You have to go to college. Every student enrolled at Temple has had that exact sentence directed at them at least once, but most likely repeatedly, in brainwashing style. We are programmed from a young age to believe that college is a necessary part of life, but I have news for you: You do not have to go to college.
Many students are in college merely because their parents want them to be or because they do not know what else to do, but college should not be an obligation or a default. It would be better to be without college and happy than to be in college and miserable.
I offer two scenarios, based upon people I know. One student – I’ll call her Maria – doesn’t want to be in college. Her passion is music and that is what she wants to pursue for the rest of her life, but her parents insist that their daughter find something practical with which to support herself.
Maria is majoring in something she hates, simply because the profession earns a decent salary. She will continue to be unhappy for her whole life if she gets a job in her current field.
Parents are naturally concerned that their children have a bright future, but sometimes they become so focused on material security that they lose sight of the big picture.
Survival is important, but certainly not at the expense of happiness. There is no practicality in parents encouraging a child toward a life of regret.
Take case No. 2: Steve never liked school because it was always a struggle for him. When he graduated from high school, he did not know what he wanted to do with his life yet, so he enrolled in college, choosing a major arbitrarily.
Upon graduation, Steve would have been happy working a manual job, but because he had the college degree he felt it was a waste. Now Steve is stuck in his “chosen field” and he is miserable.
College should never be an ‘I’ve-got-nothing-better-to-do’ decision. If a high school graduate is unsure of what she wants to do with her life, she should take a year off to figure it out and try working. College is always an option for later.
On the other hand, entering into college when a person is not ready or does not want to be there can lead to a life of unhappiness, because with that college degree comes a sense of obligation.
In a philosophy class discussion last year, one of my professors asked the students what their majors were and why they chose them. One student said she hated her accounting major, but that she had chosen it because that was what her parents wanted.
Then my professor shockingly asked the student if she was a coward, and the girl, even more shockingly, responded yes. At first, I was offended at this exchange, but later I saw my professor’s point.
Students who are in college for the wrong reasons are, in a way, cowards. They are afraid to say that the life they desire is not what their parents want. But they are only hurting themselves.
Education is the sole purpose of college. Students should be in college because they are passionate about learning, not because their parents want them to have job security or because they are at a loss for alternatives.
It is extremely difficult to stand up to parents and to admit that you would rather work in a warehouse than an office, but if that is how a person feels, he must do so. We cannot afford to be cowards when our own future happiness is at stake.
Emilie Haertsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.