The path to adulthood is often straightforward:
Graduate high school, get a four-year degree, pursue a master's if at all needed in your field, get the job, retire, die.
There is little room for error, and there are absolutely no rest stops or turnarounds. Few exceptions are made for those who attend trade schools (though we ridicule them for not being able to make it at a four-year) and those enlisting in the armed forces.
We are told all our lives to pursue our dreams and to make our aspirations our realities, but when it finally comes time to do exactly that, society tells us where to go and how to get there.
Community colleges are second rate.
Taking a year off is for quitters.
Working to save up money to afford college heightens your likelihood of never going.
Transferring schools will end only in failure.
Everyone changes their major at least three times, but you had better decide when you enroll exactly what you want to do or else you will add extra semesters to your grad count.
The way we frame and explain the U.S. post-secondary education system is flawed, useless, and ultimately harmful.
The amount of pressure put onto kids as they enter college the summer after they graduate high school is unbearable for most. Many wonder why so many college kids are suffering from mental illnesses, but the answers are all around, standing in the open with little humility.
It is okay to want kids to pursue a four-year college degree straight from the get-go, but it is equally important to support them and encourage them to find a way that works for them. For some, that means getting two years done at a community college before enrolling at a big university. For others, it means trying several schools before finding the right program and the right people. Some need a year to grow up, to find who they are before pledging a lifetime of student loan debt to a program that is not right for them. Some kids belong at a four-year school, and there is nothing wrong with that either. Each kid is different, and their career plan should reflect that.
It is time we support kids in what they are doing. Encourage them to chase down their dreams, provide resources on how to be smart with money, show them how filing taxes works, how to rent an apartment and sign up for loans. Help them along the way.
Most important of all — let them be who they want to be.
This is their future. Hell, they are the future.
There is more than one way to navigate life. In a country founded on pursuing dreams and forging unique paths, encouraging our children to do the same certainly should not be out of the question.