A few years ago, I participated in a Hay House summit where I talked about entrepreneurship and the ridiculously high cost of a college education. During my interview, I suggested that parents and young adults needed to seriously consider alternatives when furthering their education.
I have fourteen nieces and nephews, a grandniece and two grandnephews. It makes me crazy to think of these kids taking on debt the size of a mortgage only to come out of school struggling to find a job worthy of their investment.
There’s no doubt that a college education is a good venture for some, but to many students (those who are lucky enough to even go), it can become a burden that leaves them feeling vulnerable and fearful about the future.
Twenty-five years ago I heard the poet, Robert Bly, say that expecting a high school graduate to make a decision about his or her future at eighteen years old – a future that required four years of study and thousands of dollars – was a crazy idea.
And a college degree was a bargain back then.
Instead, he suggested we send children out into the world to try a variety of jobs in order to discover what excites them, to figure out how to survive on their own, and to get to know themselves and their passions in a clear and helpful way. Then, they would arrive at their thirties ready to make a sensible investment of time and money in a college education where they could study something they were truly passionate about.
I still love his idea today – with the caveat of an education being expanded to include things like trade schools, mentorships, apprentice programs, etc.
The world is changing. We need to give children (and ourselves!) new ways to gain the skills and experience necessary to build a good life, not just a successful career.
Just imagine the kinds of opportunities a young adult would be privy to if he or she knew how to:
Manage his or her mind.
Develop discipline and focus.
Use time, energy, and resources wisely.
Make a plan and follow through with it.
Stick with a project when the going gets tough.
Effectively deal with disappointment, frustration, and setbacks.
Communicate skillfully with all types of people.
Build respectful, mutually beneficial relationships.
Speak effortlessly in front of others.
Manage money in a smart and responsible way.
The CEO’s and entrepreneurs I’ve coached during the last twenty-five years would love nothing more than to work with people who have these skills (regardless of the degree or school attended, by the way).
I don’t have a college degree. I think of myself as a lifelong student enrolled in a self-directed education program. I read like crazy – a variety of both fiction and nonfiction. I study documentaries and biographies of great thinkers. Keeping a journal for over forty-five years has taught me how to write. And I use the Internet as my own personal university, one that allows me to take virtual classes on demand.
As I shift the focus of our next retreat to helping adults to start or grow businesses they feel excited and passionate about, I’m even more aware of how much our kids need this kind of support, too.
I dream of a new form of education, one that takes high school graduates and helps them to find jobs first, to get out on their own, to foster an entrepreneurial mindset, and to develop an inner strength and spirit that’s not afraid to challenge the status quo.
It’s coming and not soon enough.