Given the time of year â€“ early fall, with classes starting up at many colleges and universities â€“ it is time for the media blitz on â€œthe college questionâ€. Different media sources frame the question in different ways.
Foxnews.com has had a series recently on the topic, including â€œIs college worth the money?â€ and â€œChoosing a College: Liberal Arts vs. Professional Trainingâ€. Time magazineâ€™s August 21, 2006 cover asks the question â€œWho needs Harvard?â€ with a subtitle of â€œHow to find the right college for youâ€. And there are numerous columns in newspapers addressing the issue (â€œHow to fund your college educationâ€).
The problem is â€“ the questions are framed incorrectly.
No one can genuinely answer a global question â€œis college worth itâ€ for all the individuals considering the question for themselves. The questions need to be framed more specifically:
*Is going to (insert college/university name here), taking X, Y & Z courses, a good direction for you this fall, given your current financial situation and your current career goals?
There are lots of variables that need to be considered:
-the cost of the educational experience (tuition, housing, books, food)
-how the costs will be paid (you, your folks, scholarships, loans)
-the quality of education and training you will receive
-your current career direction (do you have one?)
-your (and your parentsâ€™) values regarding education
-your (and your parentsâ€™) tolerance for risk (in this case, debt)
-what would you be doing if you didnâ€™t take classes (work? play video games?)
The reality is â€“ the answer is going to be different for most individuals, and even the same person at different times. However, I will offer one general principle with regards to career exploration (a fancy name for the process of determining â€œwhat am I going to do with the rest of my life?â€). It is easier to figure out where you are going on a trip if youâ€™ve seen a few places, and it is really hard to turn a parked car.
Generally speaking, I think it is best for people to choose to do something (take a class, go to school for a semester) than not do something. A pattern I am seeing among young adults today is the tendency toward passivity â€“ waiting, putting things off â€“ rather than taking action and being proactive.
I believe it is better to learn what you donâ€™t want to do by having a negative experience than not to learn anything because you chose to do nothing.