Many college students are given the following advice: “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
The problem with giving students this advice is that it is terrible advice. The reality of life is that not everyone gets to pick to do a job they love. Some people think they will love a job or a vocation, but over time they learn they don’t actually love it. Others know from the start they don’t love their job, but they do it because they need a paycheck and it puts food on the table.
Where this advice gets especially dangerous is when it comes time to pick a college and to pick a major.
The current generation has been raised on positive reinforcement and building self-esteem. Think about the lessons children today are taught from a very young age:
- I am a winner
- I can do anything if I put my mind to it
- I am special
While teaching a positive attitude and positive outlook is definitely a noble goal, the lessons of these teachings have put many students in a terrible financial position as they enter adulthood.
Making Smart Decisions
Avoiding a devastating student loan situation requires a student to be smart about the school they pick and about the program they study.
If students focus solely on picking work they love, the financial implications can be devastating. For every successful actor, athlete, or artist, there are hundreds struggling or who never make it. Yet we tell kids they can do anything they want and they will be great.
As a result, reality often doesn’t enter the equation. Average salary and employment rates take a backseat to what could happen. For-profit schools are especially guilty of tapping into this can do/dreamer attitude when recruiting students.
18th Century French Literature may be your first love, but if you can find some interest and talent in accounting, the accounting degree is probably the smart move.
Should you ever find yourself in a position to advice a young person as they think about colleges, majors, and student debt; a frank reminder about the realities of life may be necessary.
Having a job you love is great, and certainly worth working towards, but having a job that pays the bills and puts food on the table and a roof over your head is essential.
We spend so much time thinking about what can go right, but when picking colleges and majors, you have to think about what can go wrong too. The reality is that not everyone gets to do what they love. Not everyone even gets a job that is enough to support themselves.
Before signing up for debt that can last a lifetime, a little less dreaming and a little more math is a good idea.