Everyone Isn’t Going to College

Everyone isn’t going to college.

Consider this my own little Public Service Announcement: Every kid who is graduating from high school right now is not going to college. Sure, lots of them are, but lots of them aren’t, and we need to be mindful of that.

If you encounter a high school senior in the next month or so, don’t ask them where they’re going to college. In fact, don’t ask that question, even if you know they are going to college. Some of those who are going are struggling with the decision. And the ones who aren’t going to college, I’m sure, get tired of that question. Why do we now assume everyone is going to college?!? For some of them, college is not the best option, for any number of reasons…and we need to remember that.

So next time you encounter a high school senior, I recommend you ask, “What are your plans after graduation?” If they are going to technical school, they can tell you all about that. If they are going into a branch of the military, they will be thrilled to tell you about that. If they are going to college and know which one they are attending, they can share that information with you. And if they haven’t decided on a college yet, they can say, “I’m still deciding where I want to go to college.”

But remember…everyone isn’t going to college.

Mike Rowe, one of my favorite celebrities ever, because he is real and tells it like it is, is a big proponent of technical schools for young people. Some people need to learn a trade or a skill. Many of those people who become plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, or HVAC repairmen will quickly start making money and socking it away in the bank while college students and their parents are still shelling out boatloads of money for a college education…sometimes, one that doesn’t make the student any more employable. Lots of those vocations are needed. Lots of people can walk right into a good-paying job if they have the necessary skills. (If you’re not familiar with Mike Rowe, he is the host of Dirty Jobs, a television show about real jobs in this country, and he is also the author of a great book called The Way I Heard It. I read the book in the early days of the pandemic, about this time two years ago, and it was worthwhile, easy reading. Pick up a copy if you like reading good stories. You can order from Amazon here.)

Ultimately, my goal as a parent is to help my daughter become an independent adult who makes a contribution to society. Does that mean I expect her to become the next gazillionaire? No. It means I want her to be able to support herself in a way that works for her, and I want her to feel like she is doing something to make life better for other people too. Is my goal for her to be “happy”? Of course, I want her to be happy, but I think we are happiest when we are independent contributors to society…so it all goes together. Do I think she will be financially independent right after college? Maybe…maybe not. What I want for her is personal independence. I want her to know she is in charge of her own life and her own destiny. I want her to know how to function in the world…and how to ask questions when she needs to ask questions. I want her to know she doesn’t know everything, but as long as she knows where and how to find out what she wants/needs to know, she’ll be good. She leaves for college in August, and I am excited for her.

But while she is going to class and enjoying college life, there will be lots of kids who graduate from high school at the same time who immediately go to work. Some of them might be entrepreneurs. Some might be inventors. Some might go into a family business. Does the fact that they don’t go to college make them “less than”? No. It simply means they are choosing a different path.

So just like we applaud these kids’ college choices, let’s applaud those who make other choices. Let’s be happy for the kid who opts to join the military. Let’s celebrate the kid who has always known he wanted to be a welder, and he is finally going to technical school to learn that skill. Let’s be excited for the girl who is on her way to cosmetology school.

Let’s be thankful we live somewhere that people can make their own choices.

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