I've noticed a common theme appearing in the most diverse and curious places: a resistance to traditional college degrees. While the institutions of education push harder than ever to get every child to go to college, thinking people across America are pushing back:
- A blogger I have great respect for shared her home-schooled daughter's desire to become a nanny after graduation, and how they researched what top placement agencies want in candidates. They found college degrees weren't nearly as sought after as literacy skills and fluency in multiple languages. Based on their discussions with intake staff, they've mapped out a plan for the next several years that will provide everything she needs to walk into a job without ever stepping foot in college.
- A young college graduate at a workshop I attended was already finding the need to supplement her degree with outside education to get the skills employers are really seeking.
- Before taking my current job, I seriously considered going back to school for a nutrition degree. I found that largely- online certifications such as Nutritional Therapy Practitioner are infinitely cheaper and more practical for most people who want to actually help others rather than play the what-will-insurance-pay-for game.
- The stay-at-home daughter movement argues that many women whose primary plans include staying home to raise children or partnering with their husbands in business are vastly better served by self-education or targeted training in non-college environments. They'll get the knowledge and skills they need without wracking up crippling debt or wasting time on politically mandated classes they don't need or want.
- Sir Ken Robinson pointed out in his latest book that when only about 20% of the population got college degrees they were the primary sifting tool for employers. Now that they have become so common, their power has seriously eroded.
Certainly college degrees are not worthless; even more obscure degrees can prove to be a gateway to a great career and in some cases they serve as the minimum standard for entry. For some students the simple fact of being in a new place, with new people and fully responsible for themselves for the first time can be a vital (and steep) learning curve they need to tackle to be prepared for later success.
But did you notice the one thing that stood out in all the examples I listed? Research.
The key to being successful now is doing your homework. Asking the questions - not of guidance counselors or college reps, but of the people doing the hiring and the ones working in the field right now. No matter what you (or your child) wants to do, give yourself time to do the research. You might be surprised by what you find - and you might save yourself a couple years and thousands of dollars in the process!