High school seniors are getting ready to throw in the towel and don their caps and gowns. The summer months are filled with excited 18-year-olds working their seasonal jobs and getting ready to go to college. It’s all very intoxicating.
Let me put this in perspective.
Your average 17 – 19 year old is champing at the bit for freedom and anxious to leave home. Whether male or female, they are walking chemistry experiments on the verge of combustion, and their brains will not fully mature for several more years. Few of us at this stage knew what we really wanted out of life, let alone which direction we should go – few of us know much more 10 years later. So it makes total sense that we would send our hormonal chemistry sets en masse to isolated colonies that resemble Pinocchio’s madhouse and sign them up for years of loan payments so they can nod off through Art History and English 101. If they manage to show up despite the hangover.
Don’t get me wrong – I attended a four-year college and loved my experience there, but I also learned some expensive lessons that I am still paying for, metaphorically and literally. Your typical university campus is packed with students who will not fully realize what they are agreeing to when they sign their Sallie Mae contracts, and these are students who stand a good chance of working entirely outside their field of study. In addition, the kids who get through their undergraduate years without experimenting with substances, sex, and other fun things are hard to find.
Naturally, maturity levels differ, but the teenage brain is not equipped to grasp longterm consequences, as a physiological rule, and the college years do not resemble the traditional rites of adulthood that we compare them to. The revered rituals of native tribes and cultures around the world are tests of endurance, exposure to the elements, and physical pain that involve life and limb-threatening challenges of survival and spiritual journeying. They are about securing one’s identity in community and discerning their paths in life . The closest our college system comes is the dorm community, alcohol poisoning, ill-timed football tackles, and the cafeteria scene.
Our westernized rites of passage into adulthood do provide a sense of belonging and tradition, in their own ways, but our kids are not prepared for what is waiting. They know how to imbibe, stay up late, and bs their way through assignments, and while these are not entirely useless fruits of education, our graduates commonly collect their degrees and find they cannot land that ideal career instantly or manage those monthly loan payments.
More economical and practical options include working part-time while taking online classes, going to community college, and renting a room or apartment with friends. This saves money and time while allowing for practical experience – in short, the expansion of freedom that corresponds with responsibility. That is a crucial lesson .