Weekender

Rants and Raves: College and looking before you leap

For me, decision making is either instantaneous and impulsive or painfully time-consuming. It’s awful, and I’ve been working on it for most of my life along with time management and a list of other things.

That said, there’s one decision that my 17-year-old self made that I’m proud of, but it’s also a decision for which I got (and have gotten) a lot of criticism.

That brings me to this week’s topic: waiting to go to college or maybe not going at all and why no one’s opinion matters but your own.

Flashback to my high school days: It was 2007, junior year, and I was sitting in my guidance counselor’s office when she asked me, “What are your plans for after graduation?”

I had no idea.

At 17, asking me what I wanted to do with my life was like asking a toddler to valet a car. Probably not possible, but OK — maybe kind of possible?

It didn’t take me long to decide that I wasn’t going to go to college right after I graduated. I wanted to move out of my parents’ house, have my own independence, figure out what I was passionate about and, more importantly, what I wanted to do with my life.

Those things were crucial. And so much more significant than sitting in a classroom for two to four more years.

My decision was not based on laziness. I did well in school. I made honors, took advanced classes, and I had a part time job.

My family and friends supported my decision, but it was people who didn’t know me on a personal level who felt the need to chime in on my life choices.

I can’t count how many people told me I would never go to college if I didn’t go right after I graduated high school. They told me, flat out, that I was making a mistake and I should “at least go as a general studies major.”

Total strangers, co-workers, friends of friends would tell me I was never going to go anywhere in life. It sucked, but, little did they know, when someone tells me I’m never going to do something, it motivates me more.

In my defense (and I shouldn’t have had to defend myself at all; it’s my life) spending a year in college without making a decision on a major wasn’t an option for me. I wanted to have a solid plan. And frankly, I needed one, because if and when I decided I was going to college, I was paying for my own tuition and any other expenses, not to mention I wanted to have a firm grasp on my future.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, college is crazy expensive.

According to bigfuture.collegeboard.org, college tuition costs can range from $40,000 to well over $100,000 for four years. Obviously, there are a handful of different factors: whether you’re going to an out-of-state college, a state or private school. Don’t forget grants and scholarships.

On top of that, asking me as a teenager to make an enormous financial commitment that would hover over me for years to come didn’t seem attractive to me.

But for some reason, it’s attractive to millions of students across the country. Maybe they feel pressured to make an “adult decision,” or maybe they genuinely know what they want to do with their lives after high school.

I’m not knocking it.

However, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to not have it all figured out. If you want to wait to go to college, then you should. If you don’t want to go at all, then you don’t have to. If you want to sell your mix tape on the street, then do it. If you want to go on a cross-country road trip, go. Leave today. Seriously.

Also, in any aspect of life, if someone tells you you’re never going to do something, prove them wrong. Unless, of course, it’s illegal or dangerous, then — yeah, don’t do that. Prisons are overcrowded as it is.

Note: I was 22 when I enrolled in college. I graduated (with honors) with a degree in journalism.

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By Hartt Lang