Rather than simply post a comment on PZ Myers’s post, “For all the 18 year olds anticipating next year”, allow me to hijack it with my own opinion.
When I was eighteen, I wasn’t ready to attend college. I was pushed into it for a year. Never mind that I was still an unconfident and shy teen still living with abusive parents, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. It’s only fortunate that the sperm donor was paying for the courses, that I didn’t have student loans.
But I did pay for it later in other ways.
First, I resented being pushed into it. This was the 1980s when you could still get a decent job without a college education, and thought I could do that too. I ended up wasting several years working low paying, dead end jobs before I was motivated and went back to college for my own reasons. As said above about a lousy home life, I wasn’t a “know it all” teen, I was trying to demonstrate independence from them.
Second, I paid for the low grades of that first year. I had no choice financially except to attend the same college when I finally did go.
The college wouldn’t erase or delete those prior courses (none of which related to what I studied). I couldn’t afford the time or money to retake them and get better grades. With the unwanted albtatross around my neck, my GPA was barely 2.5. Without them, it would have been about 3.0, not bad considering I was living a 24 hour clock and on polyphasic sleep for years (simultaneously working and studying). Imagine that effect if a scholarship is based on GPA, and you’re denied it because of a mistake you were pushed into making.
If I could have the ears of any eighteen year olds finishing grade twelve now and are uncertain about life, the one piece of advice I would give them is:
Don’t go to college.
Not yet, anyway. At eighteen, few genuinely know what they want to do the rest of their lives. Sacrificing one year now and learning basic adult life skills isn’t a waste of time, it’s better than wasting five years later. More below.
If you’re fresh out of high school and fresh out of ideas, consider doing these two things:
1) Work for a year at a lousy minimum wage job.
Learn what is expected and required of you in a workplace. Learn that you’re going to be amongst adults for the rest of your life and start acting like it. And if you’re still living at home, learn how to handle and save money, get a bank account, ID and driver’s license, etc. Just a few thousand dollars saved by next September (fourteen months later) could make all the difference in your life.
Almost everyone at eighteen has never had to “adult” before. It’s better to make these mistakes at that age than to keep making them at twenty-two. You’re much more likely to be forgiven or excused by a future employer when it was your first job, not your fifth.
I’ve seen coddled 24 year olds teaching ESL in Asia who had no clue about effort and discipline because it was their first job, ever. You can’t just “show up when you feel like it”, you can’t talk back, you have to work with and be considerate of others even if you don’t like them. Some never understood that work isn’t a paid vacation, you’re there to perform.
2) Go to the library and start reading.
It’s a free education. A lot of what you’ll learn will apply and be useful in college when you finally do go. But most important, find out what interests YOU. Find your own motivation and passion. When you’re curious and focused, you’ll put in the effort.
If the library uses Dewey Decimal System, start in the 000 and then move on to the 100, 300, 400, 500, and 900 before tackling the rest. If it uses the Library of Congress System, start with “A”, then move onto “BA-BJ” (*), “C”, “D”, “G”, “H”, “J”, “K”, “P”, “Q”, “R”, “S”, and “T”. And read things you disagree with.
(* Avoid BK-BZ which are for religion. In the LoC system, BS is where you find the bible.)
The world is no longer a distant concern (re: politics, the environment). High school history and social studies don’t teach you everything. And worst of all, schools “teach” for you to pass a test, they don’t teach you how to think independently.
I wish I someone had told me this when I was eighteen. It would have made a big difference.
And yes, consider Community College, especially if you’re in the US. It’s a bargain compared to overpriced state colleges. It’s the same education without the “connections” schmoozing.