Garfield Senior High School

High School is over, what now?

Ask yourself these questions: “What does success mean to you?” and “Does college lead you to success?”

For the past two decades, the most common path to success is through a college degree. The constant pressure faced by high school seniors no longer gives them an opportunity to explore the alternatives. As a student, your school’s staff, your parents, your family, and your teachers and friends all expect you to attend college.

The problem with this narrative is how it fails to apply to everybody. School isn’t for everyone and a diploma or degree aren’t needed to sing, act, or run a business. It is because of this common misconception of success and the fear that comes from failing to uphold this expectation that young people are afraid to chase their dreams and passions.

This is why the definition of success needs to be changed and broadened. Many people may find that they can get a well-paying job that does not need a four year degree or may only need an associate’s degree. Others have a specific skill that translates into a job, such as cooking, electrical work, sports instruction, or automotive repair.  So if you don’t need a degree to do what you love, or what you are skilled at, take time and explore other options instead of enrolling for college immediately. Much like Dave Thomas, the founder of the fast food restaurant Wendy’s. Thomas didn’t finish high school, nor attended college, but he found success in working at restaurants and later creating his own chain of fast food restaurants.          

On the other hand, some people have always loved school and hoped to pursue their careers with a college education without the overwhelming pressure. There are some students that have a plan regarding where they want to develop professionally and if there’s meaning or a passion behind a career choice, then by all means go after it.

However, the main issue is for high school students in impacted majors, meaning majors that a lot of students are pursuing. This has created an imbalance in the number of students in a particular major, and the actual number of jobs available for people with that degree which is caused by thousands of young people enrolling into a college or university expecting a job right after graduation, but they now have to carry the burden of underemployment.

At this point, Bachelor’s degrees might be on the verge of becoming obsolete, meaning if every person has a Bachelor’s Degree it no longer guarantees them the job or career path they desired. The worst part of it all is the economic burden that these underemployed graduates face. According to Gordon Wadsworth, author of The College Trap, “…if the cost of college tuition was $10,000 in 1986, it would now cost the same student over $21,500 if education had increased as much as the average inflation rate but instead education is $59,800 or over 2 ½ times the inflation rate.

As a result, the national student loan debt has very well exceeded $1.3 trillion. This may correlate to the high number of adults from the age of eighteen to thirty-four still living with their parents, according to a study be the U.S Census Bureau, 46.9 percent of adults in New Jersey still live with their parents, the highest in the nation, followed by Connecticut at 41.6 percent, and California falls at sixth with a percent of 38.1.

The flaw in the college system remains with those who are pressured into enrolling instead of searching for their own success. I hope high school students really look into alternatives before pouring in tens of thousands of dollars into a college education.