To College or Not to College

Reader’s Question:

Hey Leslie, I’m a 17 year old homeschooler who loves the leadership and mastery principles you teach and study yourself. Recently, I have been faced with the choice of going to college, but don’t know what I want to study and if the opportunities I have to learn other relevant skills would be outside of college. I feel drawn to learning and pursuing my education outside of college and feel that is where God needs me, but I also have parents and close family around me telling me that I need to “have all of my bases covered, just in case.” Is following the “safe” path to make sure I have a stable future having faith?

I really love what you have written and taught! I recently purchased the 8-Week Mindset Fundamental Course. Really excited to delve deeper into the principles. 🙂

My reply:

These are really great questions. I homeschooled my kids for 9 years and my primary goal was to give them a love of learning. (Here’s an interesting summary of our experience with that.) I’ve seen this take my kids on paths that I didn’t expect them to take, but they have all been very happy chasing what they love.

I’ve seen people be successful with and without a college education, but what I tell my children is that many more doors can open to a person who does go to college. The best advice I ever heard on the topic was by Mark Twain who said to never let schooling get in the way of your education. That doesn’t mean don’t go to school, it means get what you can but always remember the purpose – learning. (I went through college without a love of learning and wish that I had been taught how to enjoy my education.)

It sounds like you were born to be a leader, and as a leader, I’d love to see you be the one with a college education who ALSO has the mindset and leadership training to really stand out.

As you know, a college education does not guarantee success, and a person can most certainly succeed without one, but your sphere of influence can be greater if you do both.

Ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision that feels right to you. I have a degree, but my husband does not. He has done relatively well for himself in spite of it (building a six-figure career), but there has been a lot of pain and frustration in the last 30 years that could have been avoided, had he just knocked it out before life got too complicated with our growing family. He recently decided he wanted to finish what he started those many years ago as a bucket-list item, but it is definitely much harder to do now.

He has always felt that he would have been more prepared for leadership, more confident in his work, more influential in his career, and would have been able to more quickly advance, if he had had his degree. In many cases it’s the difference between “easy now, hard later” vs “hard now, easy later”. He has achieved well, but it turned out to be much longer and harder than it probably needed to be.

There really is no price tag that can be put on the confidence it cost him – even if his perceived inferiority wasn’t a reality. Has he managed? Yes. Has he excelled? Yes. Does he feel like he could have done better or achieved more? Absolutely.

The nice thing nowadays is that you don’t have to do it all in 4 years, especially if the work you’re drawn to doesn’t require a degree. I have a son who has been working on his degree but takes breaks to work and/or pursue his passions, but he stays enrolled keeping at least one class going each semester that he’s on track. His primary objective is to stay out of debt and do what he feels led to do at each step of the way. Sometimes it’s led him to take a heavy load, other times its led him to do an internship in a field that really speaks to him even though it doesn’t give him college credit, and sometimes it’s led him to build his career (which is now somewhat unrelated to the degree he’s almost finished with). Still, the degree will help him be marketable in a skill that pays well, so that he is more free to pursue his passion without having to make it pay. Sometimes the passion can fade quickly when you’ve GOT to make it PAY. That has happened to me – at one point my husband left his work to help me with our business, and we had some setbacks that forced us to make the business do well, but the pressure took all the joy out of my work. My husband went back to a job and I had to take a 5 year break from my work just to restore my love for it.

Anyway, there is a wise and healthy balance for you to find. The counsel is to get as much education as you can, which doesn’t necessarily mean college, but if you’re thinking about it, the easiest time to get a college education is when you’re young. Everything else you want to learn and do will always be there, and it can be added to the good foundation you put down now. I’d advise you to listen to the counsel of your parents and others who know you. Consider it all prayerfully with an open mind, even if it doesn’t appeal to you. Then find out what God thinks about it all.

If you were a few years older, I might have different advice, but for now, this is what I would say 🙂

Just remember, saying yes to a college education doesn’t have to mean no to everything else. It can be part of the plan, especially if you choose a path that supports your overall dream. Be wise and patient. I know it may seem contradictory to the principles I teach, but we LOVE listening to Dave Ramsey at our house. He’s entertaining and keeps us from making decisions that we will regret. We’ve made enough of those that I’m much more patient now with my goals, and much more willing to build them from a solid foundation – because I’ve achieved many goals that later fell apart, or that I later regretted achieving. I’m much more willing to listen to people who are older and wiser than me now.

Hope this helps!

Leslie Householder
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Leslie Householder

Leslie is the award-winning, best selling author of The Jackrabbit Factor: Why You Can, Hidden Treasures: Heaven's Astonishing Help With Your Money Matters, and Portal to Genius (all FREE downloads!). She aims to help you crush every challenge, achieve every goal, and vanquish every monster under your bed. Above all, Leslie is a dedicated wife and mother of seven children.
Leslie Householder
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