The Graduate’s Dilemma

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12


Graduation time is here. Proud parents. Excited young people glad to have the tests behind them—but the test has just begun. The real world is waiting.graduation_cap_and_diploma

Oddly, the thought of graduation reminds me of an episode of that magnificent nature series, Planet Earth. They had filmed a snow leopard in the wild for the first time. The female leopard spent several days stalking prey and finally bagged a mountain goat which she had to drag up the steep snow-covered cliffs to her lair. She couldn’t eat the goat on site because she had to share the meal with her young. The offspring proved to be a young male as big as she was. I’m thinking…why didn’t that big oaf go get his own meal? But he couldn’t. He didn’t have the skills to hunt his prey.399px-Uncia_uncia leopard

That’s the way it is with humans. The six-foot-two graduate still has to depend on his five-foot-two mama. In fact, most high school graduates receiving their diplomas this June aren’t ready for the real world. A great number of the college graduates aren’t. In today’s world, some aren’t even ready to leave the nest when they’re thirty. Why? They haven’t been taught how the economy works. Their parents realize this too late and become enablers.

But there will come a time when Mama Leopard will run Junior off…and enabling parents will also. The high school graduate hasn’t reached that point. Given the economic climate of today, very few of them are ready to live on their own, but it’s time they started gaining the skills to become independent and adjust expectations. Most young people want to be independent. They also want to live in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. That’s not realistic.

So the high school graduate’s dilemma is to decide whether they will learn a work skill or go to college. All things considered, going straight to work isn’t realistic. Some do and are successful, but they are the exception. But if this is for you, get in line of people

Be Prepared

Whether work or college, getting prepared begins way back in the lower grades, and I don’t mean academics. Just like that leopard mother was teaching her young from birth to live in the real world, we human parents ought to be teaching our children. Share your life experiences with the tikes. If you have to search for a job, tell the kids how it’s going, what works, what doesn’t. You might mention it doesn’t help to show up for a job interview with tattoos and slouching pants. If they’re old enough, let them read your job resume. Practice the interview with them.

Never thought of that, did you? I didn’t either. We expect the schools to do it all…but we expect too much.

Have you saved enough for college? Most have not. College costs are soaring. Who would have guessed? All isn’t lost, however.

Which College?

Cost will determine where the high school graduate goes to college more than academics or desire. Keep that in mind. Small state colleges and universities can provide just as good an education as the ivy league ones. And the student won’t have to listen to as much liberal propaganda. True, the small colleges won’t provide the same credentials, but after a few years in the workplace, it won’t matter, since work performance will become your credentials.Wellesley_College_Tower_Court


The high cost of higher education today is an unintended consequence of government programs to help more students go to college—guaranteed student loan programs.

Anyone with a miniscule of knowledge of economics knows higher demand increases cost. The worst of these programs are deferred student loans. Because of this, large numbers of people are graduating so far in debt, it’ll take a lifetime to get out.

Tip for Parents

I recommend that parents save for their children’s education, but if that’s been impossible, do not…I repeat…do not co-sign student loans. Yes, help the kids as much as your current budget will allow. Let them have free room and board while they attend a community college, or buy the text books, or help with the tuition, but never co-sign a loan.

Tip for Students

Suppose your parents couldn’t save enough for your dream college. Direct your sights to another dream. It might even be a better one. Resist with all your might the temptation to take out a student loan.

Apply for scholarships. If you have good grades, there are academic scholarships. If you belong to a minority, there are scholarships for that. If your parents are an alumni, you might qualify for scholarships that way. Google scholarships all over the country and apply to all.

Get a part-time job. Yes, working your way through college is old-fashioned, but it still works. You might even do what I did the last two years of college—night school. The diploma is just as good.

If you have your heart set on a high-priced university, go to a community college the first two years and transfer to the university the last two. The diploma will be just as prestigious and you will have saved a lot.

There are ways to get a college education without going into debt if you’re creative and willing to work hard. The experience will prepare you for the real world far better than that lazy rich kid who goes to college to party and scrape by.

But is it really necessary to go to college at all? I’ll explore that question next week.

Also, when I come across information that I can recommend for budgeting advice, I’ll share it here. These are three.

Dave Ramsey just came out with a new book geared to kids. Smart Money, Smart Kids. Ramsey’s common sense money management approach is highly recommended.

The Suze Orman Show comes on CNBC, Saturday night at nine. The show is entertaining and chock-full of budgeting advice.

Here’s another blog on budgeting advice you might find helpful: budgetbrainiac

Now go get measured for your cap and gown.

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