Why go to college


Get a Job. Go to School.

                 Mrs. Wakefield was talking to one of our Junior students recently and asked him what his plans were after college. He said, “I don’t know, I think I’ll just get a job and take a year off of school, then probably go to the Junior College.”  After Mrs. Wakefield picked up her chin from the floor, she began to have a gentle, serious, conversation about how ridiculous that idea sounded for him. 

I know that school can seem to be this huge weight tied to your life that you can’t wait to get rid of, but you need to really, really, really, see school in a proper perspective.

Look at the economy, we are at a functional 17% unemployment rate. This means that almost one of five people out there are either unable to find work, or are working fewer hours than they need to or want to.

When a young person tells me “I’m going to get a job,” I ask them “are you working now? Do you have any skills such that an employer will hire you instead of someone else? What do you know that they need and will pay for? What will you bring to their business that will make them money? How will an employer see you as different than the other 100 people applying for that job?

I’ve got a dozen or so other questions, but asking them usually just makes the person feel bad. Since you all know that a person’s self esteem is important to me, you can be assured that I won’t ask those other questions.

While you are in high school, get a job doing something, even if it is volunteering.  It will teach you the value of money and how to work with people. It will teach you loyalty and will connect the dots for you that your attitude, talents and interpersonal skills all combine to make money for the company (and yourself) and make the workplace somewhere that you enjoy spending your time.  When I was in high school, I had two jobs. I volunteered as a yard duty dude at a local elementary school and I got a paid internship as a lab technician for a major science research corporation. I lurned stuff.  The volunteer work taught me how to interact with people. The lab job taught me discipline and the value of paying attention to details (and also how much I hate fluorescent lighting.)

Let’s be honest, a high school diploma in today’s world means exactly what you put into it. Did you work hard at school so that you could succeed at higher education? Did you hate them academicy things, but pursued skills and training that are needed to be a fireman, nurse, or chef?  Our school will give you many opportunities, but you will only get out of it what you put into it.

I stole the below chart from an economic newsletter. The unemployment rate for non-college graduates has consistently (since 1992 on this chart) been very much higher than for those with college degrees.

Back to our wayward Junior. What advice should I give him? 

Now is the time to be in school. Why? Is it so that you can “get a degree?” No and Yes. It is so that you can learn stuff. I don’t really care what you learn, but you have to have the mind-set that you need to be gettin’ yurself edumacated.

Go to College or some other training school! There aren’t a lot of jobs for people with no skills. When you do go to school, you should major in something you enjoy, but you need to build skills  and learn things that people will pay you for. You like World History or International Music? Great, learn about cultures and learn a foreign language so that you can use that understanding to be an asset to a company that deals with diverse populations.  

If school is just a thing you do because “The Man” at the Capitol  (or your dad) tells you that you have to, you have missed the whole point.