Maybe Your Kid Doesn’t Need College

This started off as a follow-up post to Why I Choose Curiosity Over Passion on encouraging kids to follow their curiosity, and turned into this: a discussion of whether or not our kids need to go to college.

Spoiler Alert: No, not all kids need to go to college.

I’m not saying college isn’t useful. A lot of careers require college (or more) for good reasons. And enough companies require their employees to have college degrees even if they aren’t useful for the work being performed. (Companies should stop doing this, but parents and students should recognize that it happens frequently.) For some kids, college is the only way out of a bad situation. College can also act as a stepping stone between being a teenager in high school and being a full-fledged adult.

It’s a really expensive stepping stone. According to Forbes, the average college student graduating in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt, which is definitely more than my first salary after college. I went to college because it was expected of me, I didn’t know what else to do, and I’d been told that I’d be stuck in a minimum-wage job at McDonalds if I didn’t go. I didn’t go to college because I wanted a specific career and I knew college would get me there. I went because I was told I could “figure it out after I got there.”

It’s true: the first year (or two) of college can be incredibly helpful for giving students a chance to take interesting classes and follow their curiosities for students that can afford it. But if the student doesn’t know what they want to do by the time their Sophomore year is complete, maybe they should drop out. GASP. I know, I just suggested students should drop out of college. But college is so expensive, and there’s no point finishing a degree you don’t even know you want.

I’m also going to suggest the option of not going to college. EGADS! Baby Boomer parents reading this are freaking out right now. The children of Baby Boomers (like me) were encouraged, even expected, to go to college. For me, the question wasn’t would I go to college, it was where would I go to college. Of my graduating class of 299, 4 students did not go to college.* I believe these expectations lead to graduates with huge debt and worthless degrees they felt like they had to get because it was expected of them. Now that we have children of our own, we’re questioning that “you have to go to college” philosophy.

Here’s the thing about Freshman college students: they have no idea about being an adult. Of course they think they do, because they’ve graduated high school. Say a semester of their college of choice cost’s $20k and their parents can’t afford to pay it, but they have the option of taking out loans. That’s $40k a year. When I started college, I had no idea what $40k meant. It was just this abstract number. Now, I could tell you what kind of apartment or house I could afford on $40k in a few American cities. High schools could help by teaching practical skills like budgeting. Kids could learn what kind of jobs might afford them the lifestyles they want.

Student Loans
Me in 50 years. Image via AAEC

College students don’t know what it’s like to spend 40 hours a week doing one thing. High school is broken up into 50-minute chunks, and college students usually have fewer classes plus activities and a part-time job. Then you get your first real job and it’s like, okay, I did that for 8 hours, but now I have to do it again, 5 days a week…forever? I navigated my career by seeing other people in my office doing something and thinking, “Okay, next I want to do that. What do I need to do to get there?”

I’m going to encourage my son not to go straight to college after he graduates. I like the idea of a “gap year” or even a year spent working part-time and earning some money for college (or trade school, or starting a business, or getting an art studio) and following various curiosities until he’s really ready to land on something—or not. Because if has a roof over his head (preferably not mine) and he’s fed and happy, then I don’t need him to have a Capital-C Career.

I want him to figure out what his goals are and do what he needs to do to achieve them. I know that will take some time and a lot of following his curiosities. Maybe that’s college. Maybe it’s something else.

*I went to a private school where most students came from middle or upper class families with parents who were paying for their high school education. I realize this number isn’t normal. It does illustrate how affluent families specifically insist on college for their children.

The cover photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash reminds me of these people on Instagram who take incredibly gorgeous and organized class notes. Check out #studyinspiration for some studious eye candy.

Sims Features I Want in Real Life

Money Cheat

You create your Sim family and purchase them a one-bedroom, poorly decorated house. You give them entry level jobs. They had to work, do their jobs, get promotions, and eventually you can update the house…

money_cat
In my dream world, you’d type “motherlode” up into the ether and a cat would come by with $50k for you.

Yeah, right. You create your family and without hesitation, pop in the money cheat. Now they’re rich and you move them to the biggest and create them the your amazing fancy dream house. I can’t imagine playing The Sims without the money cheat. Sure, I’ve played some families with limited means and tried out the legacy challenge, but it’s way more fun building houses with indoor swimming pools.

sims4aptstuff
You think Sims get to live in the downtown penthouse with basketball court thanks to hard work and determination? Yeah, right!

Then I send them to work anyway because they can only swim in their indoor pool so many times before it gets boring.

Instant Employment

You want a job? Just go on your computer and get an entry level job in the field of your choice. Your requirements for a promotion are clearly laid out. No applications and cover letters, no “it’s who you know, not what you know”, and no office politics.

Bonehilda

Bonehilda is a skeletal butler that your sims could purchase and the only buyable item in the game that stood out to me when . She came with expansion packs for Sims 1 and 3. She was the best thing in the Sims 3 Supernatural pack, which I otherwise found rather mediocre. Unlike human butlers, she doesn’t have regular human needs. If you buy multiple Bonehildas, they’ll team up and work together. If they run out of things to do, they’ll train your dog. How awesome is that?

Bonehilda_posing

There’s one other buyable item: I remember Sims 3 had a teleporter. Since teleportation is my hypothetical superpower of choice, I’d take the device.

Click to Redecorate

Tired of blue walls? Click! Now they’re purple! Drag and drop a giant painting on the wall. Replace your sofa with just a few mouse clicks. Even if you pay for painting, furniture delivery, and art installation in real life, you still have to wait for the professionals. In the Sims, you can try a different decor style every day.

Change your Look

In real life if you decide you want to loose weight, you usually have to follow a diet and exercise plan. It’s hard. It takes a long time. It’s difficult to maintain. In the Sims, all you have to do is exercise a few times and boom, you’ve lost weight. If you want to gain weight, that’s easy, too. Just eat when you’re already full a couple times and off you go.

rock-climbing-treadmill
3 hours on the rock climbing treadmill and you’re good to go!

Changing your hair is easier, too. A major hair change in real life requires a trip to the salon. In the Sims, you just need a trip to your nearest mirror.

Talk to Strangers

Making friends as a grown up in real life is hard. Making friends in the Sims is easy. Step 1, go to a public location and chat up some strangers. They won’t find this strange at all. They’ll be happy to stand and talk to you until one of you needs to use the bathroom. Step two, tell a lot of jokes. Funny interactions boost relationships. You can go from complete strangers to friends in one or two days. Then you have to maintain the friendship, which is a lot more like real life: spending time with the other person.

Sim life would be pretty awesome. But it would also take you about a half hour to go to the bathroom. It’s way easier to set fires in your kitchen. Ghosts and vampires are real. I like being able to cook more than 5-20 different dishes. I’ll take real life for now, but if someone could come up with a way that I can redecorate my house by clicking and dragging my mouse, that would be awesome. I’d have my art hanging on the walls instead of just leaning up against them.

Question: If you grew and butchered a cow plant, would the meat be vegetarian?

Cover image from the Sims 4 Outdoor Retreat pack. I want to go to there.