How to Know If You Should Put College on Hold
A question that every high school junior or senior asks themselves at some point in their academic journey is whether to put college on hold. Students are different, and they do not always operate on the same time tables. Some know early on what they want to do after high school and some do not.
In the following article, we’ll be discussing this question from the perspective that it’s okay to ask it and be questioning. We can’t tell you what the right answer to the question is, but hopefully, some of what we’re about to share will help you reach the decision that is best for you. Let’s begin!
5 Uncertainties About College
The first thing we’d like you to consider before coming to a conclusion is how much uncertainty surrounds your decision, as well as where those uncertainties are coming from. You might be able to think of a few more on your own, and that’s perfectly fine if you do. Start, however, by considering the following five questions.
1. Will You Get the Same Level of Instruction?
Each college is different, and some students are sidelined because they cannot afford to get the education they want at the college that is the most affordable. As a result, they have to ask themselves whether the level of instruction they get at one university is comparable to what they would get at the school(s) of their choosing.
A student may want to receive a degree in hospitality, for example, so they can forge a career in a field like hotels and travel. But that’s a very specific niche, and it may not impress many potential employers coming from just anywhere. So, before you decide on whether the time is right to start college, really consider whether you’ll be able to get the education you want at present or if it’ll be worth it to wait for a bit until you can afford to go to a school where the degree you earn will mean more to you.
2. Is College Equipped With the Career Path for You?
Similar to what we’ve spoken on above is this consideration. Will the college you have to go to have the degree program that you are looking for. Most colleges and universities have similar programs to a point, but they may not have the resources to get as specific as others.
Do some research ahead of time. Ask for course catalogs. Check the health of those programs as well. You don’t want to end up choosing one school based on an option that gets eliminated in the near future.
3. What Will the True Cost of It Be, and How Will You Pay for It?
Education is one of the most expensive “purchases” that you will ever make in your lifetime. It’s well ahead of the average car and, depending on what you go to school for, could even end up costing you more than buying a house. Before you decide to go or put college on hold, do the real calculations as to what the cost of your education will be and how you plan to pay for it.
The answers will be all over the place. You’ll pay a lot more if you end up going to an out-of-state college, and it could cost you even more without any type of financial assistance. You also need to consider things like higher cost of living, what financial resources you have, and how much you will need to borrow. It’s never a good idea to borrow more money than you need, so take some time to put pencil to paper. It may be the most important math problem you ever calculate!
4. How Will Future Developments Impact College As We Know It?
We live in an unprecedented and, to a certain degree, unenviable time to be going to college. Advancements in online learning have sent some courses entirely online, while others incorporate technology to deeper extents than in the past. Mix in the uncertain threats of global pandemics, talk of student loan forgiveness, and overall increased government scrutiny for how institutions of higher learning are delivering on their promises to students, and you’ve got a landscape that could look very different year-to-year.
You should be keeping these developments in mind as well as you decide whether to put college on hold. You might find there to be some degree of intelligence in allowing the dust to settle on these changes before pursuing college yourself. In the meantime, you’ve got options to keep your life from having to be put on hold. We’ll consider what those options are in just a bit.
5. What Networking Opportunities Will It Present You?
Lastly, a college’s true value goes beyond what it can teach you in a classroom. Colleges are also important by what opportunities they can and have delivered for their students along the way.
For example, how good are the career counseling programs that they have to offer? What percentage of graduates end up with a job fresh after graduation? Do they present many on-campus speaking events in areas of your interest? Do you have an opportunity to practice in your chosen career field outside of the classroom?
Weigh those networking opportunities that a college will grant you. Because, truthfully, they might be even more relevant than what you pick up in the classroom.
Consider These Alternative Steps to College
Now that we’ve discussed the uncertainties of college that every junior or senior in high school should be considering, let’s look at what can be done instead. The following options are worth considering if you’re just not sure immediately attending college is right for you.
Going to a Trade School
Trade schools were once sort of looked down upon by institutions of higher learning. Over the last 15 years, that attitude has taken a dramatic turn for the better. In fact, many colleges have started to implement programs that you formally had to go to a trade school for because they realize the value of technical skills in an increasingly skills-based economy.
If you’re not feeling the pull of college, then you may want to take a moment to reflect on what you’re truly good at or what type of knowledge does a betterr job of “registering” for you. If you’re better with your hands or with practical applications, then college may not be the best place to start. Look into what trade schools in your area have to offer as well as what kind of job market will be waiting for you beyond certification.
Taking a Gap Year
There’s nothing wrong with simply taking a little time off, provided you’re filling that time with constructive thought and experimentation. You don’t want to take a gap year if your intention is to simply sit around and play video games the whole time. You want to use those 365 days to contemplate questions about your interests, passion, and knowledge that you haven’t had time to adequately sort through.
A gap year can teach you a lot about the value of education in your life, and it can help you at an all-too-important fork in the road. Discuss your desire to do this with parents if they have a financial stake in your education. Also, make sure that your gap year won’t adversely affect any financial awards you have coming your way. (Some community scholarships may have stipulations that prevent them, for instance.)
Splitting Your Gap Year Between Requirements
There may be value in delaying your gap year as well since the first two years of any college career focus on general education requirements. Getting those two years out of the way as quickly as you can will advance you beyond the high school diploma and make you better-equipped for higher-paying jobs than if you just took the diploma and ran directly into the workforce.
So, consider going to a community college for two years where you can keep costs low and keep momentum going on your education as you consider next moves. You can always take your gap year at the end of those two years, and you can do it with a better idea of what types of courses you’re best at doing.
Essentially, it will help you milk more value out of your time off than simply jumping right into your gap year after your high school education is finished. Of course, whether this idea works for you will hinge on how much college credit you have to start with following high school. Many high schools are moving to progressive paths of education that allow you to graduate with an associate’s degree at the same time that you have your diploma.
A final step to consider before making your final decision is the path to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship worked out very well for “drop-outs” like Bill Gates, and it might be the best path for you. Before going this route, however, you have to acknowledge the fact that successful entrepreneurs must be self-motivated learners and not content with the status quo.
They realize they need a lot of knowledge in their passion area before they can be successful. It’s not an easy way out for them, and it could be the coldest and least successful educational path if one does not do their homework ahead of time.
Read everything you can on entrepreneurship, running your own business, and your area of content knowledge. Take courses. Find mentors. Be prepared for a potentially tough road ahead, but don’t let it negatively affect your optimism.
Do Not Take the Decision to Put College on Hold Lightly
We hope these questions and considerations will help you come to the best decision possible when considering whether to put college on hold. If you can think of something we’ve left out or have further questions about the next steps that you should be taking, we invite you to leave your feedback in the comments section below. Best of luck to you, and stay safe as you work toward getting back into the classroom following this pandemic.
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