I’ve gotten the chance to meet a lot of people since I left high school. We’re all so different, so amazingly unique, but I’m starting to notice a trend and of course, I had to share it on this lovely blog. So if you will, as you always do, humor me. These experiences are not only mine, but also many other people I have spoken to.
“In high school, it is a general assumption that smart people go to college. If you are not smart, you go into the military or find a job at a factory or something.” I heard that quote recently and just laughed it off. Naturally, it started my mind a-wandering and I couldn’t help but think about it over and over and over. I had shrugged it off because loads of my graduating class had been smart and gone into the military. I hold the armed forces in highest esteem. But why is it that I can’t shake that sentence?
“I was told that college was what I was supposed to do.” That’s true. I never really heard anything other than “Go to college” from my high school guidance counsellors. And at the time, I thought I wanted to be a doctor, so college was really obvious to me anyway.
And some really heavy conversations keep rolling around in my head. So many people who are in no way “dumb” keep telling me their stories about failing out of college, of leaving after a semester or two, or of aimlessly drifting through associate’s degrees because that’s what they were supposed to do.
I watched a video today about the “real faces of student loan debt” and people crying about not knowing better when they took out loans. I have student loans. And by the time I get completely finished with college, I’ll have a lot more. But again, the point remained. It’s what we’re supposed to do.
Sure, you can say: to get a job, to make something of yourself, to become an upstanding citizen, yada, yada, yada. But let me tell you a story that is so eerily similar to the people I’ve talked to.
About a year into college, I began to have a series of “breakdowns”. Why did college suck? Why wasn’t it fun? Why wasn’t it everything I had been told it would be? Wasn’t it supposed to be the best years of my life? Why then was it miserable, expensive and stressful? I almost gave up and left. My husband helped me reason it out, and I almost decided that college wasn’t right for me. I graduated high school second in my class, with a GPA of 3.98 and as a member of the National Honor Society. I had credentials. I didn’t understand why education was no longer something I was the best at. I mean, I was smart. Why wasn’t college easy? It was what I was supposed to do, after all and I hated it.
Several years later, I eye my student loans warily, with that suspicious sort of “are you even real?” Attitude. I’m not done collecting loans and they most definitely haven’t even begun collecting me-but it weighs on my mind a lot. And with application season only just beginning for me (I just registered for the LSAT and GRE), I cannot help but look back at what I’ve done.
Why is it that so many people-men and women-leave college? The people I have talked to voiced similar concerns as I had. It wasn’t what had been promised, they felt inadequate, college wasn’t what made them happy. And I think the problem lies in there somewhere. If your high school guidance counsellors were anything like mine, they pushed college on you hard. It wasn’t even really a question. And it was explained to you that smart people went to college, got degrees and got away from the smal town we were in. Smart people became doctors or scientists, and college would be the time of your life. You were in fact, preparing yourself to succeed in college.
I don’t think I was.
You could argue that yes, my grades are pretty decent. I stand a great chance of getting accepted by a law school or a master’s program and academically, sure. I guess, more or less, I am prepared. But mentally? Emotionally? Not a big fat chance. I feel like I have the maturity of a toddler who missed nap time most days and I’m not even sure about the other days. It’s literally like teething academically-there’s a lot of pain, anger and in the end someone gives you a sticker (or in this case, diploma) and hopes you’ll forget how much it hurt. And on good days, when I am a fully functional adult? Those are the days that I just stare blankly at the wall, wondering why someone didn’t warn me beforehand that I needed to work more, go to a cheaper college and live with my parents until I was 30 so I wouldn’t be drowning in debt.
You could argue that I should have known, and I would sheepishly nod my head. But how could I have known? I was a teenager. I didn’t know a thing about interest rates on student loans, the cost of living or even how to love myself. I was asked-or well, demanded of really-to plan out my entire life before I was even able to vote and yet just a few years before, I was being considered for electroshock therapy (I know it’s called something else now-but that’s still EXACTLY what it is). So why is it that so many people leave college?
Because we aren’t being honest with our young people. It isn’t the end of the world if you decide to get a job after high school and postpone college until you know EXACTLY what you want to do. It isn’t the end of the world if you never go to college. It’s not even the end of the world if you do what I did and stay in college even when you’re sometimes miserable. (For the record, I am no longer miserable, although I do feel a bad case of senioritis coming on!) You want to know what is the end of the world? Feeling like you have absolutely no choice in the matter because you were told that smart people have to go to college. That’s total rubbish. You do you the way you want to do you. You have your entire life ahead of you. And in the words of the great philosopher Ms. Frizzle (winky face)
Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy!