Lately I’ve been thinking about what the purpose of college is. For me, it was all about getting a job…
My daughter is in the first grade and at the front of her school, there is a sign that proudly proclaims “College Starts at Kindergarten.” The first time I saw the sign, I thought it was pretty cool; this place takes its academics seriously. When we visited the school, I noticed similar signs all pointing to the same goal; college. Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking about those signs and I’m not so crazy about them anymore. First though, a little bit about me.
Why I went to College
My parents always struggled with money. Some of the time, my dad had a decent job, but even then, lack of money management skills* resulted in horrible, horrible decisions. Money, or lack of it, was usually a source of angst and worry.
I hated it. The struggle with money terrified me, even as a small child: Would we have enough to eat? Would we always have a house? To this day, I cling to money. Now you know why I’m such a saver.
From a young age, I decided that college was a way to escape money struggles. No-one in my family had ever gone, but I was sure that going would lead to a better job. So, my goal wasn’t really to go to college, but to have a good life after.
My Issue with my First Grader’s School
I think that my child’s school is doing a great job of educating her. She is 6 and has the continents memorized. The other day, she told me about Mesopotamia and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. I was learning none of this when I was 6.
However, the laser focus on college rubs me the wrong way. There is life after college and the school doesn’t seem to care so much about that.
Preparing for college is great and perhaps the core goal, but I wish they would do a little more to prepare her for life. I know what you may be thinking, she’s only in the first grade. Well, her kindergarten (different school) brought in folks from Junior Achievement (JA) who discussed topics like saving money and jobs. They did a great job of presenting it too; my 6 year old really enjoyed it. In case you have no idea what JA is, it’s a non-profit organization that educates children:
Junior Achievement works with local businesses and organizations to deliver experiential programs on the topics of financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship to students in kindergarten through high school.
My feelings towards college are that most people should go, but it isn’t the end game. College should be a step in a path towards life as an adult and college choices should be made with consideration of what happens afterwards.
I do believe that parents who are hell bent on getting their kids into a top tier school are making a mistake. After all, I do remember learning about Mesopotamia, but I’ve never been asked about it during a job interview.
*Sometime, I’ll tell you about the time my parents plowed through a 400K inheritance in a couple years with absolutely nothing to show for it.