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Are there Few Pros and Many Cons of Going to College?

One of the most profoundly analytical and thus compelling articles I’ve read in the last few days grabbed my attention with this headline:  “The Few Pros and Many Cons of Going to College”.

This is a provocative article every parent should read!  I believe this article is forecasting a colossal weather system that is already beginning to affect the educational and career landscape worldwide.

If you want to read the article for yourself: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2015/08/college-pros-cons/ 

I warn you ahead of time that some of the author’s comments about college life may be found by some parents to not represent their experience at college or not represent their value system.  However, the author, James Altucher, has written a very well-received book on Amazon.com about, and I believe he presents highly valuable information that would outweigh any criticisms you might have (I have no relationship to the author).

I believe that any parent reading that article will more clearly see that college  – especially “brand name” college  – does not carry the value it maybe once did.  Let me go one step farther:  the idea that going to a particular supposedly prestigious university or college, via a four-year on-campus college experience is going to get your kid something justifying the expense, is becoming a shakier argument by the day.  Even for “white-collar” positions, the author of this article has pointed out even organizations like Google are no longer requiring a college education.

This is good news for many parents.  After all, one of the most terrifying topics, for all the parents I work with, and that my wife and I associate with, is the prospect of paying unjustifiably high tuition costs.  “Unjustifiably?” you say.  Face this ONE BRUTAL FACT: the cost of college tuition has risen at an exponentially quicker and higher rate as compared to other economic indexes such as the Consumer Price Index, or assorted wage or cost-of-living indexes that assess how much costs or wages have increased over the last four or five decades.  Has the value of college education risen at that same astronomical rate?

There has been no compelling studies I am aware of that going to a much more expensive university or college brings a commensurately greater amount of economic gain.  And as I professionally consult with work with business owners and entrepreneurs, to help them screen and select their leaders/managers, I have never heard any of them say that if a person has not gone to college that it is necessarily a strike against them.  What matters most are work ethic, life experience and skill sets, and a track record of accomplishments.  In fact, non-college related accomplishments (e.g., starting a business) may indicate a person was willing to go against the grain and think in an innovative and impressively individualistic way.  

This is not an article about the valuelessness of college, but it is an article to push the reader to turn themselves inside out, to expose all of their privately held and aggressively protected presumptions about what a college degree piece of paper does –  or does not  – do. 

But some good news:  New technology involving alternative methods of going to college, alongside some companies no longer requiring college degrees, such as Google, I promise you, will mean the educational landscape will change dramatically even within the next five years.  News articles are already highlighting how universities are decreasing their tuitions, and offering an increasing number of online classes. Technological education is causing even more affordable universities – like our hometown University of Arizona – to scramble to catch up to the online trends.   The traditional brick-and-mortar-university may not disappear overnight, but your traditional four-year physically ever present on-campus student will become less and less frequent.  Take that to the bank. And you might need to!  Did I mention the greatest cost on family spreadsheets, below house mortgage, is college tuition?

You need to exhaustively question the value of college and examine all of the alternatives for your adolescent to educate and/or train themselves in such a way that they find a lifelong, meaningful, and economically viable vocation and/or career.

Remember:  a happily employed, economically feasible career as a hairdresser is much better than a miserable doctor who by the time they finish medical school has no choice but to stay in medicine even though they hate it.  They have to pay off, often, back breaking loans.  Career dissatisfaction can ruin someone’s life, or cause major distress.  Start the exploration early and consult professionals who have a track record of helping young people find their career sweet spot. 

As a parent, you need to think about how those who will be considering hiring your son or daughter will be evaluating your son or daughter.  Forget what the neighbors think.  Forget about how impressive sounding the name of the University is when it is announced over the public address system at the high school graduation.

What really matters for employability?  Your adolescent’s technical, social, and emotional/ behavioral skill sets.

Your core task as a parent is to strip away all of your personal biases and acknowledge who your adolescent REALLY IS and THEN plan their educational journey WITH them.

The TAKE HOME lessons:

–There is no reason why you should not begin a vocational/career assessment process when your child is in eighth grade or younger.  High school should be the time when an adolescent has not only explored various vocational/career options, but has already begun deeply investigating the various options by shadowing professionals, doing internships, and taking high school or other online courses that would test how passionate they are and how aligned their natural aptitudes are to the areas of interest.  For example, most of our vocational/career guidance clients are either high school or college aged.

–Realize many tech companies are as happy with a technical school credential or professional work experience as a college degree.

By the end of the junior year of high school, if you use advanced behavioral/career science tools, you should be able to have had your adolescent narrow down their career interest to three or four areas.  If you don’t, they will go to college or a trade school and yet still be wandering around in a career fog which will cost you thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

— Don’t get caught up in thinking your child needs to go to a particular university because you went there, or because it has a particular name or prestige.  Names matter less and less these days.  Underlying skill sets matter more and more.  By the time your child graduates from college, they will be competing against people from all over the world, and believe you me, your child – most likely – will not be offered a job based on where they went to school.  Academic pedigree is becoming less and less impressive as society and companies become more focused on skill sets and expertise.

— If your adolescent and/or you first see them going to graduate school to do a PhD, Masters, M.D., etc., then consider the value of having them go to a highly economical university or college and then saving your money for where it will matter most: paying for the post-secondary graduate education. 

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Meet Doctor Brunner

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Brunner is a Tucson based psychologist and published expert who has a 20 year track record of clinical excellence, scientific research, teaching, publications, awards and podcast interviews.  He is the senior author of a psychological measure adapted into 14 languages worldwide, and has written over 250 blogs, many of them have gone viral.  He is revolutionizing the field of career guidance with his fresh and trademarked approach that is spreading like wildfire. Sign up here to be notified of soon to be published book, Find Your Real Me: Career Guidance Making You Truly Free.