Some say college is for everyone, while others say college is the choice of the student. Since its introduction into mainstream society in the 1600s, college has been a controversial topic. Some high schools adopt the belief that all students should attend college after high school. For example, an intelligent and economically comfortable young woman has just entered her freshman year of high school, where the common belief is that all students should attend college no matter the student’s wants or their academic profile.
Her whole life, the young woman aspired to become a successful artist but thanks to her high school, she went on to become an award-winning surgeon at an elite university while pursuing art on the side. Just like this young woman was educated on the topic of college by her high school, so was every other student there, including those who are underneath the “likely to be successful in college” threshold. Regardless, it is important for all students to be aware of all available options.
Since not every student has the intellectual capacity to succeed in college, instead, high schools should make college information available to all students but target only the students that have sufficient academic and economic ability to, statistically, be successful in college.
Primarily, all students with adequate academic ability should consider a college education. All students deserve to be presented all the information necessary for them to make an informed decision about attending college. The young woman from the example was both intelligent and economically comfortable, which made targeting her as a potential college student beneficial.
Though this young woman did not originally want to consider college, her high school pushed her to consider this option. A uniform method may not be the best way to approach further education in regards to all students, but in her case it was beneficial: “the only reason we can get away with pushing her is that the odds are she will enjoy it” due to the intelligence she demonstrated throughout high school (Murray 238). This particular young woman became successful in a field that requires immense intelligence, but as a high school student, she did not consider medicine because she had not been presented compelling information about the college.
In addition, the young woman was economically comfortable which made college more accessible. Had the young woman not taken the advice of guidance counselors at her high school to attend college, she may have missed the opportunity to become a successful surgeon. She, because she decided to go to college, was able to fulfill her academic potential and pursue her dreams in art. The average median income for a surgeon is well into the hundreds of thousands per year while working in the field of art is economically unreliable. Had the young woman had not considered college as a viable option, it is possible that she may be living paycheck to paycheck today instead of receiving prestigious awards and living comfortably. It is important for students to consider every available option so as to not miss great opportunities that may await them. Research shows that the earnings premium associated with a college degree grows overtime: 23-to 25-year-olds possessing a college degree make approximately $12,000 more than those without, and by age 50 they are making roughly $46,500 more than those without a college degree (Owen and Sawhill 211). In other words, the median income of a high school graduate without a college degree is almost always lower than that of a degree holder. The example of the young woman is indeed a best-case scenario, but average incomes are those represented in The Hamilton Project’s research, and the economic benefit of college is most definitely clear.
On the other hand, not all students that desire a college education should go to college. Not all students possess the academic ability to succeed in college, and the high school transcripts of a student can be evidence of this. For instance, a young man whose grades are in the sixtieth percentile of academic ability for every core subject, but yearns to become an engineer after high school. Murray presents the fact that “College Board researchers defined “college readiness” as the SAT score that is associated with a 65 percent chance of getting at least a 2.7-grade point average in college during the freshman year,” and adds that in his opinion the young man is technical “college-ready,” but would not likely succeed in college unless there is a complete turnaround in his academic behavior (238, 246). Regardless of how this young man looks on paper, his high school has the duty to present him any available information regarding further education and leave the college decision up to him because he may have not been putting in maximum effort in high school, which would not be evident on paper. The idea that this young man should not go to college does not necessarily mean that this young man should not pursue any type of further education. Owen and Sawhill emphasize the idea that “17-or 18- year olds deciding whether and where to go to college should consider his or her own likely path of education and career before committing a considerable amount of time and money to that degree” (212).
In reference to the example of the young man, before he decides whether or not to attend engineering school he must consider which type of career path he would like to pursue within the field of engineering: blue collar or white collar, for example, construction or robotic engineering. If it is robotic engineering that he is interested in, then a college degree is necessary to achieve this goal. If it is construction, or any other blue-collar job in the engineering field, that he is interested in then a college education would not be necessary. Furthermore, many students that are intelligent, but their grades are not conducive to that fact, are simply not good test-takers. If this is the case for the young man from the example, then trade school is a viable option for him because trade school tends to lean more towards hands-on education and less paper testing. Specifically, construction would be a practical choice for this young man considering the fact that he would like to study engineering and this is a type of engineering that leans more towards the blue-collar side of education. If this is not a desire of his, just like it is important for him to consider college as a viable option, he should consider trade school. If it is true that this young man has untapped potential and he was simply not studious in high school, the college may be the better option. If the sixtieth percentile quality work was his best then trade school would be the better option for him. Thus, it is important for this young man’s high school to present him all viable options so that he is able to make a decision based on the reality of the effort he is willing to put in.
Some students are conditioned from birth to believe they must go to college, while others despise the idea of having to continue their education after high school. Some believe a college is an essential tool for entering the middle class, while others say college is a social construct to classify society and collect revenue. Neither stance considers the idea that every individual is different. Many of the misconceptions about college stem from the way that high schools treat the topic of college: they classify their students into “likely to be successful in college” and “unlikely to be successful in college” and then only target those who are likely to be successful. By focusing on a subset of their students, high schools fail to consider all the facts: a student’s academic record, their desires, their economic status, and most importantly, their aspirations. Those high school graduates that have not yet decided whether they are going to college or not should consider college as a viable option, research schools of interest including price, and keep grades, effort levels, and aspirations in mind when close to a final decision.
Murray, Charles. “Are Too Many People Going To College?” Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst, 234-53.
Owen, Stephanie and Isabel Sawhill. “Should Everyone Go to College?” Graff, Birkenstein, and Durst, 208-223.
Graff, Gerald, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, editors. They Say/ I Say with Readings, 3rd ed, Norton, 2015.