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.