May 21, 2013

My Family's Track Record with College

My generation is the first generation in my family to really go to college.  We've had mixed levels of success.

In my parents generation only one person went to college.  My mother got a two year degree from a bible college.  My mother was mostly a stay at home mom but she did work later when my sister and I left the nest.  I'm not sure if that degree helped my mom in her jobs or not.  Nobody on my fathers side went to college at all so my mother was the lone exception.

In my generation myself and four others went to college.  Here's our history with college success or non-success (I won't label them with names, but just refer to them by numbers) :

#1. Did not do well in high school and did not go to college.   = high school diploma
#2. Went to college on a merit scholarship for maybe a year but she did not apply herself and then dropped out. = maybe 1/2 to 1 year of college

#3. Went to college full or part time over one or three years and eventually dropped out to work full time and get married. = probably 2-3 years of college
#4. Obtained a professional degree in the health care field and has had a good job ever since then = professional degree

#5.  Got a bachelors in a very competitive field and then realized there were zero job opportunities out there and then later got a masters. She is marginally self employed in her field. = graduate degree

#6 Then for myself, I have two bachelors degrees in STEM majors and I'm employed with a good job. = bachelors degree

5 out of 6 of us went to college.
Among the 5 who did go to college : 
2 out of 5 who went to college dropped out
2 out of 5 of us who went to college benefited with good paying jobs
1 out of 5 went to grad school but hasn't substantially benefited financially from college

Thats not a very good track record.

HALF of my generation in my family made a financial mistake in going to college and either dropping out or picking a major with far too much competition and too few jobs.

Of course this is just a very small group of six people and its entirely anecdotal.  However I think the experience of my family is relatively common.

What lessons are there here?

First for #5 they did not pick a good major.   They ended up in college for around 6 years total and are not making a great income after the fact.  Overall college has not helped them financially and they'd have been better off picking a career that didn't require college or a trade that only requires a two year degree.

The #2 example was someone who simply screwed around too much and did not apply themselves.   I'm not sure what the lesson to learn from there is other than don't screw around too much in college.

For #3, I'm not sure what the solution there was either.   I think the solution may have been not to go to college in the first place.   It was not however that they weren't qualified, but it just didn't work out for them due to a combination of factors.   Sometimes things just don't work out as you planned them.  

Of course anecdotal data like this doesn't really mean all that much.   But I think theres good examples of how college may be a poor choice.  Whether you're not mature enough to work hard, or if you pick a bad major choice or if life simply takes you another direction.    WE also have examples of where college has been a great choice for myself and one other.  WE obtained high demand degrees and have had gainful employment with good incomes ever since.



  1. Thanks for sharing. I think you're right. If you're not sure what to do, then maybe try community college first. Or try to find a career that doesn't require a college degree.
    thanks for the idea. I can write a post like this too.

  2. I am one of five and we all went to college. 2 out of 5 have graduate degrees. I have my MBA by brother his Masters in Psychology.

    I do no think college is for everyone but education is for everyone. I agree with Joe that checking out a local community college seems to me to be a good step. Two of my siblings started at a community college. Even taking some professional non-matriculating courses is a good step before committing to full blown university.

  3. In the article the most important concept is "apply yourself". The idea of going to university is to learn "how to think". Although U can be a job training ground, U is really attempting to train tomorrow's thinkers and leaders.
    Once graduated (or not), working in the field of admission is not necessary a sign of success. Even if one gets into the field of admission, if one doesn't "apply yourself" then the contribution isn't as great as it could have been....

  4. Interesting Analysis, here's mine for comparison. I'm the second of 5. My father had 2 years of college, my mother was high school graduate.

    #1 - 1 year of University right after high school, got married and dropped out. Divorced within a couple of years. Got a job as a teachers aid, At age 40 finished a degree in secondary education where she is currently employed as a teacher.

    #2 - Attended community college after high school, dropped out to join the military. Got married, had a kid, got an AS electronics while enlisted, retired early from the military and went back to college. Graduated BS in engineering at age 39. continuosly employed in the field.

    #3 - After high school concentrated on being a professional musician. 10 years without making much money in the field, went back to school. Graduated BS in engineering at 32. eventually MS in engineering. Mostly continuously employed.

    #4 - Went to University straight out of high school, took a year off for various reasons, a year later reenrolled, graduated with a BA in sociology at 23. tried to work but found she needed a graduate degree. Spent 3 years on that, She has been continuously employed in that field.

    #5 - Went to University straight out of high school, dropped out after 2 years, enrolled again in mid 20's graduated with a BA in fine art. Has been continuously employed in the digital media industry.

  5. To last Anonymous post,
    Thanks for sharing. Looks like your family has had good experience with college, sooner or later. A lot of your family started, then stopped, then finished later. I wonder how common that is?



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