“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
– Henry David Thoreau
You don’t need a degree to understand what Thoreau was getting at:
- Live actively – not passively.
- Learn as much as you can.
- Don’t settle for a half-life or allow yourself to become resigned to circumstances that were within your power to change, if only you had taken control.
- Live deliberately and make the most of it, because life is short.
It’s basically the 19th Century version of YOLO – timeless advice.
To truly embody this mindset and be in the driver’s seat of your life, you need to be aware of the fact that every choice you make determines the direction your life will take.
Every decision you make is a step in one direction or another, and very often, not deciding is a choice in itself. This is where you start to lose control – and stop living deliberately. When you don’t plan by setting goals and actively making choices and acting on them, your choices will eventually be made for you.
If you’re anything like our friend Henry, you don’t want life to just happen to you; you want to be the one calling the shots.
So how do you do this? How do you “suck out all the marrow of life?”
You start by asking the right questions so you have enough information to know what your real choices are, so you don’t end up choosing a path just because you didn’t know any better.
Today, you’re facing a big decision: should you go to college?
So in this post, we’re going to break down some of the questions you should be asking yourself before you make this life-altering decision.
Should You Go to College? These Questions Will Help You Decide
Research by Degree Query found that 30% of students globally go to four-year college just because they think it’s “what they’re supposed to do after high school.” That’s a lot of people who didn’t stop and ask themselves whether it was the right move for them.
College is a multi-thousand dollar commitment that lasts four years (or longer!). You really shouldn’t go unless you’re absolutely sure it’s the best choice for you.
We believe that nobody should go to college until they’ve asked themselves some important questions, looked at all the information, and made an informed choice.
When you ask critical questions, you’re in a better position to live deliberately, be in control of your life, and make the decisions that allow you to build a life and career you love.
Below, we’ve framed four key questions you should ask yourself to help answer the big question “should I go to college?” In each case, we’ve included a number of subsequent questions you can ask yourself to help you make sure you have all the information you need to make a decision that’s right for you.
You can use this post as a checklist or scroll to the bottom of each section to see the questions represented as decision trees.
❏ Why Do I Want to Go to College In the First Place?
- What do I want from my college experience?
- Do I just want to move away from home?
- Do I really need to go to college to leave home?
- Do I want the social experience?
- Could I have this experience without going to college?
- Am I hoping I’ll “find myself?”
- Are there other ways for me to explore and try different things?
- Am I considering going to college to network?
- Are there other ways to form useful professional connections?
- Do I believe college is the best education option for my career of choice?
- Have I considered and weighed all the alternatives?
- How will the college experience prepare me for the real world?
- Do I want to go into academia?
- Is a college education legally required for my career path?
- Do I feel obligated to go to college?
- Am I afraid I won’t get a good job if I don’t go?
- Have I researched whether college is really necessary to get a well-paying job?
- Am I experiencing social pressure to go to college?
- Am I willing to commit 4 years to please other people?
- Do I feel like I don’t have other options?
- Have I investigated other options?
❏ Do I Know What I Want to Do?
- Am I sure?
- If yes, what have I done to validate this?
- Do I have enough experience in this field to know whether I want to do this for the rest of my life?
- What could I do to be even more sure that this is what I want to do?
- Do I believe college will give me an accurate idea of what this job will be like in reality?
- Is there a way I could experience what this job is really like?
- How can I test whether I really want to do this for the rest of my life?
- Are there internships I could take?
- Is there a place I could job shadow?
- Are there resources I could use to find out more?
- Is there someone I could talk to about the ups and downs of the career I’m considering?
- If not, do I have specific interests, passions, or talents?
- If not, how could I explore my interests and talents?
- What’s the fastest, cheapest, best way to try out whether a prospective career path interests me?
- What do I spend most of my time doing?
- What am I good at?
- What do people tell me I’m good at?
- If yes, would someone pay me to do this?
- How could I validate/confirm this?
- Have others successfully made a career of this?
- How have they done this?
- Could I emulate them?
- Which skills would I need to learn?
- What’s the best, fastest, cheapest way I could acquire these skills?
- Are there any shortcuts I could take?
Hopefully, after answering these questions, doing research, and gaining experience where needed, you’ll have a fairly solid idea of what you want to do (or at least which theory you’d like to test first), and you know what you need to learn.
