The first major decision in the lives of many young people today is whether or not to go to college. There have been times when the question was mainly an economic one, and perhaps it is boiling down to that again, with costs increasing alarmingly so that many private colleges now cost up to ten times as much as state or community ones. But the question needs to be raised often as to whether indeed college is a good thing for all. I am convinced that it is wasteful, dangerous, and unjust to insist that all high school graduates continue their studies for a degree. It is wasteful because many people neither want nor need a college education. It is dangerous because of the unwarranted pressure it puts on reluctant students and on harried teachers. It is unjust as it would be unjust to insist that a hare should learn to walk like a tortoise. Different life-styles make different demands.
Some questions beyond the basic ones (Have you the aptitude? and Can you get the money?) that may help the pre-college young person and those who counsel him are these:
Do you want to go to college? If so, why? To satisfy those who expect you to go? To gain prestige? To find a mate? To get a job? To learn? Unless your reasons include the last, forget about college altogether. If you want to learn, decide whether it is only specific training for a vocation that you are after or whether you want more than a job skill—you want actually to be educated. You may have only a hazy idea of what it is that you want to learn, and this is understandable. You have as yet little ground for making a choice of subject matter. But you must have an “empty cup,” and know that you have it. You must want to be filled. You must be aware that a college is a place where ...1