I was never really enthusiastic about going to college. In high school, I would research schools that interested me, but the true reality of attending college was rarely at the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t until the beginning of my senior year, after I had made a few college visits, when I realized I actually had to choose a university to attend.
During that time, the questions that flowed through my head were ones such as, “Where should I go?” and “What school is the best choice for me?” Looking back on that time now, I realize that I never asked myself the real question: Is college even the right choice for me? I simply followed the path of least resistance.
So, why did I think that college was the necessary choice? I didn’t, and still do not, see anything that college offers that isn’t capable of being acquired elsewhere. While there are certainly medical and scientific career paths that benefit from formal education, there are many options out there.
As an artist, I can take my work wherever I am. I can be and create in almost any atmosphere. I learn through practice, guidance, and inspiration. I study languages out of simple enjoyment. By traveling and immersing myself in other countries as a civilian, I’d be able to learn these languages firsthand. With so many things to be discovered by viewing life as your education, is the necessity of a college degree really as valuable as we make it?
With numerous amounts of students attending college in today’s society, the exclusivity and importance degrees once held is diminishing. Programs such as UnCollege are popping up and asking students to take a nontraditional approach to collegiate life; by living abroad, being partnered with a mentor, and working in real life experiences, students of these programs “graduate” with knowledge quite different than one a traditional degree can provide. While unorthodox, yes, does it really matter?
It mattered to my college preparatory high school. As a private school that prided itself on a 100% college acceptance statistic, straying from the collegiate norm was unacceptable. For students who wished to do something other than take the traditional next step towards a college education, guidance counselors were there to softly suggest a different direction. While these counselors were, and still are, wonderful helpers during the college process, their minds were limited from what they had learned in workshops, seminars, and from other counselors. To them, success is synonymous with college. However, when did we create a blanket definition for the word success?
Personally, I have found some of my own success within my newfound niches at college. While I did not originally ask myself if college was the right choice for me, I am here and learning. Although I find the boundaries and constraints that college places upon me to be excruciating, I have discovered more positives than negatives. However, not a day goes by where I don’t think about what my life would be like if I had followed a different path—one that I had forged myself.
Perhaps the question students should be asking themselves is “Is college the right choice for me?” instead of “Am I the right choice for that college?” Let’s stop molding ourselves by what colleges think our late teens to early twenties should consist of.
For some, college is most certainly the best option. However, that it is not the case for all. For those who are interested in pursuing a different education path, the world needs to be more accepting of their choices and open to their experiences. While there may be blanket definitions for certain words, there is absolutely not one for education.