“I’ve decided not to go to college.”
For those of you with high school age children, how do you respond to that? What goes through your mind?
When I heard it from my daughter last week, I felt…anxious. What do you mean you don’t want to go to college?? We have told her for many years now-as do most parents-that we will support her and be proud of any career she chooses as long as she is passionate about it and as long as she is willing to work tremendously hard to do it well. Whatever “it” was.
But I didn’t think of any of those comments in that moment. I thought about what her future held if she didn’t go to college. Formal education past high school isn’t the holy grail to effectiveness in life, but there are life experiences that happen in college that aren’t simulated elsewhere. The books she could read on her own. The papers she could write on her own, but what about the relationships?
I loved and hated the discussions and arguments I used to have with roommates, classmates, professor and academic advisors, but they certainly helped me with future relationships in both my personal and professional life. I learned what it meant to “fight fair,” to disagree with another person’s position respectfully. Growing up with many siblings, I thought I understood what it meant to share living space with another person and how to listen to others’ opinions, but college took that a further step and taught me how to navigate living space with a stranger with idiosyncrasies and habits I couldn’t understand. I thought I was open-minded, but I would sit in classes and listen to other people with various backgrounds and realize how little I knew about the world and its perspectives.
Okay, I did worry about whether her resume would be considered once hiring managers saw that she didn’t attend college. I’d like to think that employers would look beyond the education section of a resume to the experience a person held, but I know how often I look at the education portion of a resume and make quick judgments. Going to college doesn’t teach a young person everything they need to know, but it’s a great transition period between youth and adulthood, and I just want my daughter to have that.
Some of you might want to throw a book at me right now. I know! I’m neurotic since Lexi is six and in the first grade, but all of that really did go through my mind. I didn’t voice any of it!
I asked, “Why don’t you want to go to college, Lexi?”
“Because, Mommy, I don’t want to take out school loans to go. I don’t want to borrow money I don’t have and worry about having a job that makes enough money to pay it back. I just want to have a job I love and not have any loans.”
You all, she had an excellent point. I wish I hadn’t taken out massive school loans to fund my education. Anxiety gave way to relief that Lexi will be much more conscientious about good financial stewardship as she gets older.
I gave her a great big hug for thinking ahead…and then launched into a spiel about how she needs to work really hard to earn scholarships to go to college AND avoid incurring loans.
I know. She’s six. Go ahead and throw a book at me. I can take it.