It’s that time of year when many school seniors are applying for early acceptance into the colleges of their choice. By January and February, seniors will be in full-fledge “college application mode”—applying to degree programs all over the country.
Deciding what to do after high school is no small task, particularly as our culture places a very high value on pursuing a college education. So much so, I would argue, that our students are misled to believe that a college education is the only path to a successful life and career.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe higher education is a gift from the Lord—I have two degrees myself. But I do not believe college education is the only road to a successful life, and I do not believe that a college education is the best path for every person.
This leads me to ask, what is the meaning of life? The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks this question a different way, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is beautiful and true, “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Can I glorify God and enjoy him with a college degree? Yes! Can I glorify God and enjoy him without a college degree? Yes! My point here is that our desire for high school seniors should be that they pursue a life that glorifies and enjoys God. That should be their focus as they ask themselves “should I go to college?” Going to college is not a requirement for glorifying and enjoying God.
But if you’re a high school student who is college-bound or if you have a student who is, let me suggest four stewardship encouragements as you navigate this decision.
#1: Choose Education NOT an Experience
So often, I hear prospective college students talking about their dream college experience. They envision the perfect school that will make them successful, the beautiful campus, the exciting social scene, the trendy dorms, and the most incredible meal plans. Though those things are nice, the point of higher education is to receive knowledge and skills for a future career. Thus, when students are wondering “should I go to college” and are looking at prospective schools, this needs to be the focus. I encourage students to choose a school that will provide the education needed for their desired career field, rather than simply an exciting four-year experience.
#2: Avoid Student Loans
Proverbs 22:7 is a common verse regarding debt, “the borrower is slave to the lender.” It’s true. Please be very careful when it comes to borrowing money for your education. Though you will borrow a specific amount, you will be required to pay it back with interest.
Student loans feel painless while in school, but once a student graduates and repayment starts, the impact is felt for years—until the last penny is paid.
#3: Pay as You Go
Students, if you’re wondering “should I go to college” and you decide that your answer is “yes,” plan accordingly. Rather than borrowing your way through an expensive school, go to a school you can afford.
Remember, college is for receiving an education, not an experience. Take time to determine how much you can afford for school (aka: determine your budget). Then, devise a plan to pay as you go and work your way through school.
#4 Utilize Scholarship Opportunities
In addition to working through school, apply for scholarships and grants! Did you know that nearly $3 billion in scholarships and grants are left unclaimed every year? Scavenge the internet for scholarship search engines, talk to your guidance counselors, talk to your prospective school’s financial aid office and apply, apply, apply! Take five hours every week to apply for scholarships as a senior and during your time in college. You may get denied for many, but the ones you receive will be well worth the time invested!
There you have it. Whether you go to college or not, the purpose of life is to glorify and enjoy God. And if going to college is the road the Lord is calling you to, make sure you pursue it as a wise financial steward. Choose an education over an experience, avoid student loans, pay as you go, and apply for scholarships!