Do I have to go to college?

This letter writer is debating whether to go to university or go to trade school and set up their own business. 

Our elder helps them do the math.


Dear EWC

Hello, I’m writing to get advice from someone on what to do. At the moment I’ve had to face a difficult decision in my life. For some people it’s quite simple, but for me it’s overwhelming. In the future I would like to own my own business, but I have this one person telling me that I should go to college and study for it, and it’s a great idea, but I’m not interested in going to college. I personally think that there’s other ways to accomplish this, for example going to a trade school, and it’s cheaper and takes less time. This seems like a good idea to me, but this person keeps telling me that I have to aim higher, and that it’s not a good idea. 

My other reason to not want to go to college is because I live with my mom, and at the moment we would like to move to our own place, but if I go to an university I would have to move there because they’re too far from me and I don’t own a car, and even if I did gas is too expensive, so I would have to quit my job and focus on studying only. I really don’t want my mom to face all of that on her own, plus I’m sure that if we focus on our business we can be successful. I just don’t know what to do because on one had I could go to a university, get a degree, get a better job earn more money and help my mom in about four years, but on the other hand I could go to a trade school, learn about how to manage a business and be right by her side the whole time till we make it big. This is bothering me so much, and I don’t think school is my thing even though I know I’m capable. I’m just confused and overwhelmed by all of this. If someone could help me that would be amazing.


Kathy replies

Deciding to go to a university is a big decision and I am glad you are taking the time to think about it. I think you could do a simple cost benefit analysis and look at what it would cost for you to attend college for four, possibly five, years vs. the cost of a trade school, two-year community college or continuing to work at your present job and make plans to open a business. You would need to include the all the costs of attending a university including tuition, books, transportation, room and board, any student loans plus the loss of any income you may have been able to make. You could consider the effect of your decision on your mother’s living situation. It must be important to you since you mentioned it in your letter. After calculating an approximate amount of expenses (costs) you could then try to calculate the benefits. I suggest spending some time doing some research into different majors and potential careers/jobs in that major. Find out how much money you could expect to earn and what the job outlook for those careers are in the future. One resource you could use is the Occupational Outlook Handbook compiled by the US Dept. of Labor. Here is a link to it. Occupational Outlook Handbook. You would also have to consider any student loans that you might need.  Paying off student loans is a financial burden a person usually has for many years. With interest the cost of a student loan is very high.  You would need to consider that in any cost/benefit analysis of going to a university.

It is usually true that having a college degree provides a person with more choices in careers and usually better pay. It is also true that some majors have increased opportunities for jobs and higher salaries. For instance, people who graduate with degrees in nursing, accounting, engineering and computer science usually have much better job prospects and pay then people who graduate with degrees in theater arts, literature, history, social work, etc. (liberal arts degrees). People with liberal arts degrees sometimes choose to get advanced degrees (law school, masters in their major) because they usually can’t get any better jobs than a person who did not attend a four-year university.  According to studies people with any education after high school usually make more money during their lifetime than a person who only graduated high school. Any education means trade schools, two-year colleges, four-year universities and some certificate and apprenticeship programs.

I personally think going to a trade school is okay as long as the cost of the school is reasonable.  Some trade schools are private institutions and charge very high tuition. Those type schools are not recommended and I would discourage you from attending any private trade school. If there is a public institution available in your community like a state community college, or state sponsored vocational school, that would be a better choice. People who go to private trade schools sometimes spend more money on tuition than a public university and some can’t find jobs when they finish or the income from their career is not worth the money they spent at the private trade school.

If you want to open your own business someday, it would be a good idea to major in business or take some business courses so you can understand how to manage and operate a business.  Understanding financial operations, marketing and management is important to owning a successful business. You could do that at a two- or four-year college or even look into community resources available in your area. The Small Business Administration offers some training for business owners and could possibly provide information on other community resources available.

You are correct in weighing the costs of a four-year university education against the benefits. We hear of many university graduates who cannot find jobs in their majors and take jobs that anyone could get. Usually people with a college degree move up quicker than someone with only a high school diploma. The other benefit of having a college degree is a person has a greater understanding of the world, and has a more well-rounded knowledge base. I do think more education is a valuable thing but there are many factors to consider before deciding to devote your time and money to any advanced educational institution.

Another factor to consider is that you can always attend college at a later date if you find you need additional education. While it is easier to attend a university when you are young and single, many people go back to college after they are married and have children. It is harder to do, but many people do it and are successful.

I hope I have given you some things to think about to help you make your decision. I cannot tell you what to do but I hope hearing my thoughts has given you some more choices and some help. Good luck to you. If you need some help in the future, please write to us again.

Article #: 494024
Category: School

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