Category Archives: alternatives to school

Because Freedom

Because Freedom

man walks along a dirt road and enjoy the freedom.

Today, in honor of Independence Day, we’re going to have a change of pace from the usual tactical level, immediately applicable financial tip. Instead let’s get philosophical and explore the situation in front of us from a more strategic vantage point. Let’s talk about something you need to understand as you make life choices of all stripes. Let’s talk about valuing your freedom.

Recently I ran across an article/photo essay on the UK’s Daily Mail website which provided a glimpse into a handful of “Peter Pan generation Lost Boys” as captured by the lens of one Liz Calvi of West Hartford Connecticut. The content completely captured my attention, and my ire, not so much for the photographs but for the language used to explain why these young men had all dropped out of college and moved back in with mom and dad. And I quote (emphases mine):

  • They “were forced to move back in with their parents, unable to get a job…”
  • “You’re almost in this trap, where you have to go to college to get a job…” (but college is untenable due to the costs)
  • “But college costs so much money, so sometimes you have to go back home to live with your parents.”

I reacted so viscerally to these statements, and to the representative photographs, because I don’t find this line of thought uncommon at all among the lost boys I encounter with regularity. In writing the following I do not specifically pick on any of the men in depicted in the article. I speak to every young person when I seek to clear something up once and for all with another quote, this one from my mother:

“Nobody’s making you do anything.”  

Continue reading Because Freedom




I’ll never forget my most bitter college moment. I hated a pre-req humanities class. I labored to stay awake through my professor’s monotone delivery, the textbook dried my eyes out, and the assignment loads amounted to arbitrary busywork. One day as I sat at my desk grinding through a reading section my roommate walked in and asked, “Why didn’t you just test out of that?”

He then explained that instead of taking this class he had studied a prep book, paid a small fee, and then passed an exam administered on campus. In return the college granted him three credit hours and waived their requirement to take a class on the subject.

I nearly cried. I certainly fumed. How come nobody told me about this option until it was too late? Continue reading CLEP. CLEP. CLEP.

Alternatives TO School

choices, options, alternatives


Alternatives To School

Disclosure notice: The following topic causes panic among parents when I bring it up. We’ve looked at alternative schools in the past (here, here, and here for instance) and will do so again in the future, and this makes people a bit uncomfortable. Today we’ll go one step further. I’m going to walk you through (gasp) some alternatives to school that may work for you.

In my last post I broached the idea that college falls short in its outcomes for many students. Perhaps, then, many would be better off to get what they need through other channels. Sacrilegious, I know, but perhaps you don’t need a full-blown college experience to get where you need to go. Before thinking about school by default, perhaps we should challenge the assumption that anything but a college experience would serve you well. The old maxim is true: College isn’t for everybody. Here are a few alternatives to school to consider. Continue reading Alternatives TO School

Certifications for Better Employment

Certifications for Employment

certified grunge retro red isolated ribbon stamp

When I ask students why they want to go to college, the number one response I hear, hands down, is “to get a good job” or “to qualify for a career.” We fear getting stuck in the dead end workforce right out of high school. We often seek higher education for reasons of employ-ability; specifically, a better crack at a good paying white collar sort of job. That’s the way to go, right? Continue reading Certifications for Better Employment

The Best of Both Worlds

Plumber or mechanic with certificate, qualification or other scroll and wrench. Education concept for being professionally qualified or certificated.

The Best of Both Worlds

We’ve seen statistical evidence (link, link) that students can no longer muster enough income for college by merely making minimum wage. To that end I have suggested by and large employment in the “results economy” as opposed to the more predictable but less lucrative “time and effort economy.” (link, link, link). But this option often fails to inspire students, who see self employment as a crapshoot. What of the student who wants a regular, steady paycheck and schedule while in college? Continue reading The Best of Both Worlds

Military Aid: Three Critical Questions

Military Aid: Three Critical Questions

An illustration of a cartoon angry boot camp drill sergeant character

Uncle Sam’s Got Your Back

When researching military benefits you will run into enough acronyms, jargon, overlap, inter-branch disparities and bureaucratic stipulations to make you want to curl up in a corner and suck your thumb. Recruiters can help interpret it all, but also have obtained a reputation for intimidation and pressure that keeps many curious students at bay.

So where does one turn? Let’s explore this together, traveling in a linear fashion and picking up the information we need along the way while letting the rest lie untouched. Continue reading Military Aid: Three Critical Questions

Chart: Where Majors End Up by Industry

Where majors end up-page-001


Chart: Where Majors End Up by Industry

If you ask high school students why they want to go to college, almost inevitably you’ll hear a variation on one of three themes: education, exploration, and employability. Increasingly as college becomes more expensive and the education itself can be had for free, the employability factor takes center stage in the minds of students. But what is the correlation between our studies and our future employment? More specifically, will choosing a particular major have an impact on my employment in a related career field? Continue reading Chart: Where Majors End Up by Industry

Let’s Not Assume

Let’s Not Assume

One’s an incident, two’s a coincidence, three’s a theme. And do I ever smell a theme. Just last week as I combed through my Google Alerts newsfeeds I read:

“A college degree is the gateway to success in today’s economy.” (source)

“A college degree is the only sure path to middle-class security…” (source)

“The biggest absurdity is that a four-year college degree has become the only gateway into the American middle class.” (source)

“… higher education is, more than ever, the surest ticket to the middle class.” (source)

If any of the above holds true, then it only makes sense that tuition soars and we, as individuals and as a body politic, promote a college-or-bust mentality. But keep in mind that any time we assume, in the immortal words of Felix Unger, we risk making “an ass out of u and me.”

Continue reading Let’s Not Assume