Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ask Isa: "I don't see why a college degree is needed"

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

I feel like CC is really a place that had made me reevaluate the value of my education. I don't see why a college degree is needed. 

I understand that we, as American's, are extremely lucky to get to go to college but a college degree isn't always a guarantee at a successful life. 

What I am saying is, I go to a ​community college​ and it's hard for me to get through it, what advice do you have?​



Dear Questioning,

Kudos to you for reevaluating the value of your education. I don't think anyone should go to college or pursue any kind of education without first valuing what it means to them and considering the effort required and what they're willing to put forth. 

College is HARD. Despite the wrongful stereotypes, community college classes ARE rigorous and require a lot of effort. 

To get through it, like any big hard thing in life, you have to have a goal that is meaningful to you personally. You have to be able to imagine what your life will be like after you reach that goal, and it has to be a picture that motivates you when things are hard, because they will be.

I love that you appreciate that getting to pursue a college education IS a huge privilege. But you are right, a college degree alone isn't an automatic ticket to success. 

It DOES, however, open doors of opportunity to pursue success through many more avenues. The numbers don't lie, and those with higher degrees on average do earn significantly more over a lifetime. They just do.

However, another great thing about this country is the freedom you have to choose. No one is forcing you towards your college education, and ultimately it is up to you to decide what is best for you. What do you really want? What is going to motivate you to work hard? 

I'm not an expert when it comes to vocational and technical programs, but what I do know is that I have tremendous respect for them and the people who work hard to train in those programs and use their skills for things we all need every day. 

These types of trainings aren't easy either though. Neither is working full time for that matter. But of course, I get the impression you're not just looking for the "easy" way, but the way that will motivate you; the way that seems worth it to you and your goals.

It's all about deciding what are you willing to work hard at. What are you willing to get really good at? What interests you enough to want to keep learning about it even after the training or course is over?

So here is what I recommend you do:

​1) Go to the career center at your community college right away. Be honest and share your dilemma. Ask if they offer a career test you can take based on your interests. Then ask where you can find a listing of all the programs the college offers. 

Does anything excite you? Does anything seem worth it to you? If so, go to your advisor right away and reevaluate your education plan, either based on classes you are taking or maybe you want to switch to another program. 

If you're not sure, ask to meet with the director of the program you're considering and/or ask to observe a class or talk to someone in the program to see if it's right for you.

2) If nothing is exciting you, if getting through it just doesn't feel worth it, then there is no shame in deciding to work for a while instead. There is no need to put yourself in debt when you aren't even sure why you're there. 

I've met so many successful people who really needed to work first and see what is out there before they had the motivation to return to school. Some went from 1.0 GPAs to 4.0 GPAs. The only thing that changed was their motivation and understanding of what kinds of opportunities were really out there without a college degree.

But keep in mind waiting on college can sometimes make it harder - especially if you start a family. However, it's never impossible.

Your job right now is to work as hard as you can to explore career options and decide what you are willing to work really hard for. The truth is college degrees can and do lead to more opportunities, but your effort and strategy matter A WHOLE LOT too.

Figure out what you really want, seek out many mentors along the way, and then decide what path will get you to where you want to go. 

I love Michelle Obama's new Reach Higher campaign, and I encourage you that in whatever you decide, to keep in that in mind. 

Reach higher than expectations. Don't do something you don't want to do just because you think you should, but also, don't sell yourself short of your amazing potential.

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