Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Time to Rethink College (Part 1): Don’t Be a Lemming

 

LemmingsStudent2If you have kids and plan for them to step from high school straight into college without any work experience, take a seat: I’m about to disabuse you of that idea. I’ve got three kids, two already through college, so I have done this before. We finally figured it out with the last kid. Allow me to give you the new strategy, because we are bucking the trend.

The Problem

From all sides — her peers, her high school, and the larger culture — there was tremendous pressure on my daughter to choose a career and go straight to college. The private high school my daughter just graduated from boasts a college admission rate of 98 percent! That admission rate is part of the school’s marketing, and it wants that rate to be as high as possible.

The school organizes a college fair with representatives from colleges, takes juniors across the country to various college campuses, has Naviance training, holds college application workshops for seniors and parents, and according its website, does “senior interviewing practicum.” (Latin must improve one’s college readiness.) As if that’s not enough pressure, at the high school graduation, as the seniors walk up to get their diploma, their “career future” is read announcing which college they are going to. Pity those few seniors who had no college to announce.

So what does this do to the kids? Well, the seniors are all asking each other what their major will be and which college they are going to, which creates tremendous peer pressure to have an answer: “Oh, I’m going to Grove City,” or “I’m going to Penn State.” This makes it very very hard for a kid to say “I’m going to work.” It is so twisted that answering “work” brings shame. We know another family who simply disappeared and unplugged from all school connections immediately after graduation. We found out why: their daughter had gotten a job after high school (heaven forbid!) and evidently, the pressure to explain her choice to her peers was too much.

Our culture has a twisted preoccupation with every person going to college. Without that piece of parchment, people are made to believe they will live life as a failure. Obama has elevated it to a national priority by floating free community college tuition, but only two years’ worth (so, once your hooked you have to pay for the next fix).

This pressure causes a premature commitment to a career path, and it has a price. Once someone gets a degree, they feel obligated to use that degree, and they force themselves to stay in careers they hate. I have found many people who change direction after 15 years in the wrong career, all because they made the wrong decision too early in life and felt they had to keep going.

The Dad Factor

I was the dad who was paying for college, which brings mature parental control ($) into the college decision. This is perhaps the single biggest factor in success, because the kids need our help. Pretending it is all the kid’s decision is a losing strategy, because — when the culture offers easy loans or even free money to 18-year-olds — you get dumb decisions. So my first piece of advice to parents is: Be a parent, and don’t let your kids make this decision without you. My second is: Don’t let your kids borrow for college. It will ruin their lives. Did I really just write that? Yes, I did. I will explain later.

BeAParent1

I have lots of experience with college kids. I am a business owner of an architectural firm and have had 30+ college interns over the past 30 years, every summer, as well as the occasional high school intern. This taught me that about half of them should not be in architecture, nor in an architectural degree program. So I knew my daughter was only guessing about her future career when in her junior year of high school she said she wanted to be an “artist” (to which I frowned and said “I’m not paying for it”). Next, it was cartoon artist (more frowning). Then finally graphic artist, which I said “sounds better.” So my next advice is to the kids (I mean, young adults): You have been told you can be anything you want to be… that is false. Your career will be what someone else (the market) is willing to pay for. So you must match the world’s needs (job market) with your interests and abilities. If you ignore this advice, you will be living in your parent’s basement.

AnythingYouWantToBe

Tomorrow, Ricochet will post “Time to Rethink College (Part 2): Wasted Money, Wasted Time.”

There are 24 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    Interesting so far.

    • #1
    • October 28, 2015, at 3:01 PM PDT
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  2. Rightfromthestart Coolidge

    A long past due discussion.

    • #2
    • October 28, 2015, at 3:18 PM PDT
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  3. The Question Inactive

    Another thing I’ve noticed but rarely heard discussed is that a degree can limit the kinds of jobs you will be selected for. I had an engineer friend who said his MBA made some interviewers think he wasn’t serious about engineering. I once had a friend who mentioned she was looking for a lab technician, but when I told her I was working on an education master’s degree, she immediately said I wouldn’t be a good fit because she wanted someone purely into science. So, yes, you don’t want to rush into getting a degree and locking yourself into a specific field. If you get a business “brand” or an education “brand,” you may have to work extra hard to change brands.

    • #3
    • October 28, 2015, at 3:32 PM PDT
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  4. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I agree with you completely…even though my oldest child and only high school graduate went directly into college. He is rather unusual, though, in that he really does know what he wants to do, is currently doing it, and will have no debt when he graduates because of scholarships.

    He is studying game design and computer science and has known this is what he wants to do since he was about nine years old. He has great art talent, a gift for storytelling, and mad computer programming skills.

    His dad and I wish he were interested in a more practical application of his talents, but I am confident that three years from now he will not be living in my basement.

