My goal for this post is only to encourage. If you are anything like the 16-year old me, this will help.
I was taught, and I’m sure many millennials were also taught, to finish high school, go to college and get a job. I mean, why not… it seems like the right thing to do. It made the most sense at the moment. However, if you were anything like me, school was not very important. Well, let me rephrase that, I thoroughly enjoyed the learning process, but I did not like the pressure of having to turn things in by a deadline. I’ve always been a tad bit rebellious and felt like I knew the material, but I didn’t need to prove it to anyone. HA! How silly was I?
So, I finished high school on time with a mediocre GPA and figured I’d just go with the flow. As some of my classmates received full ride scholarships for sports and others received Florida Bright Futures scholarships, I received $500 from my employer at the time, Mc Donald’s. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful, but I knew I could have done better.
I took my $500 and headed off to Valencia College in Orlando, FL. I decided that I wanted to study Building Construction Technology. My dad was a general contractor and my mother was a procurement professional so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with my decision on what to study. About halfway through completing the degree, I discovered that I enjoyed drawing and drafting on the computer, so I picked up a second degree program, Drafting and Design Technology. I graduated from Valencia with both degrees and decided I’d go back and get a third; I knew that I wanted to move on to the University of Central Florida and decided that I’d get my pre-reqs out of the way at Valencia for half the cost. So, I enrolled again and graduated with a General Studies AA.
Once I got to UCF, I literally had no idea what I was doing. I was studying Business Administration wasting loan money on courses that I knew I wasn’t interested in and ultimately failed. I had to take a step back from college and actually plan my next steps.
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So, I dived into the workforce and started to build my resume. I worked for subcontractors, general contractors and owners on various construction projects from as little as 50 thousand-dollar projects up to 12 million-dollar projects. I began my career as an admin working one project at a time and worked my way up to working as a project and program coordinator working on many projects and programs making enough money to live comfortably, travel and pay to go back to school.
After revisiting my decision to attend UCF, I decided that I would pursue a degree in Legal Studies. The law has always been of interest to me; at one point, I thought I wanted to be a defense attorney, mainly because I obsessed over Michael Jackson’s trial on Court TV. I loved Michael.
Fast forward, I finished my 4-year college degree almost 11 years after high school graduation. And to be quite honest, compared to my peers, finishing later turned out to be more rewarding. I was able to build solid work experience and pay to study in field that I wasn’t looking to make a ton a money from, but a field that I was passionate about.
In my humble opinion, if you are not planning to become a doctor, engineer, lawyer or executive and you didn’t receive any scholarships, don’t waste your time or put yourself in debt for a basic degree that will get you maybe $30,000 per year at an entry level position because you have no experience. It’s fairly easy to make $30,000 per year without wasting money on college. Instead, go to your local trade school and get a license and/or certification in something where you can make a good living in less than 4 years; Then, when you’ve saved up enough to pay for college, or maybe your employer has a tuition reimbursement plan, that’s the perfect time to figure out if you want to attend college to get a formal education.
To be crystal clear about what I mean, in no way am I suggesting that college is not a good idea. College is great idea; I just believe that you should be very intentional when making the decision to invest the time and money. Whatever you decide, just make sure it’s a well thought out and planned decision. Even if you deviate from your plan, at least you’ll have a guide.