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Old 07-25-2012, 08:03 AM   #21
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I have a B.A. in journalism and English, and later I went back to school to become certified to teach English; those degrees have served me well and are in line with my abilities. I started out as a newspaper reporter for a large daily newspaper. I've covered sports, city council meetings, the stock market, written about general news, worked as a food critic, taught English and Social Studies, taught computer classes, and worked as a technical writer for a computer software company.

If I had to do it over again, I would probably still end up as a writer of some sort, but I have a deep interest in science and might try to add some more science education to my background so I could be a science writer. I always scored very high on standardized tests in science, but my problem is that I was the worst at math.

Knowing how to write well is a good skill, and it is useful in a lot of jobs. If I were to advise any future English majors, I would tell them to concentrate on writing rather than literature appreciation. The latter is fine, but the former more marketable.

As far as big school vs. smaller school, generally speaking, I'm for the smaller university for undergraduate degree...higher teacher/student ratio, AND you typically get the professor teaching the class rather than a TA. I'm a bit biased though perhaps because my undergraduate school (small school) is a better school than the one I went to for graduate school (large state university).

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Old 07-25-2012, 08:09 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Speculator View Post
I dropped out of college at 18 because I was advised (along with the rest of my class) that, demographically speaking, there would be no jobs in my chosen field four years hence. Since I was paying for school myself, I figured: "Why waste my money?" So I took a job with a large company, and, thirty-two years later, found myself in the lucky position of being able to retire at 50. Then, after a month, bored with retirement, I decided to try school again and discovered I loved it. I went to a local community college and received an AA in Liberal Arts, transferred to a four year school and received a BA in Psychology, went to grad school and took a 23 credit hour program to satisfy my current state's licensing requirements in a "parallel" field, and am currently applying for further graduate schooling. So, as to your questions:

I would make no changes for myself because I'm really thrilled at how things are working out.

The best thing I did was to go to a local community college and get an AA in Liberal Arts because 1.) It was cheaper for the first two years than a four year school. 2.) The AA in Liberal Arts allowed me to explore many different subjects before I committed to one specific field of study. This also let me find a subject I really enjoyed, which made spending the tens of thousands of dollars the degrees eventually cost me worth every penny. Additionally, I believe if you can find a field of study you are passionate about, the happiness and security will take care of themselves.

Having gone to both small schools and large universities, I would consider the large university due to the broader diversity of the teaching staff and student population, as well as the more numerous resources and campus activities the larger universities offer their students.

And finally, for what it's worth, I would only go to a "brick and mortar" college or university because my experience is 1.) You can't beat the learning opportunities presented by spontaneous "face-to-face" personal interactions. 2.) They are less expensive. 3.) They have better "credibility."
Wow, that's an interesting path!

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Old 07-25-2012, 08:25 AM   #23
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It's tough to give any general advice. Each person/student is unique - what works for one would fail for another.

But IMO, the student should consider if the chosen education path has a reasonable chance of leading them to a career path with some balance of personal/financial reward. That might be a trade school for one, a general BA for others, or a direct path to a PhD for others.

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Old 07-25-2012, 11:31 AM   #24
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I'd say the best thing you could do is be a voice of support if he chooses something unconventional. When smart kids decide they want to be mechanics, or crane operators, or start a dog-walking business they often get advice from friends and family that they are wasting their talents. Well-intentioned, maybe. But I think it can lead to devastating results when you pressure someone to do something more "advanced", who might be perfectly capable, but just has other interests.

I remember I was making a pretty good living doing freelance programming throughout high school, and when I suggested I not go to college and just build a business instead, I was faced with a giant wall of opposition. Sitting in classes was tough at times when I knew I'd rather be building something than doing some meaningless homework exercises.

A couple of college transfers later and some luck falling into a lucrative field and it all worked out. But not everyone lands on their feet like that when pressured to follow other people's dreams rather than their own.
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Old 07-25-2012, 11:37 AM   #25
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I would suggest to any prospective college student to choose a path that would at least give you the possibility of not being sentenced to decades in a cubicle.
"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

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Old 07-25-2012, 01:34 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by youbet


The factories I toiled in for 30+ years don't even exist today. Every one has been shuttered or converted to another use.

