Dear Teen Girl: College is Not Required

Dear Teen Girl,

If you’re even semi close to graduating (like, within the next three years), you’ve probably gotten the question.

They mean well – most of the time – but it’s a question that you get sick of hearing, and are unsure of how to answer.  At sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, you’re not sure. You don’t know. You just don’t. 

College is a big step.  

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In fact, it’s a huge step, and one that you don’t want to take lightly. It’s expensive, it’s hard, and it’s going to take up most of your time and energy.  But the questions and other concerns still come. 

  • Are you going to college?
  • Which college are you planning to attend? 
  • What is your major going to be when you go to college? 
  • Oh, you don’t think you’re going to go to college? What are you going to do with your life? 
  • Are you sure you can get a job without a college degree? That’s hard. 
  • *nods, and then looks at you like you’re stupid* Oh. No college? 

Wow, okay. 

I had heard all of these (AND MORE) when I was in my junior and senior year of high school. I always answered it the same way: “I don’t want to go to college now, but maybe someday when I decide what I want to do I will.” People look at you like you’ve got two heads when you say that.

And it’s because our culture is so dead-set on sending every kid that it’s in high school, to college, and let’s be frank: 

COLLEGE IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER.

If you know what you want to do, by all means GO. Go earn that degree and work your butt off to do so. I’m proud of you if you know. 

But please, please, PLEASE do not feel pressured by your teachers, peers, or even your parents to go to college.

It’s expensive and if you’re unsure of what you want to do with your life, it’s a waste of your money. And student loans? You’ll have those for a really long time! (I was working at a small business when I was younger and my coworker who was in her forties and went to college straight out of high school told me she still had over two thousand dollars in student loans….twenty years later!)

I have friends who went to college right out of high school and changed their major three times before deciding what they wanted to do. Took them three years to get a two-year degree, or five years to get a four year degree. 

Don’t let the questions, rude glances, or eye-rolling (Yes, you’ll get that!) make you feel like you have to. Take some time to figure it out. Get a job, save some money – decide if college is right for you.

So. Are you going to college?

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  • I was kind of a slacker towards the end of high school, so no one really batted an eye at my defiance against college. I thought I was so much better off without it. Flash forward a few years and I was dying to go. Unfortunately money got in the way and I could only just now start at age 24. Even though it’s probably better in the long run that I waited to go until I actually WANTED to and therefore am putting more effort in, I wish I had gotten to that place a little sooner lol

    • Actually, you’re probably better off, Ember. At least now you are mature enough to know what you want. Good luck!

      • that’s very true! I probably would have wasted time and money deciding on a major through those years! Thank you!!

  • Miranda Williams

    I wanted to go to college and really enjoyed my time there, but that’s because it was the right choice for me. I took a year off between undergrad and graduate school (even though everyone told me if I took a break I would never go back) and it was the best decision. Getting annoyed with a 10 page paper is really put into perspective when you think back to working in a call center for $8/hr. I definitely don’t think college is for everyone… and forcing a decision on someone very rarely works out the way you want it to.