    • #4
    • October 28, 2015, at 3:55 PM PDT
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  5. The Flying Fezman Member

    As a somewhat recent entrant into the architecture workforce, I agree with what’s laid out in this post so far – it was only about a year or so into working that I realized that the architecture return on investment for college (requiring a masters to become licensed by most colleges) was much less than the various engineers I sit next to (which for the most part only require a bachelors). The engineers get much higher salaries because there is greater demand (at least here in DC).

    • #5
    • October 28, 2015, at 5:56 PM PDT
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  6. KiminWI Inactive

    I have a bright senior with no clue what she wants to do. This is timely and I’m ready to hear more.

    • #6
    • October 28, 2015, at 6:00 PM PDT
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  7. Mark Camp Member

    Terrific post!

    • #7
    • October 28, 2015, at 6:33 PM PDT
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  8. SpiritO'78 Member

    I also waited to go to college by doing a three year stint in the Army. It made me appreciate attending school and I had a clearer idea of what skills I had and what my interests were. Good advice

    • #8
    • October 28, 2015, at 7:02 PM PDT
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  9. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad: He is studying game design and computer science and has known this is what he wants to do since he was about nine years old. He has great art talent, a gift for storytelling, and mad computer programming skills.

    Curious, my son too wants to be a game developer. His path after college was to work for Lockheed Martin for about two years, save every penny. And then live off that money as he tires to start his own game company. And after more than a year of work… just this week he released his first game!!! (http://voidspire.com/). Let’s hope he gets his company off the ground.

    • #9
    • October 28, 2015, at 10:04 PM PDT
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  10. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    The Flying Fezman:As a somewhat recent entrant into the architecture workforce, I agree with what’s laid out in this post so far – it was only about a year or so into working that I realized that the architecture return on investment for college (requiring a masters to become licensed by most colleges) was much less than the various engineers I sit next to (which for the most part only require a bachelors). The engineers get much higher salaries because there is greater demand (at least here in DC).

    Join the club! It can be a difficult job, but very rewarding. As for the money, architecture is best practiced as hobby, and not as a for-profit venture.

    • #10
    • October 28, 2015, at 10:09 PM PDT
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  11. DialMforMurder Inactive

    Well done on seeing the light before throwing your last-born into the meat-processor.

    I wish this expose was around when I was finishing high school a decade ago. I hate private schools. They need to be blamed as much as the tertiary sector itself over the current Millennial debt-enslavement and unemployment epidemic.

    One day I might have kids and I loathe the prospect of putting them through such a left-wing education system. There needs to be a solid push towards back-to-basics RRR education (8 to 10 years length) complimented by firm advocacy for trade apprenticeships. If that doesn’t happen then I may have to explicitly tell my kids on day one to not obey their teachers. At the very least I will order them to take a gap year immediately after school.

    • #11
    • October 28, 2015, at 10:41 PM PDT
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  12. Michael Minnott Member
    Michael Minnott Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Excellent advise so far. Looking forward to part 2.

    • #12
    • October 28, 2015, at 11:30 PM PDT
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  13. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wiley: Curious, my son too wants to be a game developer.

    And my husband is an architect who runs his own firm, which he founded about ten years ago. He is a small shop, consisting of him, so he’s never dealt with hiring people. He’s doing great.

    He got a completely unrelated undergrad degree, then later got a master’s degree in architecture. Because of the undergrad degree, he and I met, so in our view not a complete waste…

    • #13
    • October 29, 2015, at 2:31 AM PDT
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  14. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wiley, I’ve sent my son a link to your son’s new game. I don’t play, but it looks fun. Good luck to him!

    • #14
    • October 29, 2015, at 2:38 AM PDT
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  15. Nick Stuart Inactive

    My wife & I have 5 children. One is blind and developmentally disabled. When the other 4 turned 13, we had a talk about the “Facts of FINANCIAL Life.” That went something along the lines of “Your sister is going to need everything we can do for her. We will get you through high school, after that it’s going to be up to you and by the way, I’m not signing for any loans for college.”

    All 4 enlisted in the military directly after high school and got their start in life that way.

    =====Changing subjects slightly====

    The Question: I had an engineer friend who said his MBA made some interviewers think he wasn’t serious about engineering. I once had a friend who mentioned she was looking for a lab technician, but when I told her I was working on an education master’s degree, she immediately said I wouldn’t be a good fit because she wanted someone purely into science.

    This is as much of a comment on the stupidity of a great many people doing recruiting and hiring as anything else.

    And never take at face value any reason you’re given for why you didn’t get a job.

    • #15
    • October 29, 2015, at 5:19 AM PDT
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  16. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad: And my husband is an architect who runs his own firm, which he founded about ten years ago. He is a small shop, consisting of him, so he’s never dealt with hiring people. He’s doing great.