There are very few corporate-based apprenticeships or trade-related training programs left in the USA. The mini-resurgence in manufacturing we're currently having is being hindered by a severe lack of skilled tradespeople (machinists, tool and die makers, millwrights, electricians, etc.). Maybe trade school in one of these areas might pay off assuming it will be a long, long time (if ever) before American business assumes responsibility for this training again.
With all the new developments in 3d printers and cnc machines happening there might not be much demand for old school machinists in 5 years.
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Old 07-25-2012, 04:34 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by mh View Post
With all the new developments in 3d printers and cnc machines happening there might not be much demand for old school machinists in 5 years.
CNC machining still needs someone to input what is to be made into the computer (as does 3d printing) The days of someone actually guiding a lathe or milling machine to make something are long gone. Today one needs computer skills as much as machining skills, (and thus more math training).
I wonder where one would find an old school training program now days anyway at a community college.
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Old 07-25-2012, 04:37 PM   #28
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I have a very outdated attitude towards higher education but (like everyone) I think I am right.

In my opinion, the purpose of education is personal development and satisfaction - - study what you want to learn about, knock your socks off, get extreme about it, because you only live once.

From my viewpoint, the purpose of education is only related to job training obliquely, if at all. To get a great job I'd suggest a different approach. I'd tell a youngster to network like crazy, stay in great shape and be the most physically attractive you can be, and learn acting so that you can play the part and somehow learn to "fake it until you make it". People with those skills can get good jobs and earn a lot of money, without spending a lot of their time in college classrooms when they could have been working, gaining job skills and seniority and more. Get connections with people who are willing to help you to slide into a job, and the job itself may even pay for paper qualifications from a diploma mill to make sure that the lack of a degree won't hold one back.

On the other hand, I have four (genuine) advanced degrees and value all of them a great deal. I got the chance to explore some aspects of the universe that I was deeply curious about. To me, this is the one and only good reason to seek a higher education and it is the best possible reason imaginable. I will never regret my educational choices.
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Old 07-25-2012, 05:26 PM   #29
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I have lots of thought on this subject. I personally have a B.A. and 2 advanced degrees. Back in the day -- when I was starting college right after college -- I really had no clue what I really wanted to do and what I would be interested in. I didn't realize that...but I was really clueless. I ended up in a field that was well paid and was a career that I had a lot of talent for. It wasn't until many years later that I realized I really didn't like it.

Most everyone I know (me included) wants their kids to go to college right after high school. This is usually due to a fear that if they fail to do so then they won't ever go and will fail in life. Yet, as pointed out above, I think that most who are just out of high school really have no clue what they want or should do with their lives.

As far as specifics of college, I am not much of a fan of private, high-priced universities for undergraduate education. I don't think that they are a very good value. In fact, for most students I'm not sure that even a 4 year state university is a good value when the first 2 years can be done at community college for much less cost and (around here) can be transferred to the 4 year school for the last two years.

My son is currently in community college and recently decided to make a change in what he wants to study (English --> Business). So he "wasted" some courses and needs to make up and takes some other courses he didn't take before. In his case, he is just turned 18 (he started at 16) so I don't really mind the extra year in community college, but it sure makes it easier for me to feel that way since the economic investment is very low.

The bottom line is that he will ultimately transfer to a 4 year school and have a degree at much less cost. I feel that the real place to spend money for the expensive school is graduate school (if even necessary there). I realize that there are exceptions to this for particular courses of study.

As far as choice of career, I think you have to consider 3 factors: what are you good at, what are you interested in, and earning potential.

If you aren't good at it, then it makes little sense to study it.

Even if you are good it, if you don't like it then there isn't much use in studying it. My son was really, really good at math at a very young age. For example, he took Calculus when he was 13. And, everyone, of course was sure he would major in math or study a hard science. But --- he really didn't like it. Yes, it was easy for him. But he really wasn't interested in it.

Earning potential should be looked at, but can't override the first two. Maybe profession X makes a lot of money. But if you hate it and you are terrible at it, then it isn't a good choice for you. On the other hand, if you love a field that is relatively low paid, I would never counsel against studying it (I didn't counsel my son against majoring in English), but I would counsel the person to be aware of the earning potential and decide if that is tolerable and I would really, really consider it when doing things like taking out student loans (it makes no sense to take out $100k in student loans for a field that pays $30k a year).

