should be made the person and not his/her parents or anything other than what they intend to do and how to get there. Am I qualified to say college is beneficial or not? Absolutely not. But because it’s such a major decision to make, I’m a believer in weighing the cost.
To anyone reading this who has not made their decision yet, I encourage you to explore all of your options. The popular complaint is having a degree but no experience so not being able to get hired. And honestly, the “solution” to this complaint is to make connections.
I know people who made their connections through their college professors to land the job that became their career. By no means am I saying that college is pointless. It’s not. I just don’t think it’s for everyone.
If your goal is to enter the professional, academic, or technical role, then absolutely go to college. It’s for the creative professions like being a designer, photographer, etc., that I think a heavier emphasis should be put on specialized courses rather than a four-year degree.
My goal for you is to think about what your plan is for yourself. I mean really think about it and conduct a plan. Write that plan down, save it in your phone. Make it tangible. Research what the leaders in that field did to get where they are. Find people you can talk to who had to make similar decisions.
Every decision you make about your future– make them count. Whether you go to college or not, make that decision mean something and stand by it.