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Not Going to College: 6 Common Excuses Debunked

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Most of us have realized by now that college isn’t right for everyone. A recent Harvard study claims that the “college for all” mentality does more harm than good.

Even so, many people who would succeed at college and benefit from the experience decide to skip it thanks to to a long list of excuses they’ve concocted and convinced themselves to believe. Take a look at these common excuses for not going to college before you make any rash decisions.

1. I can’t afford to go to college. It’s way too expensive.

Going to college can be expensive, but it’s not an impossible goal. When looking at college tuition prices, always remind yourself that it’s a lot like shopping for a new car—most people do not pay “sticker price.” According to the College Board, the actual price that the average undergraduate pays for a college education is considerably lower than the published tuition and fees, usually due to grants and other forms of financial aid.

A student’s eligibility for grants and financial aid depends on their expected family contribution, their year in school and enrollment status, as well as the cost of attendance at the school they select. Even so, most students are eligible for at least some sort of financial aid for college. In 2009-10, over $154 billion in financial aid was awarded to undergraduate students! If you’d like to know how much financial aid you would qualify for, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, online at www.fafsa.ed.gov

2. Even if I could afford it, I don’t know where I’d go to college.

Students choose colleges for a variety of reasons. Some want to live at home while going to college, so they research schools within driving distance. Other students choose a particular college because of its reputation or the availability of certain programs of study. Your high school guidance office should have plenty of information about a wide variety of colleges, and a wealth of information is available online. You can learn about and compare colleges and universities right here at StateUniversity.com!

Attending a college fair is another great way to learn about several colleges at once. Many high schools and local school districts hold college fairs to provide students with the opportunity to speak with college admissions counselors, but if you live in an area that is hosting a National College Fair, you’ll most likely have the ability to learn about hundreds of colleges under one roof. (This StateUniversity.com blog post offers a few tips and tricks about making the most about college fairs.)

3. No one in my family has gone to college.

Most families have traditions. Taking vacations together every summer and baking that special dessert every Christmas are just two examples of special family routines. Not going to college is one tradition that you shouldn’t be afraid to break.

If your parents want you to join the family business after you graduate from high school, let them know that you’d also like to go to college. If money is an issue, explain that financial aid is usually available in most cases. If your parents do not know much about college because they didn’t continue their education past high school, go to a college fair together or set up an appointment with your guidance counselor and learn about the process together.

4. I don’t know what I want to be or what I want to study.

You’re not alone if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to study, but others have no idea whatsoever. “With new college students, you will typically find that more than half do not know what they are going to major in,” said Dottie Phillips, assistant director of Academic Advising at North Lake College. "And those who do, 90 percent tend to change their major within the first year,” she told the North Lake News-Register.

As the College Board explains, most four-year colleges do not require students to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year. This will allow you to take courses in areas that appeal to you and find an area that piques your interest. The Colorado State University career center also points out that many students realize they want to pursue a career that has little or nothing to do with their college major, which is also absolutely normal.

5. High school was hard enough. I’m not smart enough to go to college.

College is a lot different than high school! For once in your life, you’ll be able to study what interests you. There are general education requirements that everyone must complete in order to earn a college degree, but your days probably won’t be filled with advanced physics and calculus.

If you’re not up to par in certain subjects, most colleges offer remedial classes that can help get you caught up. If you wind up taking a remedial course, do not feel bad or get embarrassed. Some national studies have found that as many as 40% of students will take at least one remedial class during their college years, reports the College Board.

If you realize that one of your college courses or assignments is confusing you, help is available! Don’t ever be afraid to raise your hand during class if you have a question. Most likely, if you’re confused, so is someone else. Also remember that professors have office hours for a reason. Stop by and let them know you’re having trouble, or send them an email. Tutoring centers are a great place that college students should take advantage of. Even Harvard has a writing center where students can meet with student tutors to get help with their writing!

6. I’m too old to go to college.

If you’re a working adult with a family, the thought of being “the old one” at college might seem frightening, but it shouldn’t. The “typical” college student—students in their late teens and early twenties — is no longer typical.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about half of today’s students are financially independent; 49% are enrolled part-time; 38% work full time and 27% have dependents of their own. Almost half — 12 million — attend two-year community colleges rather than four-year schools, reports USA Today.

If you still think you’re too old for college, consider this: in 2007, Nola Ochs became the world’s oldest person to be awarded a college degree. She was 95 years old when she graduated from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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