All of that said -- the other major point is to remember that 4 year academic college isn't for everyone. In fact, I don't think it is for most people. For my son who graduated high school at 15 and corrects wikipedia entries for fun and who really enjoys reading and writing and has a lot of intellectual curiosity -- a 4 year academic degree makes a lot of sense and will fit within his talents and interests.

On the other hand, my daughter is high school is an average student, doesn't like reading or writing, has no intellectual curiosity, and doesn't like to do the things that college teaches. She has many talents, but they aren't academic in nature. She surely needs to have further training after high school, but I don't think that an academic degree is well suited to her interests or her talents. To push her to college would be setting her up to fail or be very unhappy and would be done solely on the theory that she would make more money with a college degree. That would come at the price of her happiness so I don't find it very worthwhile in her case.
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:01 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by growing_older View Post
I went to a good college and got a fine education, but I had no idea what I wanted to do and so no idea what I wanted to major in or what to study. I just stumbled along. In retrospect, I would have greatly benefited from a year or two off before college to figure out what I wanted.

I did not go straight to college. Working as an insurance clerk for 2 years showed me what "career" path a non-degreed person would have. Decided to get an associates in Electronics technology - and quickly changed that to a BSEE.

Not sure I would have picked BSEE right out of high school and am very confident I wasn't motivated enough to succeed. Amazing how motivating it can be to know what it's like without a degree.

I'm not blowing off the idea of trades programs for my kids. Skilled trades (welding, plumbing, etc.) can command a pretty high $ income. If they show aptitude, I'll encourage that route.

Not sure I'd encourage engineering/software (my field) or architecture (hubby's field)... first is being offshored/onshored to much, latter doesn't pay as well as you'd imagine.
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:14 PM   #31
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I am one of those that knew what they wanted to do when they were in high school. I picked a college that would give me a degree in what I wanted to do. I went to grad school in the same subject. I have worked ever since graduation doing essentially the kinds of things I did both as an undergrad and grad student.

I don't know what anybody should make of that though other than to think that it is possible to have a one-track mind and career?
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:20 PM   #32
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I've done a wide variety of things and made a fairly good living at it. But if you had asked me as a teenager to guess what I'd end up doing in my 50s, I would not have come anywhere close to guessing right.

My college choice was pretty much dictated for me, since it had to be free.
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:35 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by KM View Post
I also have a Liberal Arts degree, but if I had it to do all over again, I would have gotten a Business degree.

What worked for many of us - wont work for the kids today. When I graduated from college - a college degree was special.....a lot fewer people had them. Every job I had only required a degree - they didnt care what it was in. Today, college degrees are more common place and companies look for graduates with specific degrees. The jobs I got in the past would not touch someone with my degree today. If you are going to pursue a Liberal Arts degree, you had best plan on some form of graduate school.

UNLESS, of course, grampa is picking up the tab. In that case, spend four years pursuing whatever strikes your fancy.

If you need job training later on, go to your state university and take just the courses you need for that.
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:38 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
Point taken... I agree. My thinking is that instead of plowing all the money into universities, and leaving the students to pay, that the government could establish a subsidized apprentice program for the major industries, to encourage a return to the skills that would pay off for the country.
I read an article earlier today that says the government is doing just this by providing subsidies for businesses to train employees in apprentice type programs. Sorry, I don't have the link handy.
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:52 PM   #35
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Like most 18 year olds, I had no idea what I wanted to study. Since I had no one to pay for my college, I stumbled along in a community college taking courses of interest, which were mostly liberal arts, and working a blue collar job (mechanic).

In retrospect, this time allowed me to decide what I wanted to do in life and gave me a solid practical background for my eventual career as a mechanical engineer. It also showed me clearly what I would be doing when I was 50 years old if I didn't get a college education. The thought of laying on my back at age 50 trying to get out a rusty bolt was a scary thought.

