A Millennial Senior, College Anticipation

Sydnee Miano, Staff Reporter

Recently I took my senior pictures, a luxury I’ve been looking forward to for four years, like that of prom, senior picnic (which we will not have), and senior skip day. Upon my quest for a photographer and the scheduling of pictures, I knew my photographer would ask me the typical questions like “What do you plan on doing with your life? What college are you going to? How has high school been?” Something I’ve realized as my primary education is coming to a close is that it’s not as glamorous as it seems. While being free to make my own decisions and explore what college life offers, the realities of student loans, taxes, and a job are mostly what preoccupy my thoughts.

I’ll start out by saying I am not pessimistic about my life beyond high school, although I believe it’s imperative to maintain an understanding of the changes to come after a student’s enrollment in college. Personally, I’m apprehensive about spreading my wings. Though I’m headed to the University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business, I’m not sure my major in Business will remain. The average college student changes their major five times, chances are that I will change my major at least once before the completion of my undergraduate degree. In that case, some credits I’ve earned may not transfer over to a different degree plan, thus becomes money wasted. Unfortunately, my parents are not paying for my college education (though they are in a tax bracket that doesn’t afford me any grants for financial hardship) so scholarships are tricky. USNews reported that in 2013 about 70% of college students walk away with $28,400 per borrower, with Newsweek reporting that in 2015 the average college graduate took home a degree and $33,000 worth of debt, a nearly 14% increase over a 2-year period. Anthony Carnevale, a director and research professor for Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce,  said in Newsweek that in 2015, university graduates made up 40% of the unemployed in the United States. In short, if a student doesn’t acquire a job and work experience while in at least 15 hours of class per semester (the amount of time required to complete an undergraduate degree in 4 years), paying off these loans looks like an impossible feat. On top of this is the realization that I must take on a job while in school. I am doubtful that my public K-12 education has prepared me for the workload and time-management  to come. Although, with challenge comes growth.

Though some struggle with a heavy workload and time-management skills, I’m hopeful that it will build up my endurance and patience regarding the factors aforementioned. Despite all of these challenges lies the widely known fact that, on average, a college graduate makes around 85% more than a person who does not have one, which equals out to around $1,300,000 over a lifetime according to the LA Times. In addition to this, college graduates survive recessions better than their less-educated counterparts. Thus the benefits do outweigh the costs, but getting there and past the roadblocks is the most challenging part of all.

To me, college not only symbolizes stability but it also symbolizes opportunity. Growing up surrounded by the stagnation of a small Louisiana town, where no one was financially stable and no one cared to fix it, college is important in a way that means bettering my family. With a college education, my children shouldn’t have to see the struggle I witnessed and I shouldn’t have much insecurity regarding how I am going to take care of them. So, college is a conglomeration of stress and financial hardship, but what you get out of it is something that is invaluable (or worth an estimated $1,300,000). As with any investment, there must be forethought into what to invest in, an understanding of any and all implications it has, and the investor must have patience. Like my father always says, there’s no such thing as luck; there is only hard work and determination. When the fall semester comes and college enrollment is upon me, I hope to invest my time and money into something that will bring me happiness and stability. And though college is a place of unknowns, it is also a place of discovery.