• Danny Lee, CFP®, CRPC®

If my kid told me they didn't want to go to college, this is what I would tell them.

Updated: Apr 12

🔑 KEY POINT

  • College is overrated...

  • Leverage what's available to you - it's free.

  • "Who" > "What"

The back story about me 🙋🏻‍♂️ → I am a first-generation Korean-American. My parents moved from South Korea 🇰🇷 to America 🇺🇸 with one goal: to give their kids opportunities. Opportunities they didn't have growing up. Like many Asian kids with Asian parents, we heard growing up that you go to college and become a doctor or lawyer or they failed as parents.


Luckily my parents weren't that hard (childhood story → growing up, I had to do multiplication tables before going to bed), but college was a requirement.


Let's not get started with the cost to even attend college. For decades, college tuition cost has exceeded inflation and household incomes, resulting in greater inequality and mountains of student debt post-graduation. One reason we are seeing rising tuition prices is demand. Demand is high to receive a higher education, allowing colleges to increase prices, but times have changed, would you say?


I understand many professions require a college education plus more. If you're going to operate on my heart, I hope you understand everything about my heart ❤️😉 . Plus, we need to continue nurturing and encouraging these individuals to pursue specific professions but graduating with +$100k of debt is a bit discouraging. Maybe less demand for a college education can help offset the rising cost, benefiting future scholars.


So, if my kid(s) told me they didn't want to go to college, here are three things I've learned and would share with them.


DON'T GO TO COLLEGE TO GET INSPIRATION 🛑

You should NOT go to college to "find" what you want to do in life. That's costly! Think about what you enjoy, something you're passionate about, and see if you can monetize that passion. Another option is by connecting with others. People you already know or want to know and asking if they would be open to coffee/lunch to chat about what they do. Use their hindsight for your foresight! Most people are very open to meeting others and sharing insight into their company, career, and life. I had great luck doing this, and it has opened many opportunities in my life. I will share more about this later in this post.


ONLINE COURSES & TECHNICAL PROGRAMS 💻

Many have access to a computer or a phone, meaning you have access to so much information. What's even better is that most of it are free and with just a few clicks. For example, YouTube is a free video-sharing platform where you can easily find nearly anything about anything. It's where you can go watch a video and learn how to bake cookies, building a life-size car with legos pieces, or the science behind robotic dogs. Udemy is another excellent resource for online, on-demand courses. My point is this, if you want to learn a new skill, there are free resources available.


Suppose you are looking for something more structured with a lesson plan, scheduled classes, and someone to keep you accountable. In that case, technical schools are great alternatives to colleges, for a fraction of the price. For example, if computer coding is something you're interested in and looking to pursue a career in that space. You can learn the basic's on YouTube, and if you were serious, you could look into coding school. Galvanize, Hack Reactor, and Fullstack Academy are some examples of popular coding programs. Some programs offer features such as a small down payment and payment options only after landing a job. Plus, they have many connections with companies, and these companies often hire individuals right-after the program with attractive salaries.


"Who" vs. "What" 🌐

I am a big believer in "who" you know is more valuable than "what" you know in this competitive job market. "Who" you know increases your chances of getting your resume to the top, increasing your chance of getting an interview. Companies love getting referrals from the inside. This is why networking and, more importantly, building relationships with people you meet is so valuable. One benefit of going to college is the opportunities to meet other students, but that's doesn't really matter unless you take advantage of it. We live in a socially connected society - no excuses 💻. Say hi to the person next to you in your spin class 🚴🏻‍♂️ or connect on LinkedIn.

To conclude, I believe college is overrated for most, not all. The internet has modernized the traditional way of doing things. Information is limitless as long as you are willing to find and consume it. We are starting to see a shift in some industries where a college degree is not required for their upper, advanced job positions. Think more about your story and your value during your interview. "I didn't attend college because growing up, I simply loved [something] and became fascinated with how it worked. So when I got my computer, I started to watch videos about [something] and taught myself these skills. Based on these skills, I have [accomplish 1,2,3] and I believe this is how I would be able to use my skills to bring value to your company by....." Even if this individual didn't go to college, the technical skills are there and the go-getter attitude.

Sources

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/012216/top-5-coding-schools-us.asp

https://finaid.org/savings/tuition-inflation/

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