A College Degree Is Not For Everyone

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I hated school. I hated every aspect of it. I was bored and uninterested. I wasn’t cool or part of any specific demographic that roamed the halls like the cast of Mean Girls. I just existed. College was never on my radar. As I watched my peers take SAT tests and apply for whatever college was trendy at the time, I really didn’t have a life plan at 17 years old. Some kids do. Some kids know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. The rest of us? We flounder.

My brain wasn’t ready to grasp more education. Let me add, it’s not because I’m unintelligent. My mother can attest to that. The woman had every core evaluation and IQ test throughout my 12 years of schooling to see why I had no interest. Apparently I have an above average IQ, creative mind, etc., the list goes on. My spaz brain just couldn’t focus. Today, I would have been diagnosed with every acronym on the list — ADD, ADHD, anxiety, low self esteem. But that wasn’t really a thing when I was in school. Now, 3 year-old kids are being diagnosed with ADD because they can’t focus. It’s kind of bullshit.

Here’s the thing. Not everyone fits into a category. Not every young person HAS to go to college. Not everyone is book smart, but may be brilliant in other ways. We file our youth into a corral to pick their future by which a college degree will assure them a solid foundation. That may be true in some cases. It’s been my impression that if you don’t go to college, you may be judged or considered not smart. You’re “only” a plumber, or a carpenter. You must not have been very driven to only become a dental hygienist or a commercial driver. Let’s be honest, our society is so hung up on that degree that we don’t look past it to see what’s laid out in front of us for years to come. Especially when you’re not even sure WTF you want to do with your life. When I was 17 years old, I couldn’t even decide what blue eyeshadow to shoplift from Osco Drug let alone what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I was creative and visual. I knew I learned by doing and touching.

Just to get my parents off my back (because I certainly wasn’t sitting around on my ass after graduating high school without a job or a goal) I went to hairdressing school. Not once did I ever consider it for a career. I did it because my cousin Beth was enrolling and I thought it would buy me some time. I had no idea I’d be good at it nor did I think I’d love it. But I did. I was waaayyy too immature to realize what I had in front of me in a trade at the time. The trades are a recession free, lucrative industry but I’m not sure parents are encouraging their college hopefuls to explore that domain. I wonder how many kids are in college studying for something they will never work in? How many college degrees are figuratively collecting dust while the corporate world is outsourcing and taking away jobs? Pretty sure my job as a hairdresser isn’t going to be outsourced anytime soon. Think about this — creativity and working with your hands is no less challenging than working with your brain. The trades are such a hidden gem which seem to fall down the ranks. I’m here to tell you, if you’re good at your trade, and work hard and cultivate your craft, you can make BANK. What does your electrician charge you when he comes to your house after 5 pm? What about your plumber? Your HVAC guy? Encourage the trades. At least open that door for your future high school graduate and let them decide. Let them research and observe. College isn’t for everyone! Is that degree for you or for your child? And if it’s the whole whispering behind your back that your child didn’t go to college, but went to trade school, be sure to say this, “Yes, my kid is in Porter & Chester Institute and when he or she graduates, they’ll make some damn good money.”

And let’s not forget that debt doesn’t follow a tradesman to his or her grave. The cost of a college degree is flippin’ ASTRONOMICAL! Sweet mother of Mary! Who needs that shit following you around for the rest of your life? (That is how long you will be paying that tuition off.) Your children’s children will inherit that debt. There are so many great trade schools to consider. Think about how handy it will be and how much money you will save when your roof is leaking, or your plumbing gives out if your own spawn is trained to help. I feel anxious for the youngsters. Christ they are like a pack of sleep-deprived Wall Street brokers with 100 pound backpacks and a bottle of Adderall. All they want to do at 17 is Vape and Snapchat yet they’re thrusting themselves into a $100k a year college only to graduate and make $40,000 (aka playing financial catch up for life.) Education is getting further away from middle class families’ grasp. I know a fistful people who have degrees but work in a trade now and are far more successful and happy. The choices are extensive. The list is long and it’s waiting for ambitious kids to fill these profitable jobs. It’s worth a look.


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1 Comment

  1. Michelle – I do love your articles. They totally resonate with me. I did not have ADD or ADHD, but I certainly had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I ended up in travel school, in Cambridge MA back in 1989 and I am still a travel advisor to this day. I got married too young and get this, we used to lived in Malden! I am in Florida now. I’m 52 and taking charge of my life, that’s a similar story to what you told. But anyway keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading. If you want to visit a few more countries, as an experienced travel advisor, I’d love to help!

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