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To go or not go to College that is the question?

  1. Sep 8, 2014 #1


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  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2014 #2
    I sure with the college option worked out like that for me! It took me years just to get an entry level job after graduating. My debt grows every year because I cannot pay more than my interest. Ill never own a house and never build equity. I had to postpone starting a family until I was over 30. While in school I was working and studying 60+ hours a week. Now that I have a career I work 50+ hours a week. That time lost is precious and priceless. It wasn't worth it for me. But then, I probably have a different set of values than others. My career is not my number one priority.
  4. Sep 9, 2014 #3


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    You claim that going to college/university wasn't worth it for you, but couldn't you argue that in your case that's because you have chosen the wrong major (i.e. physics)? If you had to go back and do it all over again, would you have simply decided not to go to college/university at all, or simply chosen a different major (e.g. engineering, law, medicine, computer science, etc.)?

    Because that first article doesn't take into account that not all college degrees, including STEM degrees, are alike in terms of opportunities or marketability.
  5. Sep 9, 2014 #4


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    There are good jobs out there for those who are not academically inclined and who want to start work right out of HS. The world always needs plumbers, electricians, welders, mechanics, etc. to take care of the machinery which makes civilization possible.

    Some of these trades are in such short supply that apprentice programs have been set up in partnership with industries looking for workers with these skills and governments trying to attract industry. By enrolling in these programs, the apprentice could get his training largely paid for by his future employer, and there will be a full-time job waiting for him at the completion of the program.

    The apprentice will have learned a valuable trade without taking on a heavy financial burden that paying for college would entail.
  6. Sep 9, 2014 #5


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    That's all well and good, but it may be the case that these apprenticeship programs may not be generally available across the country. I know that in Canada, these programs are capable of only accepting a limited # of applicants, due in large part due to a shortage of experienced journeypersons (i.e. people who supervise you during the apprenticeship), which in turn is caused by the sheer # of hours each journeyperson needs to devote to train each apprentice. See this article below.


    I suspect that the situation may not be all that different in the US (although others can speak to this).
  7. Sep 9, 2014 #6


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    The thing about these kind of jobs, is that you rely on your body 100%.
    All the older people i know in skilled trade jobs are wore out by the time theyre 40-45.
    Not to mention the 50-100k dollar tool expense. While they tell you that you can make 20 dollars an hour doing it, in reality is more like 10 dollars an hour after expenses. Then people will never leave you alone, always wanting you to work on something.
  8. Sep 9, 2014 #7


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    Unless of course they become foremen or managers...
  9. Sep 9, 2014 #8


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    I would not consider someone listing "high school graduate" as their top education as equivalent to a skilled trade worker. For most skilled trades you require about a year or more of post-secondary education and then you get into an apprenticeship. Since most apprentices are paid, it's obviously not the cost same as a four-year university education, but there is still an up front cost.

    I can undestand why some people don't want to go into the trades. My parents and grandparents for example have had a lot of doors slammed in their faces because they didn't have a university education, or been in positions where they had to take orders from someone who had that education, but wasn't necessarily any smarter. And so of course it's easy to understand why that generation would push it's children to aspire to better conditions.

    But the times have also changed. Skilled trades can make a lot more money now than they did a generation ago. And now a univeristy education is much more common. It looks like the percentage of people with a university degree has roughly doubled since the 1960s and now about a quarter of the population has a university degree. On top of that, access to information is far less restricted these days.

    And there's something else with respect to the trades. I suspect, although I have no evidence, that the average person's skills are waning. How often do people change their own oil anymore? One can easily look up how to do something on youtube, but that only gives one knowledge - not skill. Skill comes with doing. Hence, even though this generation can probably do a lot more, its easier to let a skilled person do the work. And therein, demand rises.
  10. Sep 9, 2014 #9
    No, I don't think I would go at all. Its easy to live off of what americans consider low pay and the extra money isn't worth the time and costs. I would have devoted more time to family, friends, hobbies, owning a home and enjoying my youth. I can still do some of that now of course, and I do. I like my job and the pay is above average and I have health care for the first time ever. So its not all bad, but its a consolation prize and wasn't worth playing the game.

    I really hate moving and being a perpetual renter from student loans sucks. Especially because I love my dogs and need a place that will take them with a little yard.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2014
  11. Sep 10, 2014 #10
    Undergraduate degrees aren't so bad, if you have a major that will help you get a job and/or get some good internships (if you are a job-search-wiz, go ahead and major in physics or math or English or whatever, but if you're not, pick something marketable to avoid a major headache when you graduate). 22 is still young.

    Grad school, on the other hand, can be a mistake of epic proportions. I am now behind where I should have been at age 22 in a lot of ways. I'd probably have figured out dating and be married with kids by now, for one thing. I have a vision to salvage what I can from my math education and turn into something much better than conventional academic success as a professor, but it has put me so far behind, I think it's going to be an uphill battle to find the spare time and energy I need to pull it off.

