In life, we get to make a lot of decisions for ourselves. We can decide what to wear, what to eat, where we want to live. We can also decide what we want to be in life. We are truly the masters of our own destinies. Captains of our own ships. But sometimes, we make decisions that society has already made for us and we don’t even realize that it’s happened. So many people go to college after high school without ever really considering any other option, despite the fact that some of us just aren’t made for college, or schoolin’ in general. This post is about considering your options.
Let’s say that you’re 16 years old. You’re in the best years of your high school life (and if your life doesn’t seem that great right now, don’t worry, it gets way better), you are the king of the world because you’re driving now, and you’re starting to talk and think about college. But before you can really start enjoying that ’94 Mercury Sable that your mom got a great deal on, the one she swears wasn’t cheap because the elderly owner died in it, you have to start thinking about college. It’s something that comes up every day. If you are like I was, you probably don’t give two shits about college. Or school at all for that matter. You’re going pro in basketball, despite the fact that you’re not even a starter for your varsity team.
People talk about it a lot these days, but going to a four year college isn’t your only option these days. In fact, some would argue that it’s your worst option. Especially if you don’t know what you’re going for. Some kids are actual geniuses. If they would be comfortable ordering food in China because they know Mandarin as a 9th grader, college is probably a great choice. They got a 34/35 on their SATs and both of their parents are college professors, for those kids college is a great choice. They are going to get their PHD in a few years and their company is going to be successful immediately. Hell yes college is a good choice.
There’s also the kids who know what they want to do in life. They want to go into finance because that’s the family business. They are already rich and need to learn how to better manage their money. Hell yes college is the right choice for them. Besides, even if they decided the needed to find themselves after their 3rd year and it takes 6 years to graduate, no big deal. They ain’t hurtin for cash. There’s also kids that know they want to be involved in something specific somehow, like math or something, I don’t know. They are already getting good grades and school is right in their comfort zone.
But let’s say you’re someone who isn’t really all that engaged in school. You’re not really someone who can sit still for hours at a time and listen to people talk about stuff. And you’re not all that jazzed about the idea of college at all. You’re sitting there in your guidance counselors office and they are pitching college to you and you’re not 100% sold on the idea, but when you go home your parents reinforce the idea over and over, so you start applying. I am here to tell you that there are other options. And even if you’re actually a 40 year old lady hoping to reinvent yourself, it’s never too late to change your fortunes without college being the only option.
College is a great choice, but only for people who know they need to be there. And if you’re on the fence, technical college or community college is a great place to start.
If you aren’t sure about what you want to do in life, but you kind of want to be involved in school, consider going to a technical college for two years. You can get an Associate’s degree in a couple of years, figure out things about yourself and find where you want to go in life, and do it for a hell of a lot cheaper than two years at a 4 year college. There are tons of options within a tech school as well that allow people to try a few different things and figure out what makes them tick.
You could also focus on a specific career path at this tech school and get started with work after 2 years. If you’re working a full time job at the age of 20 making $40-$50k and saving some money on the side, you’re in a good position in life there, feller. I know at the tech school that I attended, the one I went to after I spent 6 years and $40k earning myself a worthless Bachelor’s, you could earn very specific certifications or diploma’s that set you up well for certain careers. You could become an automotive tech or a welder or something else that I don’t even know about. And you’d be done with your schoolin’ at about the age of 20. Joining the workforce at 20, setting aside as close to $18k in your 401k, and living well within your means would allow you to retire young and live a good life with your family.
The other thing that makes a technical college a better choice right out of high school for most people is that it allows you to earn yourself two years’ worth of credits that would transfer to a four year college, and earn those credits for much less money spend than the same amount of credits at a four year college. This is the reason that I personally feel a technical school is best for most people.
