Is a college degree worth the paper it’s printed on?
This is not a new question but definitely one that needs to be looked at from a new angle. For the last three – and part of the fourth – decades, kids, junior high and high school students have been boxed into this idea that the best way to make a good living as an adult and to do everything they want to do is by first obtaining a college education. But is that necessarily true?
Take, for example, Tavi Gevinson. Miss Gevinson started her career – one that is, so far, shaping up very nicely in her favor – before even entering high school. She began working on her Style Rookie blog at 12 and by 15 she had morphed the fashion blog into a considerable force in pop culture and feminist discussion, Rookie Magazine. Rookie is not some basement publication Gevinson is passing out to her school friends, nosiree. Rookie has landed her on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, not once but twice and awarded Gevinson a spot on the TED stage, among a handful of other amazing achievements. She will turn 17 in April.
Miss Gevinson is an anomaly, for certain. But not one that has never been seen. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes published her first Young Adult novel, In the Forests of the Night, when she was 14. And at the time of its publication, Atwater-Rhodes told Seventeen magazine that she had approximately 70 more ideas in various stages of completion. That is not to say that college was/is not in the cards for either young lady. Atwater-Rhodes graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst and Gevinson plans to attend college, although she has not yet decided where, after taking a year off of school (http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2012/11/tavi-gevinson-interview-…). But the fact is both of them were able to solidify their futures while still in high school without attending college.
Not everyone is going to be able to start a Forbes Magazine acclaimed publication at the age of 15. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives to the traditional four-year college plus graduate school route. Trade schools allow students to bypass all of the rigmarole of traditional college – why do I need to know about the Brontë Sisters if I want to be a motorcycle mechanic? – and start their careers in months instead of years. Another benefit of trade schools that isn’t always available on the traditional college route is job placement. Sure, nursing programs and teaching programs have field work that might lead to a future position – emphasis on might – but that isn’t quite the same thing to some people who are seeing a trade school program offering a 75-100% job placement rate within X months following course completion.
There are also options such as on the job training, apprenticeships, and good old fashioned innovation and creativity – the innovation and creativity that put Tavi Gevinson and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes on the proverbial map. Find what works for you. Point yourself at a future where you are what you want to be, not a future where you struggle to figure it out.