Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Free Advice: Do a cost-benefit analysis before going to college

If you want to go to college, ask yourself a few questions:

1) Why am I going?
2) What's it going to cost?
3) Will it be worth the investment in time and money?

Note that there are plenty of alternatives. Think about the thousands of possible career options that you have. Be careful of "drifting" into college because it seems to be "the done thing" and everyone else is doing it. Are you going to college mindfully, or are you just following the rest of the herd?

Be aware that many people never complete their degree. Universities will encourage you to attend - asking a College if you should attend is like asking a barber if you need a haircut. They have ulterior motives (your cash).

Do you really need the degree? Is there no way you can do what you want to do in life without it? There are some careers where the answer is "yes" - but not that many. Do you really, really want to work in that career? Talk to some people who already work in this field and ask them if they are happy with what they do. What is their life like? You may be surprised.

Be aware that you can do something with your life that doesn't involve college, and then go to college later if you want to. You may have gathered enough experience at that point to have more of a clue what you want to be and do.

There are many options for you to improve your education without spending a ton of money. You can use the internet. You can use books. You can find a mentor. Consider these options first, before college.

Debt is debt - whether it's for a house or for an education. There had better be a damn good reason for being beholden to someone else for a significant chunk of your lifetime. It has parallels with slavery - more subtle, but you are surrendering control over your life. Be careful about that.

There are some assumptions you are making when you go to college:

1) You will complete the degree
2) You will get a most excellent job when you graduate.

How realistic is this? I have already mentioned that lots of people don't finish their degree. They still need to pay back any loans that they took out. However, they missed step 2. So how are they going to pay?

How likely is it that, even if you do get a degree, that the excellent job will materialize? It's a jungle out there, many other people need jobs also. Will you really be able to get that job? And, how much does it really pay, after taxes?

Please think carefully before going to college.

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