There's an intrigue piece in today's Washington Post with the seductive title "Is College Overrated?" To check it out, click here. I read it with great interest, because, around here with Sisi already a freshman in high school this Fall, the topic of college is becoming more and more relevant.
Given that I'm fairly (over)educated myself, it may surprise you to know that, not only do I fully agree with the article, but we have pretty much already decided: Sisi will not jump directly to college from high school. It's not that she's not smart, nor do we believe college is unnecessary. It's a question of focus and maturity.
Rare is the high school senior who knows exactly what she wants to do with the rest of her life from the moment she crosses the graduation stage. I'll never forget in my own freshman year of college, my English teacher (who bore the ominous nickname 'Bloody Mary') told us our first day point-blank: "Most of you don't belong here. You're just not ready for serious study." Of course, she was right: most of the class was more interested in pledging a sorority or fraternity and exploring their newfound independence than writing analyses of the works of Dead American Poets. And while there's nothing wrong with sororities and fraternities and nothing wrong with exploring newfound independence, I'm sure their parents didn't appreciate paying what would amount to $15,000 to $50,000 a year for that privilege.
I know I don't want to pay that. Exporation and independence, life experience and focus can be had for a whole lot less than tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, kids and earn money while acquiring it.
Obviously, for some (few) kids, college is the next best step. But we've already discussed what will happen when Sisi graduates. She'll have an allotment of money to spend on travel, or on a car, or, if she's got a plan, a business idea. If she chooses the car, she'll take a few classes at the local junior college and get a job. She'll pay rent if she decides to live here with us (nothing major, more on principle) and be allowed to explore her independence while earning money, sticking a toe in the academic waters and figuring out what her passions in life are.
She's mentioned getting work on a cruise ship and I think that would be a tremendous life experience and opportunity. Later, if she really liked it, a degree in business, management, or hospitality would make sense. A three-month contract on a cruise ship would be enough to figure out if the industry was something she really wanted to pursue... and she'll get to travel as well as make some money.
She's mentioned veterinary medicine. Why not work with a volunteer shelter organization for six months or a year? Do you still like animals? If so, let's go to school, knowing what your career will really look like.
She made the prestigious Treble Choir at her high school. Want to try the music industry? Use your money to live on and get an internship with a record label. Find out what it's like. Want to sing? Use your money to form a band, tour and produce music. When you realize you need more education, go get it.
Experience is the best teacher here and it seems some of us might be doing this backwards by sending kids to college straight out of high school, enabling them to prolong the realizations about their true interests at our expense. We're going to try to do it the other way: experiences first, education after.
Perhaps because of my own (dubious) experiences with higher education, I've long believed that a little time off is helpful for kids. Sisi knows she has that time to explore. Then, and only then, will we make a plan for her higher education-- in the hopes that when she goes to college, she won't be just another unfocused student on the parentally-subsidized party train.
What are your thoughts? Is college overrated? Love to hear from you.