on college
January 5, 2010, 10:52 pm
Filed under: advice, career | Tags: , ,

dear spoonah,

I am a pretty smart person but am not sure what I want to do with my life. my parents and friends all think I should go to college .  what do you think?


pretty smart person in atlanta

dear pretty smart,

I guess my advice to you is “no, don’t go to college.”  I recommend college under two circumstances: you are going to college because you are really really sure you want to be a _____ (nurse, teacher, accountant, whatever) and you can’t do that thing without having gone to college first.  the other situation is that someone else is paying for college.

If you are like totally sure that you want to be a nurse, for instance, then go to college.  you basically can’t be a nurse any other way.  but be totally sure because if you take out a bunch of loans and go to school to be a nurse and then are like WHOOPS I WANT TO BE A PHILOSOPHER guess what? you’re not going to be a philosopher, and you are going to have to pay those loans back anyway.  believe me, I majored in sociology.  I love sociology, but how many people do you know whose job title is “sociologist”?

On the other hand, if someone else is footing the bill (parents, grants, work, or any other *free* money–loans do not count), then by all means.  go to college.  personally I loved college even when it was terrible and dramatic and I didn’t get a job after.  or at least not a good one.  college is a fantastic place to figure out who you are and what you like and don’t like, what you’re good at and bad at, and how much alcohol you can drink in 24 hours without having to call an ambulance.  It is good for teaching you to finish semi-long term projects, how to do things that matter, whatever.  I got really involved in social activism in a way that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  I learned a lot about life and I use those skills in work situations (and now, in grad school).  but unless you’re not paying for college or going to a fantastic school, or going for something that is very likely to get you a job, it’s just a really expensive time out.

so, pretty smart, I’d say get a job, see what you do and do not like about it, change jobs, rinse and repeat.  It’s common for young people to change jobs a lot even if they’re not in school so this shouldn’t look too sketchy, especially if you are able to say that you were taking time to find the perfect job and learn about yourself.  you can always go to college later, if you feel like having $30-100K in debt and the same job you could have gotten out of high school.


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[…] have, or the life you have, college isn’t necessarily the answer. check out my previous post, on college, to see my views on this, as an overeducated and underemployed person. a word from the wise: I am […]

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