May is just around the corner, and many high school students will be off to college, pursuing their dreams, and discovering new passions as they graduate to adulthood and independence.
I remember turning 18, and anxiously awaiting the opportunity to find my own road, build my own path, and create my own legacy. The taste of freedom was in my veins, and I was ready to leave behind childhood and pursue more adult activities and responsibilities.
Don't get me wrong, the fear of going out on my own was ever-present. Leaving home and becoming an adult was both overwhelming at times and frankly paralyzing. But, like any young adult preparing to embark on this new journey, you face it with resilience, determination, and courage!
Now, several decades later, I look back and say, "If only I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently." Isn't that what most of us say as we mature? Of course. Life isn't always a bed of roses, and despite our courage to face the unknown at a young age, more and more teenagers lack preparation to do so.
The traditional path of getting into college right after high school, is not necessarily a good decision to make, despite what we have been taught and told for many generations.
My advice is to wait. Contradictory to my mother's advice, I learned her well-intentioned advice to go to college right after high school was motivated by her thought that having a degree would open up a number of doors to opportunity.
What she didn't realize is that times were changing, and a degree no longer held the value it once did, primarily because the growing number of degreed professionals created a more competitive market.
Reviewing my history in education, both as a student, graduate, and adjunct professor, I will be the first to say education IS one of the most important investments one can make in life. BUT, not just any education.
The RIGHT education is of utmost importance, and unfortunately, I don't have confidence in academia to provide what is necessary for today's youth.
Picture this. Today's youth are graduating high school with less than proficient standards. Many cannot even spell at a 5th grade level, and yet they are being accepted into institutions of higher learning by the masses.
Today's college curriculum is less about academia and more about social engineering, leaving students in tens of thousands of dollars in debt long before their achievements will ever be put to good use.
Young adults are graduating college with an average of $50,000 in debt from student loans, fees, books, and living expenses, without a real sense of how to survive or thrive in this new world of adulthood.
Life skills courses don't exist. Fast food chains and expensive coffee shops have replaced home economics courses (long before they ever graduate high school). Unbiased civics and social studies courses are a thing of the past, and mathematics has very little to do with budgeting, paying bills, entrepreneurship, and investing.
Students leave college knowing how to build high-tech gadgets but don't have the first clue how to interview for a job, apply social etiquette, or utilize people skills.
In my opinion and experience, college is not the right step for most. Developing personal skills and learning from experts in personal and professional development is by far more valuable than any college degree.
And I don't just say that because of the field I am in. Frankly, I followed the traditional path. I went to college, ended up in debt, working 3 jobs to survive and pay my student loans - long before ever becoming a public speaker and entering the field of personal development. As a matter of fact, that's WHY I entered personal development.
I realized there was a failed system in place, leaving young people in debt, working odd jobs that had nothing to do with the field of study or degree he/she achieved, and resulting in a slew of frustrated and ill-equipped students living with their parents until they were 30 just to make ends meet and get out of debt.
There is a better way!
Pursue personal and professional development. This includes learning how to make money, investing for your future and preparing to leave a legacy. Learn how to develop better relationships with others, God, and those closest to you. Develop people skills. Network and learn the art of listening. Study people. Study successful leaders. Learn how to cook, manage a home, clean up after yourself, develop social skills, and treat others with grace and compassion.
All that sounds like values you should have learned as a child. And some have learned many of these values. But, more and more homes are more and more disconnected, creating a void or deficiency in these areas.
Start with this ONE simple exercise:
Get your spiritual walk on track and the rest will begin to take shape. No, God isn't going to teach you manners, but if you get your heart in check, put Him at the center of everything, and pursue a passionate relationship with Him, you'll discover He will help you complete the other steps in time.