You’ve got a lot going on to say the least. In addition to school, friends, sports, volunteering, your job, church, and any other extra-curricular activities you may having going on, you have to find some time to plan your future.
By this point I’m sure your Aunt Martha, Uncle Bob, and most of your family and friends have said something like this:
“So Timmy have you have decide to college?”
Or maybe your Aunt Martha is more direct:
“Timmy of course you’re going to college, right… right!? So what are you going to study honey?”
These are usually some of the first questions most juniors and seniors are forced to answer: should I go to college and if so where? What should I major in? But honestly, I think that this question is asked way too early in the planning process. College is a vehicle not a destination. Long before you decide if you want to go to college or not, you need to have an image in your mind of where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years. Let’s be honest with ourselves here; ask yourself the concrete things as well as the abstract.
What kind of car do I want to drive? (This isn’t shallow, be honest with yourself.)
What kind of house do I want to live in?
What do I want my typical day to look like?
Do I want to work for a large company, a small business, or go into business for myself?
What do I want my family life to be like?
How do I want to impact the world around me?
Who do I want to work with? What type of clients do I want to serve? (Every working adult serves somebody- choose wisely.)
How much do I want to be earning in 5 years?
When you ask yourself these things it helps you to get a better picture of what type of industry you might enjoy, what kind of salary requirements you have, and what path you need to be on to get the outcomes that you want.
You can’t say to yourself “I love working with kids, so I want to be a kindergarten teacher!” and then expect to live in a fabulous house with a BMW in the driveway (at least not without massive debt). It’s just not going to happen.
Likewise, if you say “I really want to be a stay at home mom or dad in five or six years” is it necessary to invest tens of thousands of dollars in a degree in Modern European Literature?
On the flip side of that coin, if you have a passion to serve cancer victims as an oncologist, you had better be figuring out which schools best suit your needs and start getting applications ready for a few different universities.
It seems pretty simple right?
Enter the gray area.
Let’s say you know without a shadow of a doubt that you were wired and created to make music, this is your passion. Should you go to college? These types of career paths and situations are actually more common than not. Here you need to decide what exactly you want to do in the music field. Don’t go to college to figure that out. I repeat; do not go to college to figure out what you want to be when you grow up! You need to figure that out now. You need to develop an economic model: what are you selling and who are you selling it to. Once you have that figured out, then you can determine if a college degree is necessary to get you to that point. College can often help in these types of situations but it is not always necessary and of course you have to plan for opportunity costs.
Let’s stick with the music illustration.
Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, and Jon Bon Jovi have all done pretty well in the music industry despite not having a degree. That’s right no degree at all. Now let’s look at Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney. They both have degrees in advertising, not music. Advertising was the path and part of the foundation that helped get these two country music sensations get to where they are today. Rapper Ludacris chose a degree in business. All of these individuals took very different paths to become the music superstars they are.
Do the planning now. Look inward. Best-selling author and one of today’s leading vocational thinkers, Dan Miller, states in his book 48Days to the Work You Love, “…that 85 percent of the process of having the confidence of proper direction is to look inward. Fifteen percent is the application…”
Figure out where you want to be, who you want to be, and how you are going to get there.
Then you can answer Aunt Martha about going to college.