This brings us to a new question:
❏ Is College the Best Way to Learn What I Need to Learn?
- How do I know for sure?
- Have I tried something else first?
- How will college prepare me for my future career?
- How much do I know about the curriculum?
- How much of the curriculum is hand-on, practical experience?
- Do I know which skills I will learn and how I would learn them?
- Who would be teaching me?
- What makes this person worth listening to?
- Could I learn from someone else just as well?
- How up-to-date is the curriculum?
- Does the course use and teach the latest technologies?
- Does it teach the latest perspectives and research?
- Is the lecturer in touch with what’s happening in my industry right now?
- What have past students said about the quality of the tuition?
- Do I really believe college is the best way to get where I want to be?
- Do I know what I want/need to learn?
- Have I done enough research to really understand the skills I need to learn for my career of choice?
- How much time would it take?
- How much time am I willing to sacrifice?
- Is there a faster way to learn what I need to know?
- Do I have a plan to finish college in four years?
- Could I invest my time better doing something else?
- What skills could I learn or improve on my own in 4 years?
- Do I have an idea for a business?
- What opportunities and experiences might I miss if I go to college for 4 years?
- Is there a faster way to learn what I need to know?
- Are there other (better) ways to learn the skills I need?
- Is a college qualification legally required for the career I want to pursue?
- What are all the different ways I could learn the skills I need?
- Are there online resources I could use to teach myself?
- Are there free or affordable courses I could take?
- Is there training like a bootcamp I could participate in?
- Could I do an apprenticeship or internship?
- Do I need to hold down a job while learning?
- Would I be able to?
- Would I learn faster on the job?
The next question is another that nobody considering attending college should neglect to ask themselves:
❏ Can I Afford College?
- What would college cost me, all told?
- Am I willing to pay that much?
- Could I use the money for something else/better?
- What is the opportunity cost of going to college?
- What could I earn if I got a job instead?
- What could I learn independently in four years?
- What might I achieve in four years if I’m not in a classroom?
- What experiences and opportunities will I miss out on?
- Do I believe college is worth what it costs?
- Do I think the expense is justified?
- Is there a way I can guarantee a return on my investment?
- Would I need to take out a loan?
- How big of a loan would I need to take out?
- What would the interest cost me in the long run?
- What would my monthly payments look like?
- How long would it take me to repay my student loans?
- How much debt am I comfortable with?
- Have I thought about what I’d do if something happened and I were unable to make payments?
- Do I fully understand how student loans, interest and capitalization work?
You Don’t Have to Go to College – You Have Options
At the end of the day, whether or not you go to college is entirely up to you.
Just keep in mind that four years is a long time. If you’re not entirely sure what you want your future to hold, it wouldn’t hurt to take some time and get some experiences and new perspectives to help you figure it out – and gain skills that will make you more employable or help you start your own business.
While you’re young, you have a recipe for relatively risk-free experimentation: you have plenty of time and energy and few assets. It’s the best time to explore. Do internships, join incubators, learn skills, work for free, travel, learn to code, build an app or launch a website, start freelancing – there are tons of options available.
Check out our blog on top alternatives to college for more ideas.
Accelerate Your Learning with Praxis
We believe that Praxis is the best college alternative available today – not just because it leads to a full-time job at a growing company, but because it teaches you the valuable practical business skills you need to succeed in the workplace while giving you the space to explore your personal interests and passions.
Our 12-month program puts you in control of your career and your life by speeding up the pace you learn at, so you don’t have to postpone earning.
The average first-year income for Praxis graduates is $50K, and you can expect to earn more than your tuition costs within your first six months of working. Plus, we’re so invested in your success that if you don’t get a full-time position within six months of graduating from Praxis, you don’t pay a cent.
Praxis tuition is $12K and we offer a variety of payment plans. If you want, you can defer payment until you start working. Either way, with a guaranteed minimum starting income of $30K, you’ll make a net gain of at least $3K within your first six months on the job. Seems like a pretty solid investment to us (although we may be biased).
Praxis takes hard work, but the time commitment is only 10-15 hours per week, so you’ll have plenty of time to pursue personal projects, build skills, do an internship, or hold down a job.
Are you ready to invest in yourself? Hit Apply below – and don’t be shy about reaching out in the chat if you have any questions.