“Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.” – Theodore Roosevelt
It’s often said if we do what we love, we’ll never have to work another day in our life. Yet, is that completely true? While we may love what we do, will we love who we do it for? Where we do it? How we are doing it? How much we get paid to do it? Will we love it forever? How do we know what we love today, will be something we are so passionate about in five, ten, fifteen or twenty five years? Do you truly believe that if you got a job doing what you love at 25, you’ll be in the same career when you retire (hopefully) at 65? The fact is we most likely have no idea what we will love to do the rest of our lives. Yet, as children, we are given the impression that we should follow our dreams and pursue something that we love. Unfortunately, this viewpoint can cost us a lot of wasted time, opportunity and debt. Is it worth taking on $100,000 worth of debt in student loans for something you think you love only to find out you can’t get a job doing it or discover that it isn’t something you liked as much as you expected?
Quite frankly, while we are told by educators and our schools that all degrees are valuable and you can get a multitude of jobs with any degree, the “real world” doesn’t work that way. In fact, I would argue, there are very specific paths most of us should follow in order to reduce our debt, maximize our time, and give us ample opportunities to succeed. Let’s discuss college first, as that is what a majority of high school graduates do afterwards. STEMM is science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. These career paths will bring you a plethora of opportunities at the cost of plenty of hard work up front, and potentially a lot of debt without scholarships and or grants etc. Also, just deciding to major in one of these paths won’t automatically result in a job. Certain degrees in science are in higher demand than others and not everyone who majors in engineering may be guaranteed work. If you live in Rhode Island and don’t plan on moving away, would there be a point in majoring in Petroleum Engineering?
Let us jump over to the liberal arts side of things. I would argue, that unless you have a specific desire to pursue a liberal arts career, do not focus on these degrees. In other words, if you want to study Anthropology, then know in advance where your opportunities may lie, such as field work studying primates, working in a museum or teaching. Don’t study anthropology with the notion that you can always get a job as a Business Analyst. If that’s your plan, then just pick a business concentration and study that. If a hiring manager for a Business Analyst position has to choose between two similar resumes but one candidate has a degree in Anthropology and the other in Business Process Management, who do you think they will go with?
Likewise, unless you want to be a historian, a history teacher, or a historical author and have a plan to make these things a reality, maybe consider a different major than just history. Philosophy is another possible example. Unless you want to become a Doctor of Philosophy and work in a university, this major might not be for you. If you choose philosophy and figure you can always get a job as a some sort of business relations manager- think again. Just study business management and save yourself the time from the start ensuring that the debt you may accrue will have greater potential value.
Again, there is nothing wrong with choosing a liberal arts degree, but don’t choose one just because it’s something you love to do, with the false belief you can always “get a job in business.” College is an expensive investment and with high expenses comes practicality. This is the biggest financial decision of your life being made before you are even 20 years old. By putting practicality ahead of your passions you may see greater potential in your career along with less stress, job security and favorable financial health.
Remember, you can always keep your passions while going through school. Just because you love playing an instrument, doesn’t mean you have to stop. If you love to write, there is no reason why you can’t keep writing (maybe start a blog??). If you enjoy being active then keep staying active. It’s good to dream big and see into the future, but don’t forget about what’s happening right in front of you. Remember, college is not for everyone. Plenty of jobs are available by learning a trade or even joining the military. A high skilled tradesman can live just as well as any college graduate while being in just as much if not more demand for their skills. This spans everything from plumbing, electrical, carpentry, mechanics, HVAC, iron workers and so forth. The military has hundreds of career paths you can follow to learn a myriad of important skills both technically and socially. Even better, they will usually pay for your schooling!
The explosion of college, doesn’t make hands on work any less important. Only more important! If you are going to college, my ultimate advice to you is simple; Remember to choose a degree that will afford you as much opportunity as you can get. In the end, you will be able to buy your time to do the things you truly love to do. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think practicality needs to be set ahead of passion? Or do you think there is a healthy combination of how both can be achieved? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!