How important is it for everyone to go to college?
For many students, myself included, getting into a good college the penultimate measure for academic success. For some the ultimate measure of academic success is graduating from that good college and landing a decent job that you mostly enjoy. For a growing segment of young people, forgoing college in favor of traveling or running a successful start up is the preferred method of demonstrating smarts.
Given the state of the current job market and the increasing costs of college tuition, it's easy to understand why some students would choose to work, travel or for the more entrepreneurial set start a business instead of attending college.
New groups like UnCollege, are dedicated to “hacking” higher education by focusing on experiences, networking and massive open online courses or *MOOCs instead of paying for a traditional four year degree.
*MOOCs are college level courses offered free, to anyone with an internet connection. Companies like Udacity, edX, and Coursera all offer free online, college level classes from elite universities like MIT, Harvard and Stanford.
I can see where these kids are coming from. After spending a pretty penny on a Master's degree which hasn't really lead to anything yet I often find myself second guessing myself when it comes time to write yet another check to Sallie Mae.
On the other hand, I value my college experience and acknowledge that it isn't for everyone. Like I learned in my grad courses, there are multiple intelligences. Some people write, speak, organize, research, muli-task better than others. Some build, tinker, play, create better. Telling every student that they need to go to college to be successful is kind of like judging a fish by it's ability to climb a tree.
While one could make an argument for all those successful business people out there who never went to college (see: Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Rachel Ray, Walt Disney) there are also plenty of people who are limited in their professions because they don't have that four year degree.
As continuing student of life, I think it's important that teachers encourage students to do what they can do best and follow the path that will work best for them. Most students will do great in college, but some might do greater in a trade school. And that's just fine.