Don’t let college graduation suck | Celeste Gracey | Reporter's Notebook
By CELESTE GRACEY
Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer
May 18, 2012 · 2:20 PM
College is fantastic. You live with your friends, study what you enjoy and soak in opportunity like a sunny day in May.
Graduating college, however, sucks.
It’s like engagement without a wedding date. People quickly wonder when you’re going to land that first job. Expectations mount.
College acceptance letters are undoubtedly flooding the mailboxes of accomplished students this month. Congratulations, their first milestone was a success.
However, what most counselors haven’t told our seniors is that college isn’t always worth it, especially when it means graduating tens of thousands of dollars in debt with little prospect for high-wage jobs.
They also won’t tell you that even after four more years of education, most graduates will end up in the same place they started – living in their parents’ basements, unemployed or both. Studies still show that the long-term benefits of college pay out, but today that doesn’t come as easy.
Tuition prices have doubled in the past decade, and heavy unemployment has thousands of college graduates floundering in the real world. I’ve had some colleagues pursue masters degrees, furthering their debt, because they couldn’t find a real job.
I was fortunate enough to catch on to my own blinded views about college bills my freshman year, but not without a lesson learned.
Out of high school, I could have attended any of Washington’s public universities, but I chose a small private college in Portland.
I loved the intimate classrooms and tight-knit community. But a semester in, I began to weigh the cost. To stay in Portland would have meant $50,000 in debt. If I had chosen computer science or physics, I think I could have swallowed the debt, but (with some exceptions) most journalists aren’t paid much.
So I left the school mid-year and signed up for community college. It was humbling to be in class with Running Start students, but the $3,000 tuition was something my parents and I could afford out of pocket.
My planning didn’t stop there. That first quarter I met with a University of Washington admissions counselor. When the time came, I had the grades and the prerequisites to make an easy transfer. My entire time in school, I lived at home to avoid dorm fees and costly meal plans. When I graduated, my only debt was from Portland.
Now a tough word for high school seniors – as tickled as your parents are, your numerous high school accomplishments amount to little in the working world. (This is from someone who graduated with a 3.95 GPA, 1240 out of 1600 on the SATs, numerous extra curriculars and volunteerism.)
In college, high marks can be even less important. You’re better off perfecting a skill or networking. (My first editor couldn’t have cared less about my GPA. He just wanted to know if I could write.) If you’re headed toward a career in liberal arts, let go of your academic pride, and consider a more affordable route to a diploma. College will enlighten you, but it can leave you broke.
Before buying into the glossy pamphlets from your dream university, take the time to estimate your probable debt. Consider the monthly payments. Then take a look at you’re starting pay at the careers your considering.
Work out a budget, before you even decide your major.
It might cause you to reconsider that private school or paying out-of-state tuition. College is wonderful. But make sure graduation doesn’t suck.
Celeste Gracey is a staff writer with the Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter. She can be contacted at 425-391-0363, ext. 5052 or firstname.lastname@example.orgContact Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer Celeste Gracey at email@example.com or 425-391-0363.