Degreed or non–degreed
Reader comment on item: A Parent's Guide to College Visits
Submitted by Pied Piper (Saudi Arabia), Apr 14, 2017 at 23:12
As a long time professional in education,I offer these comments regarding choosing a college or university.
1..It's extremely rare, but if a student...at the age of 17.... has a very good idea of what he intends to study and which profession he intends to pursue, then he should apply to a top "department" within his field. This is especially true of the hard sciences, engineering, medicine, and the law. What I mean is apply to one of the top 20 schools specializing in the field. (It does not have to be one of the top 4 or 5....that kind of focus brings up different issues and has its own pitfalls).
2. Most of us, however, aren't so lucky as to have decided on a career path so early in life. The fact is, the vast majority of 17 year olds, regardless their academic strengths, have no idea "what to study" or what they "want to become" except in a very general sense. For them, cost and convenience take precedence in choosing a college.
If financial factors loom negatively in your educational horizon, seriously consider starting at a community college near your home. This can make a huge difference in savings, both in tuition and room and board fees. I'm aware that this is not an attractive option for many students. One of the enticements of "going to college" is also to "get away from home" type of thinking. But for many students, this is the only realistic option available to them. At all costs, avoid getting into debt just to prove a point, or at least keep it down to controllable limits.
3..It's seldom discussed, but I imagine some families have to face the fact that their student simply isn't meant for college or shows no interest at all in college. But "meant for college" or no, the value of a "degree" is no longer primarily because it's the path to a worthwhile career......it's currently much more important as a "right of passage", a ritual you've undergone to prove your membership as a productive member of society (something like that). What you actually may have studied at school is not even discussed anymore. Therefore, even students not interested in a degree should make some effort in obtain one. In cases like this, where a student clearly has no interest in attending college, part time attendance at a local college while working and possibly doing some "distance" courses could be something he might be cajoled into.
It's like getting a driver's license. There"s no law that says you have to have one.....but it sure makes daily living a whole lot easier.
Even if you ultimately decide on a career as a craftsman or journeyman or technician in one of the trades or a field not normally requiring an academic degree, you may attempt to eventually get a degree simply for its inherent social prestige. (It's surprising how many current undergraduates cheerfully declare they are the first in their family to attend college).
From my perspective, there's too much "looking" at colleges as an important factor in where you end up going. Much more time, effort and realistic looking at yourself, your situation, your goals (if any) have to be observed and considered. These are the crucial factors that should determine where you go to school. Everything else is really.....just "noise".
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