While scrolling through Facebook this fall, I see many pictures of my friends at their new colleges in their prettily decorated dorm rooms. They look happy, are meeting their roommates and new friends, and are beginning exciting new phases in their lives. Me? I graduated from high school in the spring, but nothing is changing for me this fall.
When I tell people that I am not going to college, I get a spectrum of reactions. Some agree that this can be a wise choice, but more often they politely disagree, attempting to disguise their very well-meaning concern for my future with vague hypothetical questions such as “do you know that UNCW has a graphic design major?” I received this question two days ago. I nodded my head, said yes, and the conversation ended there.
Incorrect reasons for why I am not going to college
A good way for me to explain my choice is to tell you incorrect reasons for why I decided not to go to college. I’m sure many people I talk to assume one or more of these.
- I did not get good grades – I have always received top grades, and not just while homeschooling. I have always made all A’s: during the three years of public school in middle school, many years of homeschooling, and classes I took in the dual enrollment program at the community college. I also scored well on the SAT.
- Homeschooling messed up my credits – There are many examples of homeschoolers who get into prestigious colleges. Homeschoolers are legally allowed to make their transcripts with their own credits based on their studies. If I had applied to college, I would have had the regular core credits along with business, graphic design, art, and music credits based on what I’ve spent my time on while in high school.
- I have no ambition – If you think this, you don’t know me very well. However, this is my biggest fear when talking with strangers and casual acquaintances.
- I can’t afford college – My family and I are not rich, but I would have applied for scholarships and worked during college. When I was originally planning going to college, my goal was to graduate debt free.
- My family discourages going to college – Both my parents are college graduates, and my Dad has two degrees. We always assumed I would be going to college until about a year ago. Although they guided me though the process of weighing the pros and cons of college, joined me in praying about it, and ultimately supported my decision not to go, they never at any point discouraged me from going.
- I don’t see any benefit of going to college – I know that there are many, many situations in which going to college is the best decision. In fact, going to college is probably the wisest choice for the majority of high school graduates. However, I believe it is not the best option for me, for the reasons below.
- I plan on marrying and being a stay at home mom, so I don’t need to prepare for a career – If I ever marry and have a family, I still plan on working, at least from home. But at the moment, I am only 18 and marriage is not a factor in my immediate plans.
So why did I decide to not go to college?
I would like to make my career graphic design and related fields where art and technology intersect. I am extremely blessed in the opportunity I have had to work in software design from the age of 14 with my Dad’s company, starting with small tasks and gradually gaining more and more skills.
Now I have started my own freelance graphic design company and have made many connections with business men and women in the community. I am making money and have a job, and am continuing to learn and improve my skills and mind. College is not the only place where education happens.
I am not going to college because in my situation I believe I do not need a degree to be a successful professional in the field of graphic design.
But… Everyone should go to college if they can!
These are some of the (politely disguised) objections I’ve received from people, all real conversations and many of them with people I know and respect.
- You won’t be able to get a job at a corporate company – This may be true, but thankfully I have no desire to work at a corporate company.
- There is a salary cap for people with no degree – I believe that in creative jobs this is not necessarily true. I may be wrong, but if so, I will jump that hurdle when I come to it.
- You should at least get an associate degree at the local community college – Just the same as the previous point, I believe that having a degree just for the sake of having one does not have much value in a creative field.
- If not a degree, you should get some sort of certification – Many people have suggested I take online courses to get certifications. However, I am in a creative job, and if a prospective client or employer is more concerned with a piece of paper I did or did not earn years ago instead of my portfolio, they’re mistaken.
- You are a woman and would be in much demand and make good money as an engineer or coder! – I get this one a lot since I was captain of the local high school robotics team. I love technology and admire technical people, and while I am analytically minded myself, do not have the desire to spend my life as an engineer. As I heard someone aptly say: “I have the aptitude but not the passion for a technical job.”
- Not everyone agrees – I know that not everyone thinks this is the best decision.
- That’s ok – If this is you, please respect my decision, and I will respect, appreciate, and consider your advice.
- And I will prove them wrong – I am successful so far in my journey into a career and adulthood, and plan on continuing that success. Perhaps the process will reverse any doubts, and everyone, myself included, will know that I made the right choice.