As spring turns to summer many young adults are looking forward to a few months off of school before hitting the books again in the fall. Some of those students will be making the big transition between high school and college. Others are looking ahead to a relatively short summer with big questions looming over them and staring them down on the other side of the season.
Your student may not have finalized their post-high school plans for this fall for a number of reasons. They may be weighing vocational options, setting finances in order, trying to decide on a major, or even rethinking the wisdom of attending college in their present circumstances.
As their friends leave town for university in the fall, they may ask themselves, “why even explore alternatives?” But, to use the words of Robert Frost, the road “less traveled by” makes “all the difference”. Why should your student explore college alternatives? Here are three reasons we think stand out:
1. The Cost of Traditional College
Not only does college cost a fortune nowadays, it’s not worth the fortune in the first place!
The average student loan debt in 2022 was over $37,000. And yet, for such luxury costs, the college degree is no longer viewed as a luxury advantage in one’s career. Most jobs take college degrees for granted and now there are an increasing number of employers who care less about the degree and more about practical skills, leadership potential, and reliability. Speaking personally, in my experience, my college degree has never come up in job interviews and has never been the deciding factor in my employment.
That’s not the case for everyone of course. Some professions in the medical and engineering fields still place high emphasis on college degrees for employment. But overall, most jobs in most fields can be held by successful problem-solvers regardless of their collegiate experience.
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If a college degree was absolutely essential for a career then maybe the investment would be worth it. But since a degree is not a guaranteed ticket to high earnings and a strong career, it is no shame to seriously reconsider to value of making that investment for a smaller return.
2. Cultural Environments
Not all colleges are the same and certainly not everyone’s experience is identical. But by and large, the traditional universities in our nation are environments that are heavily influenced by a culture that is growing more and more hostile to your student’s faith.
Not only will your student’s faith come under attack from faculty in their official teaching, but many fellow students will challenge your student’s beliefs. While this may provide some helpful challenges to clarify what your student actually believes, it is not “building up” your student’s faith.
Many students lose their faith in college. While this is certainly not true of everyone, it should be something that Christian parents are aware of. It is another reason why finding a college alternative with better strengthening and encouragement of your student’s faith is important.
3. College Bubble
The “college experience” is often glorified as the best few years of a young adult’s life. But how often is the “college experience” actually good preparation for the true needs of adult life?
Colleges operate in bubbles where things like food, shelter, and community, are artificially provided for students. Unlike the real world, colleges hand students everything they need without much hassle. (But of course, for a fee!)
In the real world, we have to work at building our communities. We have to organize and execute our tasks without assigned deadlines and instructions from a syllabus.
It’s not that these things are bad. It’s just that students can’t learn to rely on them because the real world rarely provides them. Preparing your young adult for life in the real world, at the least, requires them to understand and anticipate the true needs they will face. A college bubble is most likely not the best place to do that. Yet another reason to consider an alternative to the traditional college path.
Whether it’s working full-time, taking online classes while plugging into local community, starting a business, or something else entirely, there are alternatives to traditional college. We encourage you to think through your options with your student and make the decision that is best for you!
Interested in learning more about Ascend, Unbound’s alternative college program that emphases Christian leadership training, community, and real-world skills training through project-based education? Schedule a free consultation today!
Jace Bower is the Marketing Coordinator for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.