The year is 2002; the beginning of my senior year. I remember sitting in my high school career prep class with my guidance counselor and listening to the statistics about those individuals who went to college versus those who did not. She said that if I were to go to college I would make on average $50,000 a year more than someone who went straight into the work force out of high school. I would have a lot more job flexibility and I would be more desirable to all employers. It was implied that if you were able to go to college that you were supposed to go to college, it would make you elite.
I then remember looking over at the student next to me who was going to a mechanic work program half days and school the other half and I thought, “ you poor pimply faced soul, you are going to lose at life before you even begin. He had already been promised a job at the shop he was working at and was planning on working there for the foreseeable future. He was wearing bib overalls and his fingernails were always greasy. That didn’t seem very prestigious to me. College it is I said, “Sign me up.”
My bachelor’s degree is in education. When I chose that degree I closed my eyes and said “if I could do anything in the world and money wasn’t a factor what would I do?” I chose teaching. I like teaching. I have nothing but respect for teachers. However, the problem is that money is a factor when it comes to career planning. The night of my college graduation I found myself at 22 with a passion to teach and the potential to make a very modest $30,000 a year. You see, what my guidance counselor failed to tell me is that at the end of those four years of education I would have a new high maintenance girlfriend named Sallie Mae. Now I’m not blaming her for my woes. My guidance counselor was a nice lady who really seemed to care about her students. I’m also not saying I’m an idiot. I was just a little unaware of what I was getting into. I knew that college was expensive and I knew that I would have to pay it back someday, but those ever growing numbers on my loan seemed so far away, until the morning after graduation.
I hesitate to play the “If I could go back would I do it the same?” game. But I will, and I would not have done it the same. I would have done things much smarter and more intentionally. The transition from high school to college can feel like a conveyor belt sometimes and you may find yourself on it heading full speed in a direction you’re not even sure you want to go. Looking back, I realize that I would have greatly benefited by having had a better plan right from the start. It is my goal with this blog to help you access the resources you need and to spark the ideas that will help you develop a clear and intentional plan for the future.
By the way, that young mechanic with overalls and greasy fingernails that I mentioned earlier did have a plan. While I was accruing four years of debt at a private university, he was working. After high school he did a series of paid apprenticeships and learned some very specific skills. He received several raises and moved up the ranks at his shop. His salary four years after high school was over $60,000. He did all this while getting paid, not while paying someone else.
He had a plan.
Turns out it was a good one.