This applies to all levels of education, but right now I’ll focus on the generally accepted and encouraged plan that suggests the best course of action for kids is to go to college when they’re 18, three months after they graduate from high school. This means essentially that they will be making a choice that will heavily influence every other choice and decision they make from there on out.
That’s some pretty heavy shit for a recent high school grad to have to deal with. Especially when the paramount concern for most of us is an accidental pregnancy that will forever derail our professional dreams.
Kids then spend at least four years paying out the ass for their education. Many of these kids have parents who have saved and saved in order to be able to give them at least some of the money to put them through this four-year cluster of nonsense. Depending on the intensity of your chosen major, a great many of the classes you’re forced to take and pay for can (and will) be completely useless. (I took a class called Symbolic Logic in college, and I still don’t have a clue what I was even SUPPOSED to learn or take away from it, other than that sometimes if you tell a professor you don’t really care what grade he gives you, that his class is a joke and it would be of no benefit to either of you for him to give you a shitty grade, you will get a B.)
On occasion, the vast majority of classes taken by folks will be rendered useless to them. I know so many kids who graduated with me who never landed jobs in their major, and either had to go back to school or are still working service jobs or jobs in an industry they despise and never thought they’d end up in. Some are doing both at the same time. This is sad because almost all of them are more intelligent than I am. I know many others (including myself) who after college snagged jobs in the profession they decided to major in, but have since left for greener pastures after realizing they didn’t take into account at the start of college how terrible the job security would be in the field they were once passionate about.
I dropped like a quarter million on four years of education that I barely use. The most I got out of my college years came in the way of self-education and unpaid internships.*
A couple years after graduation, I figured out that being a copywriter would be the perfect profession for me. When I was 18, I didn’t have any idea what a copywriter was. In fact, I’m fairly certain I didn’t even know such a job existed. I’d not given much thought to how advertisements were made, to be honest, but then again I hadn’t given much thought to a whole lot of stuff during the first 18 years of my life. (I would see the first season of Mad Men my sophomore year, and would be changed forever.)
To put it concisely: I was very immature at 18 and should not have been pressured by society to choose a profession I would aspire to right then. I would have benefited from some years of working menial jobs while I figured out what I sought to do for the rest of my life. (I’ve found that through working unsatisfying jobs, I gravitated in my free time to working on stuff in the vein of what I ultimately wanted to do.)
Eventually, I quit the unsatisfying job I’d been working and re-enrolled in school. At age 26.
I feel old, going back to school in my late 20s. But I only feel that way because society dictates that I should. If I wanted to be successful in the quintessential way society dictates, I would have finished school at 22 (I did). Then I would have found a job in my profession (I did). I would have then worked super hard in said profession to build my way up (I did). At some point during the building up process, I would feel happiness at what I had achieved thus far (I didn’t).
Which is largely why I left journalism and moved on to another profession. But you can’t always just bounce to a new profession and get a job you’re going to enjoy. Often, you have to go back to school for more training.
This is a tough thing to accept, and an even tougher thing to do. It’s especially rough in a monetary sense. It’s difficult to justify spending thousands more on further education when you view the first round of paid education as a complete social success, but a complete academic failure.
But when I walked onto campus for my first day last week, all of the doubts and misgivings and feelings of being an elderly student disappeared. I knew in my first few classes, all of which will help me become a better copywriter, that I was in the right place.
It’s never too late for a new start. And if they tell you differently, tell ‘em to go to hell.
*I acknowledge that this is not the case for people who are going to be surgeons or accountants.