    The vast majority of architectual firms are small. At present I too am solo, but for decades had a 3 to 5 person firm. When I let the last empolyee go, my income doubled the next year. Years ago you needed the employee manpower to get larger projects done, but now with increasing efficient CAD programs, a one man shop can do very large projects and/or a lot of projects. The only problem is having another eye to check your work. I have seen two solo practitioners (usually friends) use each other to check the other’s final drawings before it goes out… or a wife is very good at that too!

    • #16
    • October 29, 2015, at 5:35 AM PDT
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  17. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad: Because of the undergrad degree, he and I met,

    I forgot to mention, that is exactly how I met my wife. We must be living in parallel universes.

    • #17
    • October 29, 2015, at 5:51 AM PDT
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  18. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    By the way, the first image in this post is a Swedish stamp showing Norway Lemmings. Wikepedia has this to say of them:

    “Where geographical features constrain their movements and channel them into a relatively narrow corridor, large numbers can build up, leading to social friction, distress, and eventually a mass panic can follow, where they flee in all directions.”

    I have observed this about contemporary college students:

    “Where social features constrain their movements and channel them into a relatively narrow college paths, large numbers can build up, leading to social friction, distress, and eventually a mass panic can follow, where they flee in all directions.”

    • #18
    • October 29, 2015, at 5:58 AM PDT
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  19. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    Nick Stuart: All 4 enlisted in the military directly after high school

    Problem solved. I understand there are great college options for enlistees.

    • #19
    • October 29, 2015, at 6:00 AM PDT
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  20. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wiley:

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad: And my husband is an architect who runs his own firm, which he founded about ten years ago. He is a small shop, consisting of him, so he’s never dealt with hiring people. He’s doing great.

    The vast majority of architectual firms are small. At present I too am solo, but for decades had a 3 to 5 person firm. When I let the last empolyee go, my income doubled the next year. Years ago you needed the employee manpower to get larger projects done, but now with increasing efficient CAD programs, a one man shop can do very large projects and/or a lot of projects. The only problem is having another eye to check your work. I have seen two solo practitioners (usually friends) use each other to check the other’s final drawings before it goes out… or a wife is very good at that too!

    Thank you, John Walker!!!

    • #20
    • October 29, 2015, at 6:13 AM PDT
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  21. Janie Cheaney Inactive

    My son also wanted to be an artist–specifically, an animator. He changed his mind about that later on and decided on comics. But we couldn’t pay for it, and he didn’t want to go into debt. So he moved to California on his on, age 18, and got a job as a caricature artist at Knott’s Berry Farm. Almost twenty years later he lives in Las Vegas, owns a caricature business both online and at the Stratosphere, does freelance illustration and events, employs 4-5 artists, and works about as much as he wants to. It’s a good life, and no college debt.

    • #21
    • October 29, 2015, at 6:23 AM PDT
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  22. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    Janie Cheaney: Almost twenty years later he lives in Las Vegas, owns a caricature business … employs 4-5 artists, and works about as much as he wants to. It’s a good life, and no college debt.

    Well done. If compared to most with debt from an art degree, he will look brilliant. Only for some careers is a lack of a degree an impediment. For these with the entrepreneurial spirit, it is not an obstacle. There are numberous examples of when you are the owner of the business, a degree is irrelevant. Here are but a few examples: Andrew Carnegie, Ansel AdamsFrank Lloyd Wright, George EastmanHenry FordJerry Yang, John D. Rockefeller Sr.Larry EllisonMichael DellMilton HersheySteve WozniakThomas EdisonWalt Disney, and Steve Jobs.

    • #22
    • October 29, 2015, at 6:58 AM PDT
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  23. Arahant Member

    Wiley: There are numerous examples of when you are the owner of the business, a degree is irrelevant.

    Sounds like advice for my thread.

    • #23
    • October 29, 2015, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  24. Wiley Inactive
    Wiley

    Wiley:

    The Flying Fezman:As a somewhat recent entrant into the architecture workforce, I agree with what’s laid out in this post so far – it was only about a year or so into working that I realized that the architecture return on investment for college (requiring a masters to become licensed by most colleges) was much less than the various engineers I sit next to (which for the most part only require a bachelors). The engineers get much higher salaries because there is greater demand (at least here in DC).

    Join the club! It can be a difficult job, but very rewarding. As for the money, architecture is best practiced as hobby, and not as a for-profit venture.

    I regret this off the cuff comment. So here is my correction. I love Architecture and it has been good to me and has provided for my family. But it can be a somewhat panicked vocation with lots of big deadlines. It is a discipline between art and engineering and has a pay scale between artist ($) and engineer ($$$$). Thus for a person with 3 kids, it alone was not going to pay their tuition. However, when I leveraged my expertise and built my own projects, I could I afford to pay for my children’s tuition.

    • #24
    • November 2, 2015, at 7:16 AM PST
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