Why going straight from High School to College is often a very bad idea


The talk on college has been the same for years now.  It’s overpriced. The quality of the education and real world experience it provides is lacking.  Student debt is out of control. Graduation rates are not WOWing anyone. The currency of having a degree is not what it used to be.

And yet, parents and educators are still pushing hard for students to make the leap from high school to college upon graduating.

It’s interesting the advice we give our kids sometimes.  We wouldn’t tell them to purchase a new car from a dealer and take on high monthly interest payments after graduating.  We we wouldn’t tell them to jump into a serious relationship or spend the next year or two studying subjects they could care less about.  We for sure wouldn’t encourage them to go spend another 4 years going to parties with friends while working part time, meaningless jobs just so they can have money to support their social life while they pretend to study.

Yet again, those seem like some fair analogies when we consider the ROI on Bachelors Degrees these days, the pressure we put on students to commit to a university and the amount of waste there is in those first two years of required, basic courses.

So how does someone make a wise decision not only about IF college is right but for them but WHEN it’s right for them?  


Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of valid reasons to go straight from High School to College so let’s review what some of those might be.  If I were 18 again, I would likely head straight to college if…

  • ...I got a unsubstantial scholarship (or Mom and Dad were paying the bill).  Wouldn’t be my own money I’m potentially burning so why not go!

  • ....I wanted to prolong my adolescence and not have to do any ‘adulting’ for at least another 4 to 6 years.  College campuses offer some of the best social experiences in our country. Why would I want to miss out on all the fun?

And that’s about it.


The reality is, in 2018, there are better options that exist for graduating seniors who are anxious to take their next steps in life.  If I were 18 again, I would likely hold on college if…

  • ...Going required me to take out substantial student loans.  The average cost of a four year degree is still over $40,000 easy.  That’s some serious money to gamble on paper credentials that employers are taking less and less into consideration these days.  It’s also highly likely that my passions will change and I won’t spend very long in my original field of study.

  • ...I felt that NOT going would disappoint people around me.  Again, unless those same people are paying for me to go, making life decisions based on not wanting to let others down is a sure way to eventually let others down (including yourself).

Graduating seniors come in two varieties when it comes to their mindset on careers - they either have some clue or no clue on what it is they want to do.  I don’t care how passionate, disciplined and focused a young person is about the path they want to take after High School, the truth is there are better options that exist besides going straight to college.


We live in the golden era of information.  It is literally everywhere. Just this past week I was learning how to trade stocks from YouTube videos while waiting for my kids at soccer practice.  With resources like Teachable, Udemy and about a thousand other online learning platforms, today’s young adults can dive into just about anything with little to no money or long term commitment needed.  I recently sat down with a few seasoned financial planners and as it turns out, they didn’t tell me anything I couldn’t Google myself. Supposing I was someone who was interested in the financial sector, I would test the waters by finding an entry level job which are easy to obtain without a degree or college experience.   

Investing in your education is always the right move, but why pay for an education you may never use or that you can explore elsewhere for free?  Get online and learn to trade stocks, create videos, podcast, manage social media, study digital art, speak a foreign language, write and publish a book, dive into photography, run your own business and about a thousand other career options that exist.

You want to be a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Counselor or something you KNOW will require a degree?  Great! But why not spend a year or two working in a Doctor's office, being a student aid, volunteering as a camp counselor or whatever entry level position you can grab to draw closer to these fields and see what it’s really like before you commit four or more years and a ton of cash to that path?

If someone tells you that you need a degree or college experience to even get your foot in the door then stop taking advice from that person.  They have no clue what they are talking about. Jobs are won by relationships, not resumes.  The power of networking is one of the most important life skills a person can develop.  If every student spent their first 6 months out of school just doing nothing but learning how to network, they would just about guarantee their success in whatever path they choose.

Let’s also not forget that western styles of classroom education are not for everyone.  There are many, highly intelligent young people who struggle in school only to thrive after graduation once they are free to learn by doing.

My encouragement to teens and young adults today is to not take your foot off the gas after high school and cease to further your education, but to find ways to explore the fields you are interested in before committing major time and resources to them.  A wise investment is one that starts small and builds over time as experience and confidence are gained. Invest wisely in your future by finding alternative ways to explore your gifts and passions. If you truly don’t know what path to take, we encourage you to go through our Catalyst Purpose Project course online.  Use coupon code “CPPCOMP” and consider that our investment in your future. Remember, potential is only a measure of what CAN be, not a guarantee of what WILL be. You have the potential to be amazing at so many different things in this life and we are here to help you narrow down where and how to start.