College student with backpack

Queens Public Library’s College Readiness program provides workshops and webinars to help teens and their parents made decisions as they prepare for applying for college. As the school year begins, teens may be thinking about their future beyond high school. In this blog post, Ama Kamikari Yawson, Esq. from Milestales Publishing and Training and Development explains how to decide if a specific college and going to college is for you. For more information, come to the College Readiness program on the pros and cons of college on Wednesday, September 22 at 6pm. Register here.  

What factors go into deciding if a specific college is right for you?

Finding the right college is a very personal journey. I advise students to visit campuses whenever possible in order to speak to current students and to get a feel for the atmosphere. Sometimes, a student will experience a feeling of belonging when walking around a particular campus, and other times that feeling is missing. The goal is to blossom where you are planted. 

These are some questions to ask when figuring out whether a college is for you.

1.    Do you prefer an urban, suburban, or rural campus?
2.    How far is the school from your home and/or family members?
3.    Would you prefer to board at school or would you rather live at home and commute to classes?
4.    Are you interested in having the option of attending classes in person or would you prefer taking online classes built around other obligations, such as work?
5.    Do you want to be at a large school where many classes are held in lecture halls with hundreds of students or would you prefer a smaller school where you will be in smaller classes with professors?
6.    What is the cost of tuition, and how much can you expect to contribute and/or raise scholarship funds? Are you willing to take out loans?
7.    Does the school offer the various majors or courses of study that interest you?
8.    Is the school career-focused or liberal arts centered, and how does that serve your goals with respect to a career after college or attending a graduate school?
9.    How successful is the school with respect to career placement after graduation?
10.  Does the school have a diverse student body and faculty community?

What should students consider when deciding whether to apply for college?

The most important thing for students to consider when deciding whether to apply to college is what career they would like to pursue. If a student is interested in becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer, a college degree is required. There are set paths for those careers. Future doctors have to go to college, take pre-med requirements, and then apply to medical school. In most cases, future lawyers must earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to law school. However, if a student’s goal is to become a professional YouTuber, a college degree is not necessary.

I would advise high school students to research their career interests and talk to people in their fields of interest to ascertain whether college is necessary. In some cases, a trade school for electrical work, plumbing, cosmetology or other fields may be better alternatives. Moreover, a student does not have to go to college immediately after high school. It is perfectly appropriate for a student to take a year off in order to work and explore various careers. The armed forces may also provide an opportunity to gain skills and have the government pay for a student’s college education.

Whom should a student talk to in order to help them decide if college is right for them?

There are many people whom students can speak to in order to help them decide if college will be a good fit. 

First, students can ask family members and family friends for their advice. In some cases, students will have family members and family friends who did not go to college but wish they had. In other cases, family members and family friends who have gone to college can share their thoughts on the benefits and disadvantages of their experience. Both perspectives are useful. 

Second, guidance counselors, teachers, and librarians can be helpful because they have observed so many students make the decision of whether or not to go to college, and they may have seen the consequences of those decisions. Those recent anecdotes can help give high school students much-needed perspective. Third, I recommend that students find professionals who are working in their fields of interest. If a student would like to be a plumber, call up a plumber and ask to chat. If a student would like to be a doctor, then he or she should call a doctor on the phone. We are in the information age, and it has never been easier to connect with individuals about their careers. LinkedIn is a great tool for that.

What are some of the best reasons to go to college?

The best reason to go to college is that college helps bolster a person’s chances of obtaining and keeping a good job. The statistics surrounding the value of a college education are still clear. In general, college-educated individuals earn more than their non-college-educated counterparts, and they have higher rates of employment. The job market rewards people who have invested in college educations. Moreover, college generally provides students with the reading skills, writing skills, and general knowledge required in so many different professions. Going to college is a decision that most people do not regret. 

Are there any reasons to decide college is not for you?

There are wonderful and rewarding professions that do not require a college education. Those professions include becoming a plumber, electrician or beautician. Students can go to trade school instead of college and engage in apprentice programs. Typically, trade schools require less of an investment in both time and money. Additionally, some students may pursue non-traditional careers in entrepreneurship and the arts that do not require a college education. However, I think that all students should be ready for a lifetime of learning. For example, my barber just told me about learning how to do a new technique of hair extensions on YouTube. As a licensed attorney, I have to take continuing legal education courses consistently. No matter what the profession, a person needs to learn more to earn more.