Happiness does not always require a degree
When my 15-year-old brother, Jason, announced he didn’t want to go to college at the dinner table one night, my father’s veins popped out of his forehead.
“You’re going,” he snapped. “You’re not going to end up on the street because you were too lazy to go to college.”
So says the man who lives in a five-bedroom house in an expensive neighborhood, complete with an in-ground pool, state-of-the-art kitchen and two purebred cats. Oh, and he never went to college.
I can’t blame my dad for thinking the way he does because he sure isn’t alone. He shares the mindset of most everyone nowadays; college is no longer an option, as it was for our parents’ generation, but rather a requirement for modern success.
In high school, we are not so much encouraged as much as coerced into the idea of college. We are told by our teachers, parents and advisors that an acceptance letter equals a successful career, but that’s far from the truth.
According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for the class of 2015 stands at 7.2 percent, with an underemployment rate of 14.9 percent. Not only does a college education not guarantee a career, but it may not even be the right choice for everyone.
My brother is no “dummy,” but he has never excelled academically. He hates sitting down and memorizing vocabulary words and has no interest in determining the value of “x.” I suspect he would live the happiest life he could as a mechanic or car salesman, considering he can name every car engine on the market and begs my parents to teach him to drive without his learner’s permit. He doesn’t quite need a college degree to go into the auto business, but he will definitely be forced into getting one.
I am by no means discrediting the importance of education, because that’s certainly never wrong, but we shouldn’t pressure our children to go to college if they don’t want to. Not everyone is career-minded or interested in academics and it’s incredibly hard to decide what you want to do forever at the age of 17 or 18. Taking a few years to explore yourself could help you make a more educated decision, ironically.
My drama teacher in high school worked dozens of random jobs before finding his place in teaching theater and the arts. His history degree had no impact on his career path. My mom found a passion for real estate at age 46, years after dropping out of nursing school and working in various clothing stores. I didn’t realize how well I fit into journalism until taking an editorial internship with a website my sophomore year of college and started to head in a different direction than I had previously intended.
Ed Sheeran put it best in his book, A Visual Journey; “If you want to be a doctor, go off and get your degree. But you don’t need one if you want to be a musician or a mechanic, work in radio or be a journalist. You might need a degree to get in the door, but to be honest if you’re 16 and you say, ‘I just want to make tea,’ you’re already in the door. Just turn up and be the dude that makes tea.”
It’s time to stop shaming those who say no to residence halls, midterms and cafeteria food. Those taking the road less traveled may very well be content there.