One area of interest I had when I started my blog was to create content to help kids that are preparing for the “real world” figure out their options are after graduating high school. I am passionate about this topic because there are so many good choices that kids can pursue that don’t require a four-year degree.
Kids graduating high school do not need to go to college. I am not saying that college is a poor choice – I went to college and because of what I studied I’ve been fairly successful. If you don’t know what you want to study why waste a HUGE amount of time and money?
My path: transitioning from high school to college
I graduated high school a little over 11 years ago. My parents pushed me to go to college – in their minds, college was the only option to pursue after high school. However, paying for college was a mear afterthought. I took out over $60k in student loans to pay for college… That is A LOT of money.
In high school, I had a strong interest in math and science courses. I was also a band geek and oddly enough, many of my former band classmates became engineers, teachers, and doctors – all of which are strong career choices 🙂
My grades were solid, and I managed to get a good score on my ACT.
I only applied to three schools because engineering isn’t offered as a major at every school. I had a difficult decision – stay close to home and cheer on the Badgers at UW-Madison or move a little farther away and become a Golden Gopher.
After a great deal of research, I went with the latter and I am happy I made the decision to venture up to MN, which is also where I met my future wife 🙂
Living the college dream
College was quite the change from high school – mainly because I really had to start studying. I participated a little more in the social piece of college compared to the college piece of college… Let’s just say I had a good time.
My freshman year, our living room table was a 4″ x 8″ piece of plywood. This piece of plywood was set and ready for a game of beer pong to commence at any given point. I also didn’t have class on Fridays my freshman year. Therefore, my weekend started on Thursday evening (better known as thirsty Thursday.)
By the time I was a junior, I buckled down and honed in on my studies.
I managed to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in four-and-a-half years. The extra half-year came from the co-op program I completed. The degree wasn’t the only thing I graduated with – I also graduated with over $60k in student loans!!
Maxing out student loans
Each year, I filled out the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). I usually maxed out the loans I was given because I was young and not terribly smart about personal finances. The crazy part is that I had a job where I earned enough to cover my housing and food costs so there was really no reason to max out my loans…
Thinking back, I am not sure why I maxed out the loans – probably for extra beer money.
The college path worked out well for me, but I’ve seen so many cases where pursuing college hasn’t worked out for people. People go to college and spend a great deal of money pursuing a degree that either: has very few job prospects, has a low earning potential, or requires additional schooling.
Other people start college and don’t finish. Ultimately, I think people don’t finish college because they don’t know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives.
And that is OK.
You shouldn’t be expected to know what you want to do right after high school. You should be encouraged to try out a few things you have interest. Then, you can hone in on your interests to ultimately decide what career what suite you best.
I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up
This is an area I really hope to build out my blog content around. You don’t have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life after you graduate high school. College is not the only option.
I still ponder what I really want to do for the rest of my life. My current job is fun and challenging, but is it something I want to do for the next 20 or 30 years? I can’t say that I do with a high degree of confidence. I want to stay in some sort of technical field because there are so many cool technologies that would be neat to explore.
Potential backup plans
I’ve thought back on multiple things that I was interested in. For example, I really excelled in an intro programming course I took my freshman year of college. But the rest of my electrical engineering curriculum didn’t really have much for programming so I didn’t get back into it.
With this blog, I started to pick up C programming. I was able to write code to run financial models and I really enjoy writing these simple pieces of code.
iOS app development is another programming area that I have interest in learning more about.
When I was choosing my college major, becoming a math teacher was right up there with engineering. However, I was quickly turned off by the salary of a teacher. I’ve since learned that teachers with a Master’s Degree actually do quite well – and they still get the summers off!