Monday, August 23, 2010

Thoughts On The College Decision-Making Process

For any student trying to decide whether to go to college or not, talking to others about their thoughts on college is an essential part of the process. Some assorted thoughts, tips and observations:

  • Arguments on whether to go to college or not are on both sides largely anecdotal. They're often one-off statements that lend themselves to little comparison. Eg: "in college you'll get to meet so many new people and you'll create a network for yourself"
  • Few people give additional color on how valuable a particular benefit is and how it compares in importance in relation other benefits.
  • A good question to ask is to what extent can X benefit be replicated outside of college?
  • Arguments are often disorganized and scattered. They're often articulated as they come to mind. The most productive discussions tend to come from those who have considered the spectrum of arguments and have organized their thoughts in relation.
  • Organize and distill the arguments you hear for and against college and the main benefits to be had from college.
  • Each person speaks of their experience within the context of their unique situation. Most generalize that the same reasons that college was valuable to them will be as valuable for you. Filter others' opinions through what you value and what you are looking to get. Self-knowledge is king.
  • Compare other people's experiences with what you anticipate experiencing. The two of you likely aren't talking about the same thing if their experience was with a certain type of school in a certain time period. Not everything that worked for them will necessarily work for you.
  • Try to assess the person's maturity and mindset as they entered college. Compare that to how you feel you stack up at the same age. The net benefit will be different for different people.
  • Above all, clarify as much as possible what your goals are and what you value - but don't shut yourself out from possibilities.
  • Most people see that the only alternative to not going to college is to join the workforce. It is possible for the most motivated students to "get an education" outside of the college environment.

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