1. You will accumulate a huge amount of debt
You’re going to be spending tens of thousands of dollars attending university. If I gave you a briefcase with $40,000 and told you to spend it wisely, what would you do with it? If I stole $40,000 from you and told you I’d pay for you to do what you want for four years, what would you do? Would you still go to university? Post-secondary school is incredibly expensive and it’s easy to forget how much you spend when you only look at the cost annually.
2. It’s what all your friends are doing
This is the most common response I hear from high school students when choosing a university. Friends are key and people with good friends tend to be the happiest, but this tends to be an excuse, out of fear, not to do what you really want.
3. You want to go to socialize / party
You’re likely spending a minimum of $10,000 per year to attend university, upwards of $40,000 in total, that you’re essentially throwing away so you can have a social life. Sure, you might learn something but the return on your investment will be dismal. If you’re using university as an excuse to party, you might as well take a year off to travel and party. I guarantee that partying abroad with a group of wild travellers will be way better than anything you’d do at school.
4. You want to delay entering the real world as long as possible
So you want to go to school so you can escape the real world. This is something I hear from a lot of prospective grad students: “Yeah, you know, I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to get a real job so I think I’ll spend 4 years becoming overqualified in a highly competitive field where I’ll be so stressed out by my work that I’ll loathe my existence.”
Here’s an idea: If you don’t want to enter the real world, then do something you’ve always wanted to do. Have you always wanted to learn to paint? Then do that. Have you always wanted to see the Roman Colosseum? Then do that. Have you always wanted to see how many bags of chips you can eat over the course of a week? Well, you probably don’t want to do that, but you get the idea.
5. You think you need to go to university to get a high paying job
Sure, going to school might get you a high paying job, but it only comes after years of schooling and, for some people, amassing significant debt. Not to mention that high paying jobs are highly competitive: everyone wants to make big money. Once you factor in lost wages incurred when attending university, in addition to the debt you’ve accumulated paying for university, you might discover that you’re making as much as you would have if you didn’t attend university.
6. You crave adventure
I’ve tried to be adventuresome, to travel abroad while still enrolled at my local institution, but it’s difficult: the university doesn’t like this change. Administrators tell you that the classes you’ll miss are more important than the courses you’ll be taking on the road at the university of life. If you truly crave adventure, it might be best to seek out a life of adventure and find a way to support yourself along the way.
7. You’re using it as an excuse to put off doing what you love
When you put off doing what you love you run the risk of continually putting it on hold. Eventually you get to the point where you’ve dug yourself such a deep hole that it’s nearly impossible to get out. There’s no point in putting a half-assed effort into something you don’t like when you could be putting blood, sweat, and tears into something you love.
8. You think it’s what you’re supposed to do / You don’t know what else to do / It’s what your parents want
This is the number one reason people give me regarding their decision to attend university, but it’s not a very good one. So let me tell you a secret. Let’s drop a truth and beauty bomb: Most people don’t know what they’re doing—even the people giving you advice—and many people are living with regrets, wishing they had done things differently, wishing they hadn’t trapped themselves in a rigid life from a young age. So, although people might have good advice, it’s important to realize that it is ultimately you who knows best what you must do. Use the things that excite you as a compass to guide you. And when something excites you but feels a little bit scary, this is a sign you’re heading in the right direction.
I realize it sounds like I’m hating on school, but that’s not my intention. My intention is to dispel the putative notion that university is the only key to success after high school. University may lead to success, but it’s not the key to success. The key to success is doing what you’re passionate about. It’s about finding what you’re willing to fight and struggle for. So get out into the world and explore. Find what you’re passionate about and throw yourself into it. Push on, even if you think your dream is impossible. The world’s waiting for you.