Why I Waited To Go To College

I originally wrote this article in hopes that the Times or the WSJ would pick it up for their Op-Ed column. When that didn’t work, I sent it to the Huff, and the Orange County Register but didn’t have any luck there either. I figured that since I worked so hard on it, at least it should see the light of day!

Spring 2013: The rush of college acceptances begins for high school seniors around the nation. The nail biting, hair tugging, angst has culminated into a stomach churning Game-7 of “questioned” plays with the final shot, “What if I don’t get in?”, on everyone’s minds. The pressure to get into the college of their choice (or the choice of their parents) weighs heavily on each student. Everything rides on their acceptance or rejection. It is the most harrowing time in a high school senior’s life. One by one, students learn their fate. Very few get into their first choice, while some hopefuls are placed on the dreaded wait-list. Even worse, many are flat out rejected leaving them with the new question, “What now?” What if the pressure of applying to and waiting for acceptance into a top college was eliminated? What if these students were told that they had other options besides going straight from high school to college?
Few high school graduates take the option to explore the world without the pressure of school stress weighing down on their shoulders. The wise, adult choice is to attend college and get a degree; not the choice I made. As a high school graduate who waited three years to apply to college, the pressure that seniors endure every year at this time is completely lost on me. While my friends were frantically planning out their futures, I was applying myself to the lessons of the world around me, rather than the education of a classroom.
Back in 2010, with high school graduation lurking around the corner, I had many decisions to make about my future, and I had to decide fast. While my classmates knew what followed after high school, I was clueless. College was in the cards, but at the same time, I had the opportunity to take a year off and participate in an independent spiritual study program. Being born and raised in California, my heart leapt at the thought of spending a year in New York. College was important, but I decided it could wait. I knew that, eventually, I would make my way back to a classroom, but eventually could have meant anything at that point. So, with a diploma in my hand and a suitcase full of dreams and expectations, I moved to Brooklyn. My year of independent study coincided with a year of bringing my first novel to life. It was when that year came to a close that I decided, once again, to take a leap of faith, put college on hold and continue working on my novel. My family and friends were less than pleased. They believed that a college degree was my only sure chance of security in this tricky world. While I agreed with them then as much as I do now, there was something missing in my life that a college education could not have offered me at nineteen years old.
I assure you, living on my own in New York was just as hellish as it was beautiful. I worked odd jobs with horrible bosses, where my brain slowly turned to mush. I lived in dirty Brooklyn apartments full of drug feigns and gang leaders. I suffered for my art, but I made all of this worth the while. Living freely gave me a sense of responsibility that most people my age, however well educated they may be, simply don’t have. I was living the life of an adult while other people my age were living in the sheltered, somewhat secure bubble of the college life. Most young people do not experience the tension and the stress that comes with being adult in today’s society until they are out of college. School removes certain important realities from the framework. There is a mystical, almost fairy tale like vision of what a college education can do for a person that blinds this nation.      
There is a sense of security associated with a college education that is not as true as it once was. Getting a degree no longer secures you a great, high paying job. Between college loans and our ever failing economy, it’s hard to imagine many of these students ever being able to get on their feet and support themselves comfortably. All of this, however, does not take away from that fact that my strive for education was not lost, however far away from a classroom I was. I participated in writing events and took various classes to keep myself sharp and focused. I took various online courses, the most successful of them coming from Coursera.org. Through Coursera, I participated in the critically acclaimed Modern Poetry (known to the students as ModPo) taught by Professor Al Filreis from University of Pennsylvania. Through this course, I connected with strangers from around the world who have since become like family to me. This class not only sharpened my poetry skills, but it gave me the confidence I needed to go back to school. It gave me opportunities that I would have never imagined an online, non-accredited course could offer me. There are other options out there, if you’re willing to work hard enough to find them. The world around me was a constant source of knowledge and life lessons, ones that very well may beat those that are taught inside the Ivy covered walls. I didn’t just sit around, making my way from point A to point B just to survive. I thrived in these circumstances because I wanted to succeed. I worked hard because I knew that eventually, I would need to apply myself back in a classroom. 
These experiences gave me a sharper perspective on life that has prepared me to face every challenge that comes my way. Things would have been very different if I would have jumped from one security blanket to the other. Had I gone to college at eighteen, taken the normal course like the majority of the students in this country, my life would have been very different. My focus is sharper. I know exactly what I want now that I’ve had time to explore. Now, after spending years learning how to maneuver my way through the world, I am about to become a published author. I could not be happier about the way that my life has played out until now, and I attribute a lot of the success that I’ve had until now to the fact that I took the world in my two hands and made something of myself without a college degree. I took a unique approach: Novelist first, college student second. I could not have made a better choice.

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