What I Learned In College About College (A Cautionary Tale)

[sg_popup id=”1″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]The Challenges of Getting the Wrong Degree

I was 17 when I was expected to choose a college based on what majors they offered that were in-line with what I wanted to do. I cringe thinking back on that! I could barely decide how to identify myself in the high school social arena, much less decide what I wanted to do with the next 50 years of my life.

Many adults don’t care to have meaningful conversations with 17-year-olds but expect them to make lifelong decisions about their future.

When I was a kid I loved reading about Jane Goodall and Penny Patterson’s work with her gorilla, Koko. I read books about animals constantly. I even took field notes one summer about the life cycle of the butterflies in my backyard. I used to think that if I was only brave enough I would become a nature photographer and travel to remote parts of the world to record rare footage of beautiful creatures.

Somehow none of that was considered when I was looking for majors that were “in-line” with my interests. It was important to my parents that I became a professional, meaning doctor or lawyer. So I obediently let go of my “childish” passions and did what was expected.

At Queens, where I earned my first undergraduate degree, I took an ethics course with a renowned professor who would regularly stop the class to interject his thoughts on the importance of a year off between high school and college.

He talked about how it’s important for people to give themselves a chance to see who they are going to be in life before heading off to school. He believed that higher education should help you shape yourself into the best possible you.

As much as I agreed with him, it was already too late! During my time at Queens and for some time afterward, I would think back on his class and wonder if I had missed my chance.

I took a year off after Queens to study for the LSAT and sure enough, that’s when I had the chance to see who I was going to be in life. The hardest part was and still is acting on it. The last four and a half years has seen its fair share of setbacks and more than its fair share of debt.

Right now, I’m taking more time from school while I give my daughter the care and attention she deserves. In order to contribute more than just childcare to my family, I work as many online gigs as I can come up with.

I’ve started outlining my shelter’s mission statement and coming up with ideas for its operations. I’ve downloaded (but not printed because ink is expensive) all the necessary forms to start my nonprofit. And now, whenever I’m not entertaining or feeding my toddler, I am writing new posts and ideas for this blog. Every day, I’m hustling!

The price of a college education is spiraling out of control, making it one of the most important investments many of us will ever make. It’s important that parents don’t push their agendas on their teens like my parents did and that we build teens up so they don’t let others make them feel silly for their aspirations.

The rising cost of education alone may make it so that you never get a second chance. Whether kids take a year off or are allowed to be honest with themselves, it’s important to make it count.

 

2 Comments

  1. John Ketchum

    How true. I was also “guided” into the professional life. My father was a doctor and thought that if you were not a doctor, an attorney, a dentist, etc., you were simply not good enough. After one and a half years of pre-med (and GPA levels that would have had me back on the streets were it not for some “alumni intervention” at the school), I took the bull by the horns and followed my heart. I’ve never regretted it even though my father never understood or totally accepted it.

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