As soon as you enter high school, your main focus is getting into college: you start college prep classes, rack up extra-curricular activities to put on your application, and painstakingly groom your GPA to stand out amongst other college-hopefuls. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes claim to push you to extremes in order to prepare you for higher education, your coaches are training you for college-level competition, and you’re writing endless essays on why a college should accept you and give you money.
The only problem with this set-up is that none of it truly prepares you for college.
The only thing I gained from the stress and tears from pushing myself to be ready for college was a false sense of security and confidence.
When I registered for classes my freshman year, I was convinced I had it all figured out and that the whole university thing would be a breeze.
I was so wrong.
AP classes taught me how to analyze literature, and write a bomb essay; but it didn’t help me navigate the bureaucracy that is the University system. Extra-curricular activities made me well-rounded and open-minded; but I didn’t learn how to balance my social life with my classes. I studied hard and got help to maintain a good GPA, but I had no idea what I wanted to major or minor in—let alone what I wanted to do with that degree.
Long story short, I was prepared to get accepted to a college, but nothing more.
Society pushes and pushes 17 and 18-year-olds to go to college—and nothing more. We don’t prepare them for what going to a community college or university entails.
How do they know what classes they should be taking? Pushing them to just take a bunch of random general education credits often just sets them back without putting them on a set career path. Sure, you get to take a lot of fun classes, but many of them don’t count towards a degree, and often times don’t even fulfill the necessary general education credits.
We keep telling these young adults that they have four years to figure out what they want to do, but that’s a load of crap. They have maybe a semester or two to figure it out before they either fall behind, or they find themselves stuck in a major or career path that they don’t feel passionate about.
There is so much focus on getting into college, that way too many people find themselves with just a very expensive piece of paper to show for it. Congratulations, you’re now $50,000 in debt and now you have a degree that you’ll never use! It’s wonderful.
If we are going to keep forcing people who aren’t even of legal age to drink alcohol to make such a drastic life decision, maybe we should rethink how we go about it. Maybe the focus shouldn’t be on getting into a University so much as building a career. Let’s help young people find something they are passionate about, something that gets them up in the morning, and help them make a living off of it.
Let’s help them recognize that a degree isn’t everything; it’s a resume builder for most professions—not a requirement. Let’s push people to focus on finding something that makes them happy, rather than pushing them into debt at such a young age.
Forcing college onto people at such a young age is so dangerous, and even destructive. What we should be focusing on is supplying the necessary tools for being successful in all aspects of life: career, mental health, social life, etc, regardless of whether or not the individual pursues higher education. A degree means nothing if you spend your life unhappy, in debt, and full of regret.