A 4-Year College Is Not The Only Path For A Successful Future

A 4-Year College Is Not The Only Path For A Successful Future

It is time to let them make their own decisions.

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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.

Cover Image Credit:

Mallorie Jordan

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To The Incoming Freshman Girl Who'll Be Living In The Dorms, You Made The Right Choice

Living in a dorm freshman year might be one of the best college experiences you'll have.

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You receive your acceptance letter in the mail, and for the first time, it all feels real to you now. It's starting to sink in. Hard. The life you currently love and feel comfortable in is about to change in new and exciting ways that you may or may not be prepared for. You are so nervous but so ready. You've been ready. In just a couple of months, you'll be packing up your stuff, leaving the people you care about behind and moving away to begin your own personal college journey. All on your own. A journey that will mark a huge, important chapter in your life.

The months of waiting will turn into weeks, and suddenly, you'll be up at 6 a.m. with butterflies because it's move-in day. The day you've been waiting for. It's finally here.

Your parents and brother will help haul all your belongings to your new, 16-by-12 foot room that will now be your home. The best home. A home holding so many new and exciting memories to be made. You'll see a sea of unfamiliar faces just as overwhelmed as yours. You'll stare at your bed in awe, wondering how in the world your dorm-provided twin mattress will ever be comfortable enough for you. But trust me, it will. Along with everything else. Along with the newness and unfamiliar feelings that accompany your foreign surroundings. You'll start to wonder what it feels like to come home and lay here, after a fun night with friends, quietly staring at your ceiling until you fall asleep. Your new, unfamiliar ceiling. A ceiling that has covered so many other weary heads before yours, and will shelter you in the same way.

You'll wonder how you can possibly fit all your clothes in one small closet and 3 small dresser drawer drawers, but you will. You'll make it work. You always do. You'll get used to tip-toeing around your dorm room with your phone flashlight on before bed, because your roommate has an 8 a.m. and you can't wake her up. You'll get used to the long nights and early mornings. You'll get used to breathing the unfamiliar air. You'll adapt to the new and small space. Because it will be the best year of your life. Newness and all.

And you will never forget it.

You'll start to meet friends on your hall. You'll bond over the likeness of missing home, and sometimes missing that familiar structure it provides. You'll build trust. You'll borrow each other's belongings. You'll lean on one another and share difficulties. You'll adapt together. You'll work through the days that are harder than others. And those girls will not just become your new best friends, but your family. Laughing, crying, and confiding in one another will ground you. It will comfort you. You'll stay up until 2 in the morning talking about life, boys, and classes; and even though you have to wake up early for a 9 a.m. chem class, you won't care. You'll happily sit there and blink away the sleepiness because nights like those will be worth it. Sitting on your dorm room floor in pajamas with the girls who make it home will be worth it. Creating lasting memories will be worth it. Because they will become your sisters. You will share this whole experience together. You will go through things together. And you will love every second of it, together.

They'll walk in your room with tears and you won't even have to ask if they're OK, because you'll know. So you'll pat the edge of your bed and tell them to sit; letting them spill their bad day. That's how you'll get through the hard times. Together. Because helping each other through the hurt will be how you create such a special bond with one another. But then on other nights, you'll hear erupting laughter echoing throughout the halls. When you barge in to find the source of these giggles and all your friends are sprawled out together on the floor watching ridiculous videos, laughing until they cry, you'll remember just how lucky you are to have them.

Surrounded by people who somehow know how to your best days even better. And some nights, although you're trying to sleep, you won't even be irritated when you hear their loud voices booming through the hall late at night. Because you'll know they got home safe. And you'll remember that tomorrow will be another day.

You borrow clothes, borrow makeup, borrow straighteners, share advice, share love, but most importantly: share a bond. So when your suite mate is showering at 3 in the morning after finishing an all-night project, don't get annoyed. Because when you go in to talk to her, you'll realize just how fortunate you are to be living across from your best friend. There's no one else you'd rather be having 3 a.m. bathroom talks with, even if you do have an early class to attend. So you suck it up, and enjoy it anyway.

That's the fun in appreciating all of life's simple moments.

So even when you're tired and can't go back to sleep, it's OK to make some pasta, sit on the bed, and just talk. Because it'll be 4 a.m., and you know you have to wake up at 9, and that's OK. Because the best feeling in the world is knowing that small memories like those are the ones that are priceless. So soak them all up. Appreciate them. Sleep will be made-up, but time together won't.

So collect it all. Cherish it. Make it memorable. Go above and beyond to get everything you can from this experience. Because you will remember it forever. And you will never forget the girls who helped make it so special.

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Visiting Your Friends At Different Colleges Is Worth The Drive

Learning about the lives my friends are living at other schools is extremely interesting.

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When I went to college, many of my friends went to different schools. Some of us went to the same college, some went to other in-state schools and some even went out-of-state. If you are ever bored and are thinking about spending the weekend with your friend at their college, I recommend doing it!

As a student at the University of Florida, I already know the best places to eat, party and relax in Gainesville. During my time here, I have met so many new people and have experienced so many new things. But, sometimes I forget that my friends are living their own lives at different schools, as well.

When I went to visit one of my best friends at the University of Central Florida, it was neat to see how she matured as a person. She took me to all the cool bars, introduced me to all of her new friends and gave me a tour of campus. Getting to see how she has evolved so much was so fascinating.

Visiting my friends at Florida State University was a whole experience in itself. I had many friends go to this school. Each of them lives their own lives, some still hang out, and some are even roommates. The culture at each university is so much different than the culture at my school. It was fun to meet all of their new classmates and sorority sisters. Getting to know the people that spend every day with the friends that I used to spend every day with is something I love to do.

If you ever have a break from studying, get a little bored, or even just miss your friends, give them a call and ask to stay with them for the weekend! I promise you will learn so much more about them and how they are taking on their new phase of life.

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