These days, it seems the conventional wisdom is that everyone should go to college. What nonsense!

True, a bachelor’s degree is pretty much required for many entry-level jobs these days, but for other positions that pay just as well, you’re better off going to a trade school and learning a skill. I’m all for getting a well-rounded college education even if it has no practical relevance to what you’re doing, but if I’m hiring a plumber, I’d rather have someone who spent two years learning all about pipes.

Face it, not everyone is suited for college. It requires the ability to follow simple directions, get your work done on time, and occasionally show up for class; many people seem to have a great deal of trouble with those requirements and end up dropping out after the first year, with nothing to show for the time spent.

That said, I do believe that a college education is a valuable experience regardless of whether you actually need it for your job, and in fact I’ve written quite a bit recently with the goal of helping high school students who are thinking about going to college.

The first question, of course, is are you ready for college?

Almost everyone is capable of succeeding in college; the real question is whether you’re ready and able to put in the effort required. How much effort is required will largely depend on how much preparation you had in high school; many students these days arrive at college needing remedial classes to catch up before beginning the actual work.
Once you’ve decided to go to college, there are a number of things to take care of. The ACT test should be taken as soon as possible after the start of your junior year; depending on your ACT scores, you may wish to take the test more than once in order to have the best chance of being admitted. When senior year arrives, it’s time to start thinking about what colleges you’d like to attend. You should plan on filling out the FAFSA as soon as possible the calendar year you plan to start college (and every year thereafter until you finish) and ideally you should have your college applications in by March. You don’t have to complete the FAFSA before applying for college, but you need it to get financial aid, both scholarships and loans.

I’ve deliberately sounded discouraging in this post; the truth is, I think college is a good experience and I’d like everyone to have it. I think a more educated populace is good for the country. What I want to see is people taking it seriously and realizing that it does require work and isn’t just an easy route to more money.