    I go back and forth about whether I regret it. For one thing, I don't like to rewrite history, and imagine alternative lives that I could have lived, which may or may not have happened. Regret isn't that useful. I just have to move on at some point. It's taking a while, though. It's not fun to put so much into something, only to realize that it wasn't even what I wanted to do at all. It's a big loss. It takes time to heal those wounds. Another thing is, I am glad to have discovered that today's academic math was a wolf in sheep's clothing, as far as I'm concerned, a realization that I may not have come to, without my painful experience in grad school. I think time will tell better if it was really worth it, but I know that I paid a very heavy price.
  12. Sep 10, 2014 #11


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    I suppose that would depend on where you live -- I don't think I would be able to afford to live where I do if I didn't graduate from university and enter in the field I'm currently working in (and yes, I did take out student loans which I have completely paid off 3 years upon graduation).
  13. Sep 10, 2014 #12


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    Whether or not grad school is a mistake really depends on many factors from individual interest in the research to the choice of what your research field is. For example, in my field (statistics) many positions often require a MS or PhD, so pursuing a grad degree could be a wise choice, and I have no regrets whatsoever in completing a MS. I would note that I did contemplate pursuing a PhD at one point but ultimately decided not to, and I'm not sure whether that was the right decision for me or not. But then again, I make a great living doing what I do, so I really have no reason to complain.
  14. Sep 10, 2014 #13
    My comments on choice of major also apply to grad school. If my PhD was in electrical engineering or computer science, I probably would have no regrets, although I would still be further behind in life than if I had just gotten a job. Also, a PhD is much more difficult, risky, and costly in terms of time and effort than a masters, so it's on a very different level.
  15. Sep 10, 2014 #14
    This is such a loaded question. In my case, by the time I got out of high school, I had numerous marketable skills. Obviously, this isn't the case in America any more.

    Going to college to "find out what you want to do" is a very expensive proposition these days. Unless you know ahead of time what you want to specialize in, and really focus your college education, you might be better off starting a startup. This is a scary proposition for lots of folks, but youth is always on your side. You can fail several times and recover nicely....a bit harder in mid-life...though I've done it myself.

    Whatever you do, don't choose a career just because everyone says it's "hot." That can change overnight. Choose something you NEED to do, and that will carry you through all the "non-hot" times. Absolute job security results when you do something nobody else is doing.

    My 2 cents' worth.

  16. Sep 10, 2014 #15


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    Actually going to college has always been an expensive proposition. We often compare the cost of going when we did to what we make now and that's not a fair comparison.

    For me college felt expensive, but I had help in the way of a small partial scholarship and working part-time. In the end, I had to pay back 8 grand which I felt was a lot of money with minimal wage at less than $2 an hour, but with a new job, living at home with no family and biking to work I saved enough to pay it off within a year. Nowadays that's a trivial amount to pay back.
  17. Sep 10, 2014 #16


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    The thing about a startup is that you really need to know what type of business you want to "start up" in, and you either need to have technical know-how in that business or partner with someone who does. More often than not, that knowledge tends to be acquired while at college/university, whether they complete the education or not. Think of the examples of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. The founders of all of these had their start while attending college/university (sure, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates didn't finish their degrees, but it was their university contacts and courses that introduced them to the ideas from which their business began).
  18. Sep 10, 2014 #17
    Personally, I was a professor's son (free tuition + scholarship+some college savings), so the only financial cost was opportunity cost (pretty huge for grad school, even though I got paid there). So, the full financial cost is not an issue for everyone, but student debt is a huge deal. I really hate the idea of debt, so I probably wouldn't have gone to college, if it wasn't already taken care of by my parents.

    Well, we all know math and physics are not going to be hot anytime in the near future. So, I think you can very well rule out careers that are definitely not going to be "hot" when you graduate. In my case I love computers. Choosing math rather computer science or sticking it out with my EE major was mostly just ignorance on my part. It's fine to choose the "hotter" of two things that you like. I think a lot of people do what I did and just kind of go with whatever seems the coolest to you at the time. But what YOU think is cool can change, just as easily as what's hot, and there's no point in choosing something that's 5% cooler to you at the time when it's less marketable.

    The best way for me to get a mathematically satisfying job was probably to do engineering. Math just prepares you to be a professor, unless you study something more towards the engineering side of math or mathematical modeling/computation. So, the most interesting academic path might be very different from what will land you the most interesting job.
  19. Sep 10, 2014 #18
    So you are the poorest person in your city? All those with less than a university degree have moved away (or died off)? Or do you just exclude yourself to the rich neighborhood? I'm suspicious...
  20. Sep 11, 2014 #19


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    Let me give you some perspective.

    I live in Toronto, ON, Canada. In the downtown part of the city, the average price of a detached home is $920000, the average price of a condo is $370000, and the average price of a townhome is $478000. The average price of a detached home in the more outlying areas within the city is not much cheaper, closer to $600000.

    The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is $1000-1200 per month. And taking into account that the income taxes take about 30-40% of a full-year's salary, to live comfortably you would need to earn a minimum of $45000 per year, and normally such a salary is only open to those with at least some form of post-secondary education (either a community college diploma or a university degree).
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2014
  21. Sep 11, 2014 #20
    As usual, I think the truth is somewhere in between the extremes. I remember as a high school student I was always told to pursue my passions and don't worry about the career prospects. That seems to be common advice these days, but I'm glad I ignored it---it seems like people like you have been hurt by it. Career prospects and money shouldn't be the only factor in picking your degree, but they certainly shouldn't be ignored. Like any engineering problem, there are risks and tradeoffs, and every person needs to figure out the balance of passion and career prospects that works for them. I personally went with something I was a little bit less passionate about (engineering) to get a lot more security in my career. For me, I think that was the right choice. For other people, it might be different.
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