Picking the right college can feel like one of the biggest decisions in a young person's life. Whether you are nearing this decision, or trying to help plan for your kids, here are 3 key questions that all people should ask before selecting a college:
1. Are you wired for college?
Romans 12:12 says "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." We all know that there is tremendous cultural pressure to attend college. But what if God is calling you to pursue something outside of a 4-year degree? Education is important, but college does not hold a monopoly on becoming more educated. Life experience is one of the greatest teachers we can have.
College can be a great experience, but part of being young is trying out new things and understanding your unique passions. There are lots of non-college career paths that can provide for you and your family. In fact, many community colleges offer career placement while you're studying the technical training. You could theoretically be getting paid, growing in experience, and getting a technical certification while others are working on their associates degree. Whether you want to do computer coding, mechanical work, law enforcement, or pursue the arts, a college degree isn't necessarily required.
2. Are you ready for college?
Let's be honest, not everyone is mature enough at 18 to be on their own. There is a great quiz we offer in one of our classes which asks some key questions about a person's maturity. For instance, "Do you wake yourself up in the mornings for school?", "Do you do your homework and study for tests without your parents hounding you?", and "Are you able to handle problems with your teachers?" These are just a few questions, but the reality is that when a person goes to college, this is all their responsibility. If you aren't able to handle these things now, do you really think it's a good idea to move hundreds of miles away for college?
The idea of a gap year has become much more common, but this idea does take some of the stress of having to be prepared from the moment a person graduates high school. This creates opportunity to work in the field of your potential degree. You could also travel and serve as a volunteer for various ministries or relief organizations. Taking some time to think about your future can ensure that when you are at college, you make the most of that experience.
Many colleges will also offer a deferred year for admissions if you want to delay. My major recommendation for people who aren't ready for a 4-year school is to consider community college, which is often 1/10 the cost of traditional colleges, and their credits will transfer to most 4-year institutions.
3. How will you pay for College?
In 2016, 70% of college students graduated with student loan debt averaging $37,142. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the college dropout rate is roughly 50%. Many people say the reason the dropout rate is so high is because of student loan debt. Imagine the millions of people who have student loans without a college degree...
This 3rd question is the one that most people struggle with, but unfortunately, choose to "pay" for college with a method contrary to what the Bible teaches. The Bible is pretty clear about debt, but because so many choose to go the route of student loans, I thought I'd highlight a couple key verses:Proverbs 22:7 says "The borrower is slave to the lender." Why would we willingly go into slavery?
Proverbs 22:26-27 says "Don't agree to guarantee another person's debt or put up security for someone else. If you can't pay it, even your bed will be snatched from under you." If a parent, or friend, are cosigning your student loans, they are now liable for this debt as well. The reason the bank is requiring someone else to sign is they don't think you are credit-worthy on your own. Parents should really think hard before cosigning and think about the ramifications of saddling their kids with tens of thousands of dollars of debt.
College Planning 101 will run on Monday, September 18th from 7-8:30 pm, click here to register. If you’re interested in learning more about other classes, make sure to go to willowcreek.org/stewardship.
Written by Financial Stewardship Pastor Ryan Kaczmarek.