Part of the sigh was the perception that seems to have increased over the years with the idea that you need to attend a top, elite brand-name school to reach what many might deem as a successful career. Yes, you can receive an extraordinary education at such institutions, but you can also receive an immense amount of debt. The other reality is not every environment is necessarily the best for every person.
You can receive a great education at many colleges or secondary educational institutions that are not considered prestigious for less money. I personally believe large part of one’s educational experience is individual effort and motivation – the more you put yourself into your studies, you more will receive back.
Partly what people seem to be paying more for these days are the connections that certain colleges have with people or companies. While networking and who you know has always been an advantage in the work place, this has become an even larger factor in choices that students and parents seem to be using when it comes to education, but at what cost? I agree that connections are invaluable, but do you really have to pay a ton of money for them? There are other ways to network and make connections without breaking the bank.
Making choices for higher learning should not be primarily focused on brand, connections, what the media tells you, or where “everyone wants to go.” Here are some questions that can help students and parents reflect on when thinking about the right type of higher education:
- What do I value in life?
- What am I passionate about?
- What are my interests?
- What are my natural strengths?
- What kind of experience is right for me?
- Am I ready for college/secondary learning (do I have an idea of a path vs. just going for the sake of going)?
- What kind of financial debt am I willing/able to take on?
Everyone wants his or her child to have a solid education and succeed in life, but there are multiple avenues to achieve this, not just one. Encourage and engage with your child in conversations around the above questions. As a student, reflect on what you really hope to get out of a particular educational experience. Research the 'reality' of a school’s campus life or classes they offer, as well as what job or career opportunities are out there in your area of interest. This can save families unneeded stress, heartache, extra debt, and help ensure completion of whatever program they enter in the world of higher education.