Joining the Workforce
Another option that you have as an 18 year old right out of high school is joining the workforce right there. While there aren’t as many options out there for someone with no degree and no experience these days, there are some entry level positions that would allow you to work your way up within a company. You could also become an apprentice somewhere. I know that there are some electrical workers unions that would allow you to become an apprentice at that age without any type of degree, and I would assume that works for most trades out there as well. Carpenters, plumbers, welders, and any other type of trade you can think of can make a comfortable living right out of high school. And those careers won’t leave you hunched over with back pain by 30 like a desk job will give you.
You could also start working somewhere and save up a little bit of money to start going to school. Maybe taking out loans sounds horrible to you, which it should, and you just need to work a few years to save up. That’s also a great choice. Or maybe you’d start working somewhere, like Hy-Vee or something, and realize that you actually really like it. Pretty sure that you could join management in a company without a degree as long as you’re good at what you do. You’d be making $30k at least and have no debts to speak of. That’s not a bad way to start adult life. Besides, at this point, that ’94 Sable is still running and you have subwoofers in it now. So it’s actually totally bad ass.
I think joining the work force is a great choice for people that aren’t sure what they want to do, but know that college isn’t right for them, even if it’s just for right now. It’s not the best choice, however.
Joining the Military
For someone who is 16 years old and is unsure, even if only a little bit unsure, about where they want to go in life should seriously consider joining some branch of the United States Military. And as a high school student you may be thinking “I don’t want to get shipped off to some country to shoot people and be shot at”, but the truth of joining the military couldn’t be farther from that misconception. There are thousands of job types that the military is always hiring people to fill and the vast majority of them don’t involve ever firing a round. Sure, you’ll be considered a rifleman first, but I know people in the military right now that haven’t fired a single practice round in years.
Additionally, aside from being ridiculously cool, the military offers tons of tuition assistance and learning opportunities for all kinds of careers. You could serve your term in the military and go to school after. That gives you the opportunity to learn about yourself, become someone that you want to become, and then later go directly after the type of career that you want. One of my high school friends joined the military when she was 17, served her tour overseas, and came back to be a part-time military lady while she went to school. She had her house paid off, a degree she got reimbursed for, and she was halfway to earning herself a nice pension before I even knew what I wanted to do with life. She had all this accomplished before I even started working full time. Kind of puts me in my place.
My wife joined the military after college, too. That’s an option a lot of people do to either join and become an officer of some type or to get money for a Master’s degree of some type. She’s a real go getter bad ass, so you know that it’s a cool option that opens up TONS of opportunities for you later in life, if you have the balls to go after it. This is why I consider this the best option for someone who is trying to find their path in life; the military gives you options that you may not have even known you wanted AND it pays you while you find them out.
Starting Your Own Business
This is probably the least likely option you should consider as a young person, but there’s nothing wrong with it if you do. The issue with starting a business as a young person is that you don’t have a lot of experience in life and you kind of don’t know what you’re talking about, for the most part (generally speaking). It’s a little like starting a finance blog when your credit score is bad.
However, I will say, there are some people out there who need to find their own way in the world. It wasn’t enough to have someone tell them the direction they should take, or to have a learning plan laid out before them, they needed to find their own way to the destination. This is the type of person that I am. I can’t sit around and have someone tell me what to do. I am the type of person who would doesn’t ask where the bathroom is because I gotta look for myself, and even if I end up shitting in the bushes, I found it out for myself, dammit.
For this type of personality, the stubborn fools, starting your own business is probably the way to go. Granted, it may not always work out for you for a few years, and statistically it’s more likely to not work out at all, you gain the satisfaction of knowing for yourself what you’re truly worth. For someone who is stubborn and not comfortable having someone point them in some direction, it’s the best choice. Then again, it will work out for you. Because you’re smart and you’re going to work harder than your competition.
If you’re considering college, please understand that I don’t think it’s the wrong choice. I don’t think you a fool because of it. I just want you to consider that there are other options out there for you. You don’t have to choose the four year degree route just because that’s what other people do. In fact, if you’re just going to copy other people you’re not doing anything special to set yourself apart, and may be hurting your chances in the long run while also taking on a huge mountain of debt. Don’t make the same mistake I did and at least consider all your options before you dive in.