My friend Dr. Will Keim, who is an amazing speaker, says the reason you go to college is to find out what you love and to get good enough at it so someone will pay you to do it the rest of your life.
You can come up with a more complicated answer than that if you like, but ultimately that’s what college is about — getting real skills you can use in the context of your real life.
And yet I see so many young students who aren’t looking to be free to do what they love. Instead they spend four years practicing to be an indentured servant to debt for the next ten or more years of their lives.
They graduate high school thinking, “I don’t know what I want. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know where my life is going. So I’ll postpone all these major decisions while I get a degree in something I may or may not care about in four years.”
Spending thousands of dollars on a degree isn’t going to help them answer life’s questions. Rather, it will make the decisions for them — choosing a life that is under the pressure of debt for at least a decade post graduation.
A college education should be an investment, like building a house. Spending $150,000 over the next four years on an education should be treated as a thing of great value. The first year of college builds the foundation. Houses with weak, cracking foundations are worthless, and students who throw away their first year of college as “party time” have an incredibly difficult time getting their GPA back up by senior year.
The second year is building out the different rooms, exploring the various areas and studies that suit the student’s interest. The third year is all about the main living spaces — the master bedroom and the kitchen — focusing in on the student’s major and making it something truly grand.
The fourth and final year is spent on the exterior of the house, painting and landscaping, showing off the skills that have been built over the past three years in hopes that the student will find some buyers (i.e. employers).
By the end of the four years, the student has something of great value to put on the market to recoup the building costs. Not only that, but they’ve made the all the choices and decisions needed to spend the rest of their lives doing what they love
As a parent, I have to ask if my child would be better off with me spending that $150,000 building them a literal home that’s completely paid off rather than giving them an education they don’t care about, letting them spend four years tasting foreign beers, playing video games, and watching mind-numbing television. This is real money, real life, and real choices we have to make with our potential retirement fund.
Make sure your offspring understand the sacrifices you’ve made so they can capitalize on this amazing educational opportunity you’re giving them.
If you read this blog, shrug, and say, “This doesn’t apply to me and my kids because I know they understand the value of their education, and they understand why they’re going off to college,” then congratulations, you’ve done a great job.
If you read this blog and you’re crying, it might be time to have a real conversation about your child’s future. I tell parents at new student orientation that there is nothing they can say in the last 15 minutes before their students go off to college that will have an impact on their college experience.
It’s what you’ve been saying the past 18 years that matters.
You’ve given your children the tools they need to be successful in this world, but now it’s up to them to build the house. Make sure they understand the task before them and the real costs of constructing something as giant as their futures.
Need help getting the conversation started? Share this blog with your college student or a fellow parent.
*Image courtesy Don Farrall
As a speaker and author, Curtis Zimmerman has impacted over one million people with his life-changing messages and award-winning programs. Curtis is an expert at transforming organizations by inspiring individuals to live their lives at performance level.
Want to be inspired? Check out his podcast The Next 24 Hours.