Skip to comments.Which Should Come First: College or Work?
Posted on 06/29/2012 7:53:43 AM PDT by Kaslin
Dear Carrie: My son just graduated from high school and was planning to start college in the fall. Now he says he wants to work for a year before enrolling, but in the current job market, I'm concerned he won't find anything worthwhile. What do you think -- good or bad idea? --A Reader
Dear Reader: Whether or not it's a good idea for your son to take a year's break before entering college depends on a lot of things: his maturity, his personal goals and of course, the job market.
There's no question that a college education can open up a world of career opportunities. According to a 2011 U.S. Census Bureau survey, not only are workers age 25-64 with a bachelor's degree more likely to have full-time, year-round employment than high school graduates, the difference in median annual salary is almost $23,000. But to my mind, college isn't just about getting a high-paying job. It's about exploring one's interests and learning how to think critically. Hopefully, but of course not always, this will lead to meaningful (and possibly lucrative) work.
And you're absolutely correct to be concerned about the current job market for high school graduates. A new survey conducted by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development found that only 27 percent of recent high school graduates have full-time jobs. Some have part-time work, but nearly 1 in 3 are unemployed. One of the most telling findings is that fewer than 1 in 10 say their high school education prepared them well to get their first job or to be successful at it. These statistics would point to the benefits of staying on the college path.
All that said, not every 18-year-old is ready for college. Especially with the cost of education today, if your son feels he'd be better off waiting a year and getting some more experience under his belt, I would tend to trust his instincts (in fact, many colleges will allow -- or even encourage -- students to take a "gap year"). The challenge will be helping him make this transitional time productive.
START WITH HIS INTERESTS.
Getting a job may be hard, but getting a job that could have some future benefit may be even harder. Granted, any job will teach your son responsibility. However, if he has a job he's interested in, he's bound to learn even more about himself and what direction he wants to take. If he has a passion, encourage him to focus on that. It doesn't have to be high paying. For example, if he likes animals maybe he could help in a veterinary clinic. The main goal is for him to get some relevant experience.
USE YOUR NETWORK TO HELP HIM.
Talk to your colleagues, friends and family about your son's job search and ask if they can help him get at least an informational interview. Learning about different jobs and what the expectations are can be a real eye-opener. An interview is a learning experience in itself. Many kids have no idea how to dress, what questions to ask or how to present themselves. This is a great opportunity to coach your son on essential interview skills.
GIVE HIM A CRASH COURSE IN EVERYDAY FINANCES
If you haven't done so already, help your son get a handle on basic money management. Make sure he has checking and savings accounts and talk to him about the importance of budgeting. Also, while it's essential that he learn to handle a credit card, which you will likely have to co-sign, stress the importance of staying out of debt -- and let him know that he's responsible for any debts he may incur. Once he has a job, sit down with him to help him figure out some savings goals. I would strongly encourage him to save a certain percentage of his wages toward his future college costs.
LAY SOME GROUND RULES
To me, this year shouldn't be just an extension of high school. If your son is going to live at home, agree on what he'll contribute to the household. Will he pay rent? Chip in for food? You might use this as an opportunity to teach him the costs of everyday living. And set some house rules. Your son may want more independence, but that shouldn't come at the expense of your peace of mind. Make sure he knows what you expect in terms of household responsibilities, hours, friends, etc.
I'd discuss all these things with your son right away and determine if he's really serious and willing to use this year to his advantage. If so, it could be a good thing for both of you. He'll have the opportunity to grow in practical experience and self-knowledge -- and you'll have the pleasure of guiding and encouraging him as he makes the transition from high school graduate to focused college student. Best of luck.
Some of us did both at the same time. Didn’t kill us.
That would make a good board game..........oh, wait........
Beat me to it. I will say that I had to re-acquaint myself with this “sleep” thing after gradumigration...
Not mutually-exclusive choices
If one has to ask the question, then the answer is almost certainly: work for a year or two before going to college. If nothing else, working a dead-end job for a year or two and realizing that it’s a dead-end job will create a lot more incentive to do well in college and to pick a major that has some practical value.
Any job you work at and do right by is worthwhile.
You learn to appreciate what you work for, you learn good job habits, you learn that life isn’t a free ride.
I have never worked a job where I didn’t learn something that was worthwhile to me later in life.
There is always a chance he may find a job he likes and he decides not to go to college.
That’s ok too, There are some good trades that pay well.
Go to a cmmunity college while working part-time, then transfer in a year or two to regular college. This works particularly well if you have a kid who isn’t that mature and may spend the first year or two ‘away at college’ partying, not studying. If they prove themselves with good grades, then send them on. Some parents, because community college is much less expensive, have the kids pay for those classes themselves .... amazing how grades improve when it is the kid’s money paying for the class & they are more appreciative of any help the parents do give them.
What should come first College of Work...neither...The Military should come first!
The young Obama Generation is not looking for jobs or willing to work under job rules.
Plus the cost of hiring a untrained employee is not cost prohibited
In complete agreement.
“Any job you work at and do right by is worthwhile.”
And though very difficult at the time, sometimes the most difficult and “demeaning” work, is the most educational.
This country would be MUCH better off if EVERY “prestigious” Ivy League law graduate spent some substantial time as a construction laborer, retail clerk, or dishwasher in a diner.
Agreed. You can learn some valuable work/life lessons from even low level minimum wage jobs. Of course a high school graduate will only be able to get entry level or minimum wage. But the experiences may well help them determine their next steps. The next step could be college, or a trade school of some kind.