So, my advice to a pre-college student is to take time to find yourself and decide what you really enjoy doing that will also earn you decent living. Or if daddy is paying the freight, party like hell.
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Old 07-25-2012, 07:58 PM   #36
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When I was halfway through my senior year in high school, some people came from Ole Miss and talked to my math class at the invitation of my math teacher. They talked about engineering and how if you liked math and science and solving problems that we should consider that. I had no clue what I wanted to do but I knew a few things that I did not want to do like farm, be a grease monkey in a full service station, or work in a factory. Since I liked math and science, I wangled copies of the catalogs from a couple of universities to look at the course requirements. I looked at the various disciplines mechanical, electrical, civil, petroleum, chemical and nuclear. The petroleum I discounted right away since everyone said that that was dying industry. All of the rest had course titles that looked boring. Except for nuclear. I did not know anything about it so that is what I decided to get into. (they had lots of math and science classes required). I also remembered way back in the 2nd grade in Pittsburgh, PA that some people brought in a model of a nuclear plant. It was cool with circular buildings and rounded roofs. I went to a local junior college for two years and transferred to a 4 year university to finish. I ended up having to take 4 courses in summer school (worked full time during one of the summers) to be able to graduate in 4 years. I did not figure out what nuclear engineering was until my junior year. By that time I was ready to just finish school, being sick of it. At that time nuclear was a rising star, until the Three Mile Island accident and the economic situation afterwards.

It all worked out very well for me in the long run but I do feel I was lucky in choosing a degree and being able to earn a living. I have no regrets.

As far as advice, I think Katsmeow has the best summary I have seen with the three criteria -what you are good at, what interests you, and what has earning potential.
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Old 07-25-2012, 09:20 PM   #37
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College is a scam! For a lot of people anyway. Many careers don't need it and you can be just as successful without a degree as you can with one. You don't need one for most trades or to open a business. If your kids are going to college to find themselves or pass the time, they'd be better off hiking across the country, getting a job or joining the military. If they want to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer, etc., go for it. If not, you'd be better off looking at other options.
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Old 07-25-2012, 10:57 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by flyfishnevada View Post
College is a scam!
Not a scam at all...just a waste of time and money for those who go to college either not knowing what to do, or just trying to get a piece of paper (diploma).

My brothers fall into that category. College could really help them (one wants to run his own coffee shop, so business courses would help), but they choose to be lazy, dumb, or just confused.

As a somewhat recent graduate, the biggest thing college can do for you is provide you with opportunities to prepare yourself for exciting, possibly high-paying jobs that you can't get elsewhere. However, I'd estimate that only 10-20% of college students actually take advantage of those opportunities (number made up). The rest "just happen to be there".

It's only been 3 years since I graduated with my master's, and at this point I wouldn't change a thing. We'll see what I think in 18 years.

Also, lots of college discussion in this thread from a few weeks ago, primarily focused on the finances of it. How Should We Think About College Savings?
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Old 07-26-2012, 06:05 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by studbucket View Post
Not a scam at all...just a waste of time and money for those who go to college either not knowing what to do, or just trying to get a piece of paper (diploma).
I'm not sure I am buying the waste of time. Going into massive debt, yes. But getting a degree is still worthwhile for the average smart kid. It is probably equivalent to having a HS diploma 50 years ago - many doors are closed without it. Both of my kids (38 and 26 today) were smart enough but clueless about what they wanted to do as a career (like me). DS got a BS in psych as a placeholder like I did, and eventually stumbled into a career that is working out quite well. He would have been just as capable of doing well without the degree but he would not have gotten his first job in the field without a degree. DD took a studio art major (what she loves) but did not have a plan and didn't find work. She lucked into a job teaching art in a private school after-school program and discovered she loves teaching (something she rejected out of hand when I suggested education as a minor). The school liked her and picked her up as a regular art teacher - something that could not have happened without the degree.

The best approach is to follow katsmeow's three rules. Unfortunately, many of us come out of HS clueless and never find a passion, never find our true talent. I think some kids can still do fine as entrepreneurs and in some fields without advanced schooling. But for the smart enough clueless (which, lets face it, are many of us) I still think college is a good stepping stone. Just do it frugally.
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Old 07-26-2012, 09:17 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
A question about your philosophy, re: education.

A grandson is nearing college age, is quite bright, and probably will be successful in whatever he chooses as a profession. Now, the question arises... What college? What profession? How to merge future prospects with personal happiness.

I have my own feelings, but am really interested in what others may feel. ...
Hi Imoldernu, there is so much wise advise posted here, wow.

Will your grandson listen to your advise on this matter? How are you planning on delivering it?

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