A lot of people, mostly high school students that are about to graduate, are wondering if they should go to college. The short answer to that question is it depends on what you want to do for work, and it also depends on what kind of education you need to get there.

As you leave high school and enter ‘the real world’, you will realize that a lot of things can’t be answered so easily. This is what I like to refer to as out of the box thinking, and you should definitely familiarize yourself with that if you are planning on going to college. If you are wondering which college is right for you, then please skip down to General tips that you should research before making a decision.


Ask Yourself Questions

Teachers, guidance counselors, and professionals you meet during career day in high school meet a lot of students over the years, and it was upsetting for a lot of us to see our students make the wrong decision about going to college and choosing a career. We want to see everyone better themselves and further their education, but going to college isn’t necessarily the best path for everyone. I have seen this scenario too often where a student doesn’t give enough thought on what they want to do after high school.

I usually hear, “I don’t know what I want to do. Mom wants me to be an engineer, but I’d rather go into construction. I might just join the military. I don’t care what I do, I just want to get out of that house and be on my own.” If you aren’t sure what you want to do, then you aren’t asking yourself enough questions, and more importantly, you aren’t giving yourself a chance to figure it out.

In fact, there are quite a few students who let their parents influence their decision too much. “Well, son, you are going to college to become an engineer because that’s the best job to get into. You’ll get paid well, and you’re most likely going to get a job after you graduate.” That might be true, and hopefully your parents want to see you do well in life and not have to struggle like how some of them did, however, is that what you really want to do for what might be the rest of your life? Do you even want to be an engineer? Are you good at math? Do you like math? Do you know what engineers do, and which type of engineer would you want to be? Will you be happy and be proud of yourself if you become an engineer? Will you need a bachelor’s degree or higher to land a good job? Where will your ideal job be located? Will you need to travel? Do you want to travel? What are the benefits?


Gain Experience

If you still aren’t sure about what to do even after you ask yourself a ton of questions, then my advice would be to job shadow someone. Some people will allow you to job shadow (basically follow them around or help them out) them for a day or two to see if it’s something that you would like to do. They might even let you do some of their work to help you understand what challenges they go through on a daily basis. You might think that they are just being lazy and want to give you their grunt work, but at least you’re learning something, right? I would recommend you to contact family and friends to see if they know someone that can get you to job shadow someone for a day.

Another way to figure out what you want to do is to work as many different fields as possible. Makes sense, right? At least you will have a better idea of what you want to do. Using myself as an example, my first job was a paper boy, then a cashier at a movie theater, security guard, construction worker, salesman, online sales manager, teacher, blogger, and a few other jobs over the years. I recommend you do as much as you can and volunteer for as many different things as soon as you can. You don’t want to figure out what you want to do in life by the time you hit early retirement!

Some people need to get out there and experience the world before they know what they want to do. I learned that I enjoyed being a teacher the most, and I hated construction the most, and there’s a reason for that. I’ve met the most responsible and well rounded individuals when I was working with other teachers. Granted that some of them aren’t all perfect, but judging from what I’ve been through over the years, I respected a lot of them. On the other hand, I couldn’t stand some of the vocational jobs because some of the employees are just so angry, arrogant, and not very bright.

I remember this one guy I met on the job when I was a construction worker who just ran his mouth all day, everyday. He hated homosexuals, he hated democrats, he hated stupid people, everyone else is lazy and nobody is doing their work except for him, and he let everyone know it. You are not going to see those types of people in a professional environment. Can you imagine seeing a person like that as a teacher, doctor, or engineer? Nope! The moral of this story is that some people have to go through the crappy jobs in order to appreciate the better jobs and realize where they belong, and if you want to avoid that kind of person, then I recommend you either go to college or start your own business.

Vocational School, College, or Neither?

I don’t agree with high school guidance counselors telling every student to go to a four year college. It’s absurd. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep on saying it, everyone is different. Not everyone SHOULD go to college, but everyone SHOULD ask a lot of questions and do their research before they decide which career path that they want to pursue!

General tips that you should research before making a decision:

  • You should do some research to see which jobs are out there for you in your area.
  • What level of education will you need to complete (high school, certifications or licenses, associates, bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD).
  • How much you will be making (hourly, commission, or salary based).
  • What the cost of living in your area or near your desired job is to see if you can comfortably live with your desired job (some jobs can’t pay enough for you to live comfortably off of. You shouldn’t pay more than 1/3 of your paycheck to rent).
  • Check to see if there’s possible promotions or raises with any employer.
  • Research different schools and prices before you commit to anything. Check for in and out of state tuition, cost of books, supplies, and classes, dormitory expenses vs. living off campus, meal plans, grants and student financial aid, and see if they offer internships or can guarantee that you will find a job after graduating. Just because you go to college does not mean that you will automatically get a job!

Vocational: Do you want to do something in vocation such as automotive, welding, or construction? Some places require certifications, classes, or prior work experience before they will hire you.

On the other hand, some employers don’t require anything except for having a high school diploma. The more certified you are, and the more experience that you have, the more job offers you will receive, as well as pay. The problem with going to vocational school is that it can be more expensive than going to a four year college.

College: Would you rather do something in education, science, or math such as a teacher, doctor, or engineer? You will NEED a college education, and you may need to take a test to become licensed. Talk with your department or guidance councilor to see what you will need to do.

There is no way around some professions today. Most employers want you to be specialized in a related field that they are looking for. Someone who graduated with a Bachelor in English will NOT be able to find a job as an engineer. College degrees don’t go as far as they used to. Be careful when you choose a major! Math, accounting, and business is a safe major to declare since there is no shortage in that type of employment, and you can go pretty much go anywhere in the country.

Neither: Perhaps you prefer working as an assistant, sales associate, or even start your own business? Why spend the money and burden yourself with all of those college loans when the job you want only requires a high school degree? You can make a decent living without going to college such as a sales consultant for a large company. You can even start your own business!

The challenge is that you will most likely need work experience in order to get hired for the job (or know someone that can put in a good word). You should also look for a company that offers good benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance, 401k, paid vacations, etc., especially if you need to support a family.

Whatever you choose to do, it is imperative that you graduate from high school! I have never seen a job opportunity that at least did not require a high school diploma or GED (General Education Development). If you recently dropped out of high school, then try to get your GED! You can either contact your former high school or contact your state’s Department of Education to earn your GED. You can google each state’s Department of Education, and you will most likely have to search their database for a GED, or you can contact them directly by navigating to their contact us page or find their contact information, which is usually found at the bottom of a typical website. Good luck, fellow EduCons!

Let’s Hear From You!

How did you figure out what you wanted to do in your life? Did you always know what you wanted to do? What convinced you? How many jobs did you work before you realized what you wanted to do? Are you still unsure what you want to do? Did someone convince you to make a decision? Do you wish that you went to college, or do you wish that you didn’t go to college? Are you trying to switch career paths, and why? Do you have any regrets? Which advice would you give to someone who was thinking about going to college?