For many, the cost of college is prohibitive. In this country, we sell college as being available to everyone, without ever fully explaining the costs associated with that education. If you are the average student, there is no one helping you to find scholarships and grants. It is up to the student to complete the FAFSA, hope for a PELL grant, and sign the forms for the student loans to cover the rest. Yes, you are required to go to an orientation assembly that explains how student loans work. You are told that there is interest on loans, you will have to begin making payments six months after leaving school for any reason, and the debt never goes away.
During the orientation required for the first year’s loan, many students are looking at a loan amount that seems doable. They do not think about the next three years, or the likely possibility that their four years of college will turn into five in order to complete the requirements of a specific degree. They have no idea that upon graduation the entry level positions they qualify for will not pay enough to sustain living on their own, much less the added costs of the student loan payments. Most have no idea what they actually want to major in on that day. Once they either figure that out, or simply just fall into a convenient major, they do not do the research to find out how much education they actually need to get a job in their chosen field. Many are shocked to discover after they graduate with a bachelor degree they will need even more education to obtain necessary licensing for their careers.
At this point, parents often begin to feel frustration, because they are now faced with an adult child returning home with no idea where they are going to go from here. Parents are shocked to discover that their child made it all the way through college without anyone clueing them into the realities of their chosen paths. The fact is there are just too many kids on campus for the limited administration staff to help. If a college student is lucky, they find a professor they love in their chosen field who takes them under their wing and guides them along the way. The next best option is that the college student burns with desire for their field; therefore, they seek out all the information they need. If a student is just clicking along until they fall into something, they are much more likely to fall into a crack with no one to guide them out of it.
Here are some fun facts about the American college dream:
1. Not everyone is cut out for a college education.
2. A college education is not essential to obtaining the American dream of cars, house, and family.
3. Education comes from many places, not just a college.
4. A college education does not guarantee happiness, fulfillment, or cash flow.
5. Salaries of jobs that are obtainable after college may not be enough to cover the cost of the college education.
These are shocking facts that rising generations will have to come to grips with. Our schools do a good job of picking out those kids meant for college and getting them there. We fall short in helping those who are not the best fit for college. These kids do not understand the skills necessary to enter the workforce. How could they possibly know this when we are not telling them about other options? They feel lost. Some even feel like they have already failed at life, because they are not headed to college. While college is not essential to living a successful life, being really good at something and knowing how to get paid for it is.
There is no shame in admitting that you are meant for something other than a college education. If you have a passion for a skill and you already know how to use that skill, you are actually ahead of the game. If you like tools, wires, working with your hands, problem solving, and taking risks, the possibilities for legitimate income are endless. Working on cars, power plant maintenance, industrial assembly, commercial building maintenance, and heating/air conditioning repair are just a few of the viable options. If you love sports, apply for positions with local sports teams. These teams always have entry level positions, and will promote dedicated employees from within. My eye doctor recently told me that she would much rather hire someone as a technician who has no experience, but really wants to work in her office, than hire someone with a medical assistant degree who just thought healthcare would provide job stability.
If you have a flair for the creative, you may have to have a bill paying job while you develop your skills into a viable income producing career. This is no different from the person who spends four years in college preparing for a career. Do not get caught up in just surviving. Spend the time developing your skills. If you love photography, then make it a hobby and practice, practice, practice. In the meantime, post your best pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media site you can find. Begin a blog demonstrating your journey and showing your improvement. When a friend gets married, graduates, or has a baby, offer to take pictures for free. Then post your work for the world to see. Think outside of the box. Many small business owners need help with product photography. Walk into businesses and show the owners your portfolio. Eventually, your skills will become strong and you can begin charging. Be smart. Do not get stuck in the perpetual groove of free. Once you have a portfolio built, begin charging competitive fees. The first time someone you do not know asks you to take pictures is a definite sign that it is time to set a fee. I used photography as an example, but you can apply these ideas to other creative ventures. Maybe your skill is cake making, sewing, or knitting. Whatever it is turn it into a niche skill for you and you will make money.
I was a student that everyone expected to go to college. At the time of my high school graduation I didn’t receive the financial aid necessary. I spent a year working as a bank teller and researching scholarship opportunities. The next year my step-father agreed to help with expenses if I went to a less expensive community college for the first two years and received an associate degree in a field that could employee me should I not finish a four year degree. This meant I had to take extra classes to meet the requirements of transferring my core curriculum classes for full credit at a four university and graduating with an associate degree in paralegal studies. I went on to complete a bachelor degree. The only thing that ever made me significant income was my associate in paralegal studies. It was that degree that allowed me to make more than entry level pay and eventually advance to a $65,000/yr job.
It pays to know who you are and make the most of your skills, whether that means college or not. Do not be afraid to ask adults for opinions, advice, and even mentoring to help you get into the field of your dreams. Every career has aspects that you cannot possibly anticipate until you actually work in that field or have someone already in the field that is willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just remember if you are using skills that you enjoy, then the bad and the ugly will not outweigh the good. Do not give up on your optimum potential to achieve your American dream just because every career has its down side. Focus on what you do best, make the most of it, and take pride in your work to achieve what you want out of life.