When Education is More Than a College Major

I still think one of the scariest moments in life is when you’ve decided to pursue a college degree and sit down to pick your major. You’ve completed high school and suddenly you’re responsibly for saying what you will do with the rest of your life. Up until this point, most of your decisions have needed a parent’s and/or guardian’s permission. But not this moment. There’s money involved, credits that may/may not transfer at a later date if you change your mind and just four years to make or break it. No pressure whatsoever…

It’s a stressful tradition, at least here in the U.S., for some reason. Because if you’re prepping early, that means you should really be starting to think about decisions when you’re a freshman or sophomore in high school. Because your high school courses not only need to meet the current requirements, but things like the ACT and SAT assessments are also going to be added to the mix. You can’t line up college visits and work out application deadlines comfortably at the last-minute. I had to deal with that for some special circumstances. It’s no fun.

If you need to be assessing the right electives in high school, that also means your parents/guardians are thinking about what high school would be best for you to prep for potential big-name institutions. And trust me, most are. So when you’re a little kid in elementary/junior high school–that’s why the adults are talking about these subjects you’re half-paying attention to. Everything has to be “right”. The “right” schools, the “right” extracurriculars, the “right” classes/tutors/etc. And that’s if you have the money to address these things. If not, there’s another list of to-do’s so you can even have a chance at the opportunity.

And people wonder why when people start planning for kids, saving for college is one of the first things brought up. We are mentally in the future while keeping a brief eye on the present to make sure everything’s on schedule. That makes my head hurt! We, as a society, are so locked into the idea of a college degree. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but look at the layers we’re talking about. I don’t know how you change the process because it will never be a “one size fits all” situation.

Based on the situation here in Illinois, in terms of program funding and budget cuts, it’s a really hot button issue. Education as a whole, I mean. And with the nature of my work, it’s a regular subject of discussion. Citizens depend on so many resources to make it in this world. Ease of access and a pipeline to success are often where big barriers come into play. It will be interesting to see how brands, nonprofits and the general public continue to work together to get these things solved. What order each solution develops in is not something anyone can layout. But as long as some sort of progress is being made, I feel like it helps.

Sitting down in front of a student trying to make the connection between their current homework and a life of basic comfort in a powerful moment. I think it’s because graduations (for all levels) are quickly approaching that my mind has shifted to this subject tonight. It’s after you are past the stage that you realize what you are doing as you work every day. Yes, you are making your income to take care of personal needs and goals. But we all know part of that money is going back to Uncle Sam and filtered one way or another to those around us.

I don’t mean to turn into sappy Fetesha now. Well, I think I reached that point a few paragraphs ago in all honesty. Education is (what should be) a natural right that doubles as a gift. Pick your major. Change your major. Get your higher education in a formal institution or in the school of life itself. Just continue it every single day.


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