Both of my parents went to college. They understood the importance of getting the piece of paper at the end of it all that said you were now qualified to do more jobs than if you just had a lesser piece of paper that you received when you graduated from high school. That used to be the case. People would go to college because they knew that in doing so, they would open up doors for themselves in the future that would not be opened in any other way. Many people have gone on to be successful without a college degree, but those people are becoming fewer and farther in between.
In today’s world – the world that I’ve grown up in – it’s almost impossible to get what most people would consider a “well-paying job” without graduating from an institution of higher learning. People take you more seriously because you appear to have invested enough in your education to the point that you, your parents, or a combination of the two dropped around 25 to 30 thousand dollars on it per year.
I’m a lucky guy. My parents have worked hard enough over the years to provide me with an environment in which I have wanted for nothing, and now they are paying for my education so that I don’t have to worry about loans when I graduate. I realize that this is not the case for the majority of the people that I encounter on a daily basis, and that knowledge makes me even more grateful for my parents and all that they have done for me. The fact is, however, I have not always appreciated that sacrifice the way that I should have, and it has pushed me down a path that I think was actually better for me in the grand scheme of things; but it has definitely taken me a lot of time to figure that all out.
I spent my freshman year at a small Catholic school in Manchester, NH called Saint Anselm College. A beautiful campus, rigorous academics (the acceptance rates and entrance statistics won’t tell you the whole story about “Saint C’s”) and a promising Politics major department greeted me when I walked in in August of 2012, and I believed, like a lot of kids I think do nowadays, that I was ready to take on the challenges of living away from home and being successful with my education. That turned out to not be the case.
I had fun. Boy did I have fun. I made friends and played lacrosse, I did some stuff that I’m maybe not so proud of today, but I also learned some things. I came back after my Fall semester with a GPA that made me embarrassed to even look at my parents, but for some reason it didn’t click then that I was starting to slip into a vicious and self-defeating cycle of skipping class and living for the weekend. I went back in my Spring semester and did the same thing all over again and I finally realized that Saint A’s wasn’t the place for me.
I then did the unthinkable – for me at least – and enrolled in the local community college, while also starting the application process all over again and trying to find somewhere that would now let me apply with my substandard grades and a late bid for entrance. I spent my entire sophomore year at home trying to figure myself out and craft a plan for the future in which I would come out on the other side a well-oiled and well-equipped machine that was sure to hit the ground running after graduation. I found the perfect place for me to continue my education at Hope College in Holland, MI, which I will be attending in the Fall of 2014. While attending community college, I went through a series of different phases in terms of my acceptance and viewpoint on the experience that I had there.
I first showed up and was ashamed of myself. I thought that only losers and dropouts attended community college because that’s what I had been told in the past. I thought that I would never leave there because schools wouldn’t take my credits or take my grades seriously simply because I was now attending a community college instead of a 4 year university. The fact is, I really wasn’t ready to go off to school and live on my own for my freshman year, and I think that’s the case for a lot of kids nowadays.
I then started to accept that I was going to be there for a while, so I started to try and make the most of it. I got a job, started to write more often, and began to try to put myself back on a successful path. Through a involved experience that I initiated once I had gotten over the initial shock of not following the same road as my friends, I began to learn things that were actually practical to my daily life and I began to better myself, even while living at home while all of my friends were off partying at their various schools across the country.
I said all that to say this: the 4 year university route is not required to get a quality education that means something. The only name on the diploma is going to be the name of the school that you graduate from. If you’re reading this and you’re not ready to go off to school, then don’t. Take a gap year and work. Go to the local community college and take some basics while also working or doing something that you didn’t have time for when you were in high school. It’s better to live at home or near home for a while and figure all of your stuff out before going away to school rather than accruing loan debt or wasting your parent’s money while not really doing anything substantial. I wish that I had spent my freshman year at home now looking back, and it would have made for a better college experience for me overall. It’s not a requirement to spend all 4 years at one school, especially if you have to make the mistakes that I did in the process just to learn lessons that are better off learned in a more stable environment.