Ryan Petris

The Big Lie

Schools today teach everyone that the only way to be successful in life is to graduate college, and not from any college, one of the big-name colleges at that.

The problem is that college can be expensive, and big-name colleges even more so. Lets talk about that.

Ivy League Schools

Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, just to name a few, are all top-tier schools that people aspire to be accepted to. Some students plan their high-school schedule around taking the best classes or volunteering at the right places just to get accepted to one of these schools; parents may even be preparing children their entire lives to attend them, possibly even to follow in their footsteps. They believe that being accepted and graduating from one of these schools will make them set for life, that they will then be able to get any job they want, anywhere they want, because, how could they not? They have a degree from one of the worlds most prestigious educational institutions; obviously, every employer will be begging to hire them.

While that might be true for some, such as large prestigious law firms, in most cases that simply isn't the case. Most employers don't really care where you got your degree from, only that you have one and you're able to perform at some level. Really, a degree, any degree, is a foot in the door for most and for some a requirement for licensing. That's it. Take software development for instance; a lot of people do have degrees, but some don't. Some people managed to learn the skills they needed on their own, via a family member, or maybe even by some employer that saw a skilled young individual and was willing to spend the time to help them grow. Once you can demonstrate those skills and have experience, you're golden.

Therefore, most people looking to go to college can save a lot of money by going to school where they live, instead of transplanting themselves to a new location just for the school.

As far as I know, all states in the United States have some sort of tuition subsidy to make tuition for state residents cheaper; some states like Georgia even have programs to pay for college in part or in full for students that graduated high school in the state, given certain requirements such as maintaining a certain GPA.

To save even more money, you can spend your first couple of college years taking classes at your local community college instead of a university, where classes will be even cheaper.

Lastly, by attending school where you live, you gain something that most don't think about when going to an out of state school: room and board. You will most likely be staying with your parents, and eating their food, and most parents will be okay with that. Yes, for some people this isn't an option, however for the vast majority of people it is, and is a great way to save money when you're young.

College Jobs

Speaking of living with your parents, a great job to get while you're still living with your parents is something in the food industry, such as a waiter or waitress. Lots of people are screaming right now that these kinds of jobs don't provide a living wage, and they're right, they don't, but they're not supposed to be, nor can they be due there being little to no skill required for them. Given that you should have no actual expenses living with your parents, all of the money you make goes directly into your bank account, giving you a great little nest egg for when you graduate from college.

Lets divert here for a moment to explain this: if you're trying to get a "living wage" out of a low-skill job like a waiter/waitress, or in the fast food industry like McDonald's, it's most likely not going to happen. If you're older and working at one of these places, you're competing with younger people living with their parents who simply don't need the money that you do to sustain themselves, who are only looking for a job to save up some extra money. The fact that you have 10-20 years "experience" in a low or no-skill job does not make you any more valuable than an 18-year-old that just graduated high school. I'm sorry, it just doesn't.

Useless Degrees

Another trap that people fall into is getting useless degrees. A lot of the rhetoric surrounding college is "follow your dreams," and to study whatever it is that interests you. The problem is that a lot of peoples interests simply don't translate into skills required to get a decent job, or any job at all.

Before you start down a path for any major, take a look at job postings for entry-level positions that specifically mention the degree you're seeking. Can't find anything? Well, you're not going to be able to find anything in 4 years after you graduate either. If you do find something, make sure you look closely at what the salaries for entry, mid, and senior level positions are to see if that matches your expectations. Also make note how how many job postings you've found; the more the better. If you only find a few, that may be a signal that the degree you're looking at isn't a great choice as well.

While most colleges do have a department to help you find a job, they're not going to be able to magically find you something that you can't find yourself. A scarce job market is just that, a scarce job market.

Trades

Trades, i.e. blue-collar jobs, are also a great choice. While these jobs require physical labor and are typically seen as "undesirable", there is lots of money to be had in trade jobs. Take automotive mechanics for instance; you may spend 6-12 months in school, then start out an entry level job at somewhere around $15/hour. That doesn't sound like much, but within a couple years you could be making $25/hour, and a few years later be making $50/hour or more. On top of that, trade jobs are typically hourly, unlike jobs that require college degrees, and therefore your earning potential can be multiplied if you're willing to work overtime.

Conclusion

College doesn't have to be expensive, in fact it can be fairly cheap where you live given resident subsidies. You don't have to go to a big-name school to be successful. You do however need to get a degree that employers are looking for, or you can go for a trade and be further along in your career in 4 years when college graduates are just starting theirs.

This also means that large students loans aren't inevitable, they're a choice. Choose to not have them in the first place by attending a local college and living with your parents. Stop borrowing from your future.