But the real world experience of actually working, actually being on a work schedule, actually being accountable and actually getting paid, is very valuable in the development of young people.
The legal age of majority is 18, however, nature says that you are not mentally an adult until 26. What to do between 18 and 26. You need to become a responsible adult.
At 18 to 21 you will not study or learn if there are other distractions like partying and fun, thus, most college students in the 18 to 21 bracket aren’t serious about college.
The solution: Go to work or join the service. This will mature you and then at 21 or 25 you may be mature enough to take college seriously and actually learn something.
I worked FULL TIME and went to school FULL TIME in my late 20’s....any kid without responsibilities should be able to do that
Perhaps he could get Diversity Training on his job instead.
A year of work won’t kill the lad. If anything it will make him realize the value of a solid education and he’ll try harder in college - might not major in partyology.
“...The Military should come first!”
Yes! US Military service makes a kid grow up in a hurry and helps pay for college education.
I wasn’t ready or motivated for college when I graduated from High School. My parents, bless them, would have paid (they offered) and likely taken another mortgage to do so, but I decided there was no way I would succeed at it, so I joined the Navy.
Best thing I ever did. It focused me, and when I go out after serving my hitch, I was not only ready, but prepared.
Correlation is not causation. Most people with a bachelor's degree do not work in their field of study. Income is more strongly correlated with healthy brain cell count. Colleges don't hand those out, just endorse who has them. Many colleges are now converting their reputation into cash. They can only do that one time.
Today kids can't get jobs like that. They don't exist.
since when is hinest work of any sort “not worthwhile”? A job will insure that he knows how to suit up and show up and do what is required of him. There is much to be learned about the work ethic by simply WORKING.
I am so glad that I worked as a waitress as a teenager! After killing myself from 5PM until 1AM every night, I realized that I didn’t want to live that way. It made me take college MUCH more seriously.
My son went to work right after highschool. He’s always hated the idea of college, but now I’m hearing him talking about it more and more. He’s finally realizing that he’s not going to reach his goals without it, no matter how hard he works.
Sometimes, taking time off to experience life without college give kids the time to realize what they’re missing and learn to appreciate it.
I say, let the kid grind out hamburgers for a year. Forget the idea that it’s alright if he can find a job that’s ‘meaningful’ to him. Let him suffer.
I worked my way through most of my college time. I still say I learned more useful skills on the job than I did sitting in a classroom.
I worked my way through most of my college time. I still say I learned more useful skills on the job than I did sitting in a classroom.
First, if he thinks he’s not ready for college, it means he’s probably not ready.
The real question is: why does he fell not ready ?
- maybe not going to college is a way for him to stay at home... and you should work on his autonomy ?
- maybe he doesn’t want to pursue a white-collar/socially valued/pleasant to the parents career, and hasn’t found a way to tell you ?
- maybe he’s got a good reason to want to stay put, a GF comes to mind ?
- maybe he’s just really aware of the kind of commitment college demands, especially if you want no to party it away ^^
- or a host of other perfectly valid reasons...
Looking back, I should have taken a gap year or two myself. I was significantly less mature than other students, had no ideas why I was studying except to please the ‘rents and teachers, and was juggling 3 jobs to make it work. I needed a few life lessons, which came later.
This is exactly what I did, but unfortunately the statistics are against folks who do this, by more than a landslide.
I spoke to a guidance counselor at the private high school where I teach...and according to her, some 80%+ of community college students never go on to attain a 4 year Bachelor's.
Apparently they get caught up in the work-aday adult world--get married or do other things, and suddenly at 30 years old realize that life is OK and they're unmotivated then to finish.
This was the path of my sister actually--although she's an intelligent, capable person, she just never finished college...and in her 60s, has never had a job paying more than about 25K a year. (she's doing OK, and probably wasn't meant for college...but still...)
Knowing that 80% statistic, if I were a parent, I'd think twice about sending a kid to community college while working a dead-end job, as the chances are very high, they may never leave that pattern.
Better to finish college ASAP, than to string it out 5 or 6 years into the mid or late 20s, which is marriage, family & career territory.
Our ancestors by the way, 200+ years ago, typically went to University at 14, 15 or 16 years old. If raised with the right discipline, and actually of academic-minded college-material, they can handle it...
The REAL problem is that people assume that if one is of average of above average intelligence, you MUST go to college--and skilled labor or other skilled jobs are looked down on, and ruled out (and we wonder why jobs are "shipped overseas"), THAT IS THE REAL MISTAKE BEHIND THIS!!!
Totally agree! I've been talking with my elderly folks about this recently. When they were growing up, going to a college was difficult (dad worked his way through college on GI Bill after WWII) & if you had a college degree, it had a lot of worth. Now, the expectation is everyone will go to college. You have to get a masters or doctorate to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack. Also, my mom was a teacher & she had many struggling students that would have done really well in a technical school, but the folks pushed them to get that 'college degree'. As another example, I have a friend whose son was certainly smart enough & making the grades for college. During high school, he took an auto repair class & fell in love with it - told his mom he wanted to go to technical school vs. college. She was a wise woman ... supported him 100% in not going to college (her dream) but in going to technical school (his dream). He's very happy, successful & making a ton of money.
There are a limited number of businesses looking to hire a 21 year old Affirmative Action, Liberal Arts graduate as CEO or Corporate President.
That's what I did. Upon graduation from high school I joined the Army. While in the service I saved enough money to pay for my first year of college. Then, part-time work and a few small government loans (no more than $3,000, as I recollect) paid for the rest of my college. It sure was the right decision for me.