Is pressure to attend college too much?

If Steve Jobs had not dropped out of college within the first semester, it is very likely Apple, Inc., the company responsible for producing the MacIntosh computers and iPods, would not have been created. Believing that formal college education was not for him, Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Oregon. Instead of heading back home, Jobs decided to stay at Reed and sleep on friends’ floors and dropping in on random classes that interested him. Jobs has been quoted crediting a calligraphy class, which he dropped in on, for developing his love for typography and helped him realize his future in computers. One of the most influential and richest men in the world did not have a college education. Jobs proves that people can excel in today’s society without a classroom and a teacher.

It is expected of juniors and seniors to apply to college and find a way to improve their future with the aid of a secondary education. When a senior is asked about his future plans, many times the question revolves around what college he is going to and what his intended major is. It seems to never cross an adult’s mind that the student intends to pursue other plans such as attending a vocational school, enlisting in the military or joining the workforce.

It was not always like this either. In 1973, less than a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college. But the available jobs in manufacturing and agriculture started to disappear. Along with the disappearance of jobs, the belief that an individual could make it in America without a college education slowly faded as well. With each year that passes, college enrollment continues to skyrocket. In 2009, 70 percent of graduating seniors immediately enrolled in four-year or community college. Naturally, college prices increased exponentially. From 1982 to 2007, though median family income rose only 147 percent, college tuition and fees grew a whopping 439 percent. And for 67 percent of students, getting a four-year college degree means acquiring debt along with it.

It is also interesting to note that in a recent poll by Pew Research Center, 57 percent of people said they believed that college “fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend.” But, 94 percent of parents surveyed said they still want their kids to attend college. How does this make any sense? If people truly believe that they are not going to personally gain anything by attending college, why do they do it? When deciding what they want to do after they graduate, students should consider all options. They need to use proper research tools to discover what outlet will help launch them into the best future.

Maybe it is going to a vocational school for a hands-on learning experience. Maybe it is enlisting in the military to gain meaningful personal life experiences while defending our wonderful country. Maybe the best option is to take some time off and join the workforce. The rigorous demand of college for another four to twelve years is definitely not fit for everyone. This is why students in high school now need to discover if the traditional school setting works for them.

With such a high rate of high school seniors entering college immediately after graduation, it can be assumed that many do not know what they want to study in college. If an individual does not know their intended career track, it is most common to take a general education major until the real career is figured out. But, this could take a semester or even a year or more. There is no need to waste thousands of dollars to live on a campus and just explore classes. If an individual truly has no idea what they would like to do in the future, it may be smart for them to look at other options than just a four year traditional college. A vocational school or a year off from schooling all together could be the best fit.

There should be no shame in a decision to not attend a traditional four-year college. The decision just shows that the particular individual understands their personal needs and what track provides the most promise of success. When debating on a path for the future, students should not be drawn into society’s expectations or what other people believe is right for them. Base a decision on gut instinct and logic. No matter what one wears later in life, whether it be coveralls and gloves, combat boots and camouflage, or a name tag, everyone in America has the opportunity to achieve their own American Dream.