Is college worth it?

| 03 Nov 2015 | 10:26

When your barista probably has an MA, it’s time to take a minute to refigure the college calculus.

Skip the debt and get to your passion

College may not be worth all the time and money for everyone. I am one of six kids and grew up on a dairy farm. We weren’t scared of hard work. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to own a business and I knew I wouldn’t need a degree to make it successful. I started out at the mere age of 12, setting up shop in town on a picnic table. After high school, I dedicated all of my time to growing my business and learning what my customers wanted. Seven years later my local fresh produce business, Farmer’s Daughter, continues to expand. I am able to support my growing family with my income. My husband even quit his job two years ago, as this business proves more promising than his job with full benefits and paid holidays.

There were numerous times in my last years of high school where teachers and counselors were baffled that I was so firm in my decision to not pursue a degree. After all, I maintained good grades and was even in a few elevated classes. I felt that college was pushed very heavily on our already fragile minds. As if you didn’t go to college, then you may as well get used to working at a hamburger joint for the rest of your life! Young people today are often pressured to get accepted into the best college and to earn the highest degree. Then, to graduate with debt to their eyeballs and facing a workforce that may not supply enough jobs in their field. Unfortunately for some, a career change is inevitable.

If you don’t have a clear direction prior to graduating high school, I don’t think college is worth it. Get a job, start a small business, be creative, and if that doesn’t work use college as the back-up plan! The extra time can give you a different perspective on life. You may then gain some work experience and find out more about your likes and dislikes. I chose farming. Let me tell you, each day is different and none of them are easy. But, through the good and the bad, I get up in the morning and end each day with a sense of accomplishment. I am a firm believer that if young people have a dream or goal that they should follow that passion first and foremost. Yes, maybe you will fall on your face and bills will pile up, but a true successful career is what makes you happy to start the day. It’s not a job when you pursue your passion.

Patricia Sweetman is the farmer and owner of Farmer’s Daughter in Otisville, NY.

See what’s out there and steer your own destiny

Yes, college is absolutely worth it. Although it’s become very, very expensive — especially at a four-year private school — you also have to consider that college graduates earn about $1 million more over the course of their lifetime.

But college isn’t just about how much money you’ll make in your career. College is one of the first times that most students have a chance to steer their own destiny — a place where they can (and should) try anything and everything. It’s an opportunity to figure out who you are, why you’re here, and what your purpose is in the world. Because college curriculum is so much broader than what’s offered in high school, it’s one of the most effective ways to discover an interest, talent, or skill that you never knew you had. Maybe you’re supposed to be the world’s greatest anthropologist, but would you have ever known about the field without going to college?

The key, therefore, is to get a college degree without taking out excessive student loans. As a student, I won two dozen scholarships worth $90,000 — enough for me to attend Harvard virtually for free. I learned from personal experience that students of every age and background (including high school students, college students, adult non-traditional students, and even kids under age 14) can earn substantial scholarship funds if they know where to look.

Tens of thousands of corporations, foundations, and association offer scholarships, and we’ve created a free scholarship alert system at to make sure you never miss out on an upcoming scholarship deadline that’s right for you. Did you know that there are even scholarships for students with C averages and below?

As a rule, the fewer loans you take out, the better. Each scholarship dollar not only displaces $1 in student loans, but also the interest you would have paid on that loan.

By driving down the cost with scholarships and a great financial aid package, you can get all of the benefits of college while dramatically reducing the costs. That’s advice you can take all the way to the bank.

Ben Kaplan is the founder and CEO of Scholoroo, and author of How to Go to College Almost for Free.