Why I Advocate College For the Few

taking gap time

Photo Credit: Sonja Guina: Unsplash.com

I can only think of a few scenarios in which a traditional 4 year (usually more) college is a good idea for most 18-year-olds.

Scenario #1: A student earns a full athletic or academic scholarship to attend for all 4 years.  Though, I think a person a few years out of high school is a better investment, for some reason, these type of scholarships are usually only awarded to kids right out of high school.

What about a partial scholarship?” you ask.

ANSWER: Depends on how much the student has to pay or borrow.

Scenario #2: A student who has known her intended path from an early age and that path requires an undergraduate degree. I’m not going to argue with a kid who’s clearly destined to be a neurosurgeon, engineer, nurse, physical therapist, etc. Even in this case, I would encourage parents to help the student understand the impact of debt on her lifestyle (if she has to borrow) once the education is complete.

Scenario #3: Parent works at the university or college and tuition is free or insanely cheap. Even in this scenario, four years at a school could result in opportunity costs to the student depending on what he or she plans to do. But more likely, the kid has no idea what he wants to do, so this would be dumb to pass up.

Scenario #4: A 529 or other fund set aside for college will pay the tuition the student will owe. Even in this case, I believe the money is better spent when the student is more mature and experienced than most 18-year-olds but that’s just my opinion and I have no desire to tell other people what to do with their money.

Scenario #5: (I know, 5 is technically more than a “few”). Generally, there are some kids I know who are “this close” to figuring out what they want to do after high school, their parents desire and can afford to send them to college and they don’t have unique skills or interests that are marketable-yet. So, I would agree that college in this scenario is probably a better idea than bouncing around the minimum wage world. Though a gap-year plan or a Praxis year might be more productive in this situation.

FOR MY OWN CHILDREN, I can’t think of any other reason to TAKE ON CONSIDERABLE DEBT to go to college-especially right out of high school. Here are my reasons:

  1. An expensive college is not the place to “figure out” what you want to do. It’s like buying a Corvette to learn how to drive. Except the Corvette is cheaper and you’ll probably actually learn to drive, so the car is the better investment. This doesn’t mean my kids will be buying a car to learn how to drive, clearly that’s stupid. So is going to college to figure out what you want to do and borrowing to do it. Life and work experience will be a much better teacher.
  2. My children have had jobs but I still wouldn’t want them to choose a career with the limited experience they have had.In Hannah’s case, she’s had a variety of jobs and a variety of skills and interests. No way do I want to force her to “pick” which one of those to “major” in to fit into a box. Instead, I subscribe to the idea of developing many areas of interest (multipotentialities), cultivating a “Portfolio Lifestyle” (it worked for DaVinci) and agree that creating multiple streams of income is a better option than a job, which has the perception of offering security but really doesn’t.
  3. Most people aren’t happy with their career choice. Figures vary from 13% job satisfaction to around 20% among American workers, neither of which is very high.
    Anecdotally, this is also true for people in my age group. Many people my age tell me they can’t believe they wasted 25 years of their life doing what they do. Teachers, lawyers, accountants, mortgage brokers (well, that’s understandable) it doesn’t matter.
    My sample is small, to be sure, but the most professionally content people I know are my friends who didn’t go to college and either started their own business or worked predictable hours for a good company. Also, the doctors I know are pretty engaged and content with their career choice.
    This begs the question, why are we expecting 18-year-olds to choose then go into debt for a path that might make them miserable? Doesn’t it make more sense to explore options and opportunities outside the confines of an over-priced institution?
    I would advocate work, hate some jobs, love other jobs, learn about people, travel, be lazy, get tired of your lazy self and living with your parents and take action, whatever that action has to be. That makes more sense to me.
  4. There are so many legitimate, sensible alternatives to an expensive, traditional four-year degree that are just as likely, if not more, to lead to satisfying work. Vocational education, community college, online programs, college overseas, entrepreneurial and apprenticeship opportunities are just a few examples. These options simply didn’t exist when I graduated from high school and are attractive based on cost (low or none) and outcomes (experience and marketable skill procurement).

I know people think my views about college are weird and maybe they’ll prove me right if my kids still live with us when they’re 30. Thing is, I know plenty of college graduates approaching their 30s who still live with their parents.

The Day Kate Escaped from School

Escape from high school

I got a phone call today from the high school “attendance coordinator” (truant officer). Turns out Kate busted out of the big house, Hannah was her accomplice.

Rather than suffer through two study halls at the end of the day, Hannah gets out early about 3 days a week on “work release” (even that sounds like a prison term). Kate texted me around lunch to ask if she could come home with Hannah because she wasn’t feeling well. Due to whatever miscommunication, Kate just signed out and left with Hannah. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Mrs. C was at the window and turned her back for a minute and they walked out. Kate thought she had official permission, Hannah thought Kate had permission so that’s how it happened. Mrs. C was pretty exasperated when she called me. I told her it was just a miscommunication. I couldn’t resist telling Mrs. C that Kate ESCAPED! That lightened her up a bit. She’ll still probably stick it to Kate tomorrow somehow.

These homeschooled kids don’t know how to follow rules!” No, they just don’t know what the rules are.

On another note, it’s so funny that Hannah needs excuses (for illness and lateness) and permission from the school (to leave anytime she wants) now that she’s 18.

