Homeschool Graduation

February 28, 2018

Is College the Default for Homeschoolers?

Your child will soon be graduating homeschool and deciding what the next step will be. College, right? But why is college seen as the default next step for young adults?

Fortunately, most homeschoolers have been exposed to different options for furthering their education, but frequently we see college as the most reasonable next step. Why has college become the only blindly acceptable choice promoted by our society? 

Everyone Should go to College

This is an idea that draws sharp opinions and arguments on both sides. Some believe it's the only path to a successful life in America, whereas others argue college isn't for everyone.

However, American families seem to have bought into the belief that a college degree is the critical factor in a person's success and will go to great lengths to ensure their child has this opportunity. Politicians promote this idea with some school districts adding an application to college as a requirement for high school graduation.

But with young adults leaving college with enormous debt and sometimes underwhelming job opportunities, why do we so desperately cling to this belief?

Standing out from the crowd and having a different opinion can be difficult. It can take a lot of courage and self-reflection to question what everyone else considers an undeniable truth.

You Can't be Successful Without College

One reason is that we are told over and over again how college is the key to success. How do we define success? Our society seems to have a narrow view of success that includes only two criteria:

1. Money equals success-the the more money you make, the more successful you are.
2. Prestige equals success-you gain admiration by the pedigree of your degree.

But is this all there is to success? Is this all we aspire to in our lives?

If we consider everything that makes up a life, I don't think any of us would argue that money and prestige are the only indicators of success. Wouldn't our relationship with family, our charity in dealing with others, and happiness with the choices we've made all play an essential role in our success in life?

However, when your 18 year old homeschooler says they may not want to attend college, everyone begs and pleads lamenting that he's destined to a life of flipping burgers and his parents wonder where they went wrong.

Difficult to Hold an Opposing View

Standing out from the crowd and having a different opinion can be difficult. It can take a lot of courage and self-reflection to question what everyone else considers an undeniable truth.

Of course, everyone should go to college; then we'll live in utopia, right? Maybe not.

What makes having this alternative opinion complicated is that most people can't comprehend what you mean and so you give up and keep quiet. It's not that I think college is a bad idea and no one should go, I just think we should all take the decision more seriously and not just stumbled aimlessly into a lifetime of debt.

But no one wants to have that discussion. It's easier to say that college should be for everyone. However as homeschoolers, we have already made decision that other people can't understand,so perhaps this will made us more capable so these serious discussions about college attendance.

A Degree to "Fall Back" On

We've also come to believe that a college degree is some miracle safety net that will keep our children from hardships. It's the play-it-safe option. People often say a degree is one thing no one can take away from you.

I'll admit that's true, yet there is a financial downside to it not being a physical asset, you are the collateral for any debt you incur. You can sell a house or a car and eliminate the debt. However you can't sell your degree except to an employer for your time.

Is a safety net that comes with a monthly payment beneficial to a person's financial well-being? Possibly, but I fear many young people incur debt for college without fully understanding the long-term consequences.

Cultural Reflection of Our Parenting

What will the neighbors think if our child doesn't attend college? Will they believe our child isn't intelligent or even lazy? We worry they'll think we weren't good parents, that we didn't demand enough.

Perhaps we'll feel a tinge of jealousy, fear, or shame when our coworkers talk of their child attending the big university with the winning football team?

This may be the most difficult aspect for a homeschool parent. We fear that others will judge our decision to homeschool, because of course they would go to college if they had attended school, right? We can even say this to ourselves and question every decision we've made over the last 18 years.

But we need to accept that all of these reasons are really about us and have nothing to do with what is best for our child? They don't consider who our child is and what their goals and priorities may be.

We must recognize that college is a considerable investment of time and resources. Our job is to guide and assist our child regarding their future, but ultimately the decision should be theirs.

And I certainly don't want my child to think I'll be disappointed in them forever if they choose a path other than immediate attendance to college.

Fear of the Unknown

We know what we want going to college to look like, four more years of school and on to a job they love and want. But is that a certainty?

Of course not, but to believe this assuages our fear of an unknown future.

Technology is transforming how we work and live at a dizzying pace. A lot can happen in those four or more years a young adult spends in college.

I see this as one of the most significant problems with our current mindset regarding education and learning, it is based upon what was needed in the past and the assumption we will need the same things it in the future.

Will we?

We don't know what the future will require, but we calm the anxiety that question creates by promoting a path that may no longer be productive. We need to get comfortable with the unknown and help our children be capable of adapting to this ever-changing world.

Questions We Should Be Asking

Do I say all this because I think no one should be going to college? Of course not, but we should be willing to question this default path.

So what questions should we be asking?

1. Is the cost commensurate with the potential increase in earnings?
2. Does the field they wish to enter require a degree?
3. Is debt needed or could the degree be obtained without debt?
4. Is your child mature and driven enough to take college seriously?
5. Are they going because they don't know what else to do?
6. Would they benefit from a gap year that included work or service?

There are so many more questions to consider, but those should get you started.

Don't be afraid to ask the questions. If college is the answer, then you'll know they're making the right decision. If they're not sure, then maybe more investigation is needed. I will be much more comfortable with my child's choice if I know they thoroughly weighed the costs and benefits.

Let's not perpetuate the belief that college is an expensive necessity for a productive life.


Author Bethany Ishee

Author Bio

Bethany is the mom of six always-homeschooled children whose eclectic style of homeschooling draws upon Classical to Unschooling and everything in between. While homeschooling her children, teaching at a Project Based Co-op, and writing about learning outside of school, she still tries to find time to read a book, drink coffee, and pay the bills. Your can find her thoughts on living without school at