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  • Stephanie Haynes

Why I Wrote College is NOT Mandatory

The college-for-everyone mentality being promoted as the only pathway to success in life is just not true and is hurting the chances of today's high school graduate to be truly successful.

Today’s high school student is under intense pressure to conform their dreams to fit one pathway to success after graduation to their detriment. Most of us would agree that our current culture promotes earning a college degree as the best way of building a successful life. The problem with this mentality is that a college degree is not a guarantee of anything. Period.


What does guarantee success? The pursuit of personal fulfillment based on values and passion rather than societal norms. Unfortunately, we are systematically drumming this belief out of our teens.


I wrote College is NOT Mandatory: A parent's guide to navigating the options available to our kids after high school because I believe every student can build a successful life and should be championed to do so on their own terms.


There are so many pathways available for today's high school graduate to consider; getting a college degree is only ONE way, and even that path has multiple access points: community college for a transferrable AA degree in order to save money and reduce debt, a gap season to gain experience before committing to a particular major, and even an apprenticeship to build a specific skill set that enhances a student's determination of what degree to pursue.


There are several other major pathways to success available to today's graduate aside from the 4-year college:

  • Community college certification programs, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs are fundamentally solid in their own right, often saving students thousands of dollars and years in school and providing relevant skill training in real-time.

  • Gap seasons give students the opportunity to spend more time exploring their passions and and give them access to experience that can help them focus and move forward with confidence.

  • The military, which has multiple access points, give students the chance to explore the world, build leadership skills, and serve something greater than themselves while also earning advanced degrees skills and experience rarely found outside the military.

There is as much variety in the pathways to success as there are in the varieties of students pursing it.


So why are the majority of today's high school students (and even parents) so focused on committing to a 4-year college degree right after high school? I believe there are many reasons, but here are my top three:

  1. For decades the 4-year college degree has been promoted by schools and the media as the best opportunity for success.

  2. There is little to no discussion about any other pathway and when there is, it is often labeled as less than desirable when compared to the benefits of a 4-year degree.

  3. The education system at large does not prepare today's graduate to enter into a career after high school, directing the necessity for additional schooling in order to be prepared for today's job market.

College is Not Mandatory was inspired by the dream that I could help parents and their high schoolers navigate all the options available after graduation in order to determine their personal best fit for a successful future. I believe that if every high school graduate could develop their own personal pathway to success, and have the tools and a plan for how to step into it, the world would be a much better place.


This book is not meant to show any pathway as wrong. It is meant to show how every pathway is right for someone and that each one is equally important to creating a successful life for our kids. I believe the future of our society could be vastly improved if every teenager was given the opportunity to see each pathway as equal and given the time to explore each one to see what fit them best before committing to any of them.


The time has come to look at each individual high school student and equip them with the tools they need to determine what success can look like for themselves. College is Not Mandatory can be that first step parents take to help their teens navigate this season of their lives with confidence.


I hope to have this book ready for purchase in early 2021. Until then, if you have any questions about how to help your high school student navigate what to do after graduation, please let me know.

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Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
stephanie@stephaniehaynes.net
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