Being Home….for Teenagers

two girls chatting on a car

This is pretty much me and one of the girls every afternoon after school. PC: Greg Raines: Unsplash

I’m not sure why but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how it might be as important to be home with teenagers as it is with toddlers. I’ve always heard this but didn’t really believe or get it until now since I’m in it.

When I worked at a big firm before I had my own kids, I had a conversation with a partner whose wife had recently quit her demanding job in law (voluntarily) to stay home. He was shocked at how it changed his own lifestyle and made everything easier at work and at home-especially raising their two teenagers. He tried to explain but had a tough time articulating it himself. Maybe he was trying to avoid sounding too giddy about enjoying this traditional turn of events.

In my own family of 4 kids aged 13-18, it surprises me that some of the kids miss me if I’m not here when they get home from school (obviously I don’t homeschool anymore). They don’t whine about it, they just notice it followed by the “where r u?” text.  Also, they don’t usually need me to do anything for them, they just notice #where’smummy? #shemusthavebeenkidnapped #theresnothingtoeat!

Being home when the kids are here keeps me informed naturally and without much questioning about what’s going on with them. Sometimes, they spontaneously tell me about their day directly. More often, I just happen to be around when they’re talking to each other about things that go on at school (one benefit of having a bunch of kids in the same building).

Sure, sometimes these conversations expose my naivete when it comes to most things teen-agery but the kids just laugh and are pretty tolerant of my butting-in.

I also think the consistent contact keeps us in fairly regular communication about major and minor things. Do you have any idea how uncommunicative teenage boys are? Luke’s tolerance for long, administrative conversations is pretty low so it’s best to tic things off the “list of things to remember to talk to Luke about” as they come up which is easier because I’m almost always here when he is. He’s growing out of his curmudgeonliness but neither of us wants to schedule a summit to discuss mundane issues, basic needs or minor calendar matters. My generally-consistent presence at home keeps those at a minimum.

I’m sure the kids don’t tell me everything but they do share a lot with me.  I think it’s as much a function of habit as anything else. No question we chat about nonsense more than we talk about things that matter but I think the point is we’re in the habit of talking.

Before anyone takes this the wrong way (I’m acting like anyone reads my boring blog), I’m not suggesting that working parents don’t know or talk to their kids. I’m also not suggesting that I’m a better parent than anyone else because I don’t work outside the home. I’m just making an observation about my experience and something I appreciate about being home with teenagers.

These Kids!

Hannah Phillips media discusses creating a business out of nothing

I’m in NJ today with Luke. He’s playing in one of two last tennis tournaments of the year before he resumes his basketball career. He’s not giving up tennis just training less to have some fun with basketball (hopefully).

In my absence, Hannah presented a mini workshop at our local library.

For almost a year now, Hannah and I have both been fired up about legitimate alternatives to college and why high schools don’t help students explore them.

Hannah isn’t planning to go to college. Instead, she’s looking forward to focusing full-time on her media business. If she hits a wall because she doesn’t have a degree, then she’ll get one.

I’ll probably write about that whole decision and how people react to it a different time.

Today I wanted to write about how she co-presented a mini workshop at our local library last night for students and parents about things they can do to earn money.

I was originally supposed to present, too but had to take Luke instead. It sounds like she did a much better job than I would have.


Tennis, Family and Caregiving


This post will be boring to anyone but my mother but I feel like writing it so I don’t forget.

I turned 47 on Thursday. Hannah qualified for states for the 2nd year so I got to drive her to Hershey, PA for the tournament on that day. We were all together for the weekend, which was the best birthday gift ever.

Hannah’s a natural goal-setter and despite not training during the off-season (the kid got a little burned out on junior tournaments and clinics) she’s had a great high school tennis career. Let me brag here because she won’t do it herself. She is a 3x section champion and a 4x district qualifier. She qualified for states twice and was the district runner-up this year. I think her regular season record is 33-3 for her career.

Her goal this season was to win one more match at each tournament than the previous season. She did that in the district tournament by playing in the final and she exceeded that goal at the state tournament by finishing 4th!

Hannah Phillips Tennis States


My cousin was generous enough to stay with my aunt for two nights so my mom could come, too. Another gift. It meant a lot to Hannah that she was there.

I have incredible support from my closest family. I could never have offered to take care of my aunt in my home without it. It takes some extra planning and preparation to leave her for a couple of days-even in the best hands-but it all worked out.

Congratulations to Hannah. We’re all so proud of you!


Maybe It’s Time to Question Our Sacred Cows

This TED talk by Mike Rowe is graphic but you can handle it. Rowe is the host of “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery channel and he’s committed to bringing dignity to work by showing some of the most dangerous and well, dirty jobs.

He wonders whether we’ve declared war on work and suggests that we question platitudes like “follow your passion”.

Since enrollment in trade schools continually decreases, he wonders whether there will be enough skilled workers to fill the jobs needed to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

The mike rowe WORKS foundation promotes hard work and supports skilled trades through a trade school scholarship program. Rowe also wrote a book to promote the trades and to raise money for the foundation scholarships. “Profoundly Disconnected” was only available on the foundation website when it was published but that button takes you to the eBay auction page. Amazon’s prices seem to be more reasonable so I included it here. If you find out that the book is available somewhere that would benefit the foundation, please let me know so I can change the link.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks.

Transparency in Advertising with Morgan Spurlock

Welcome to Day 23 of “31 Days of Great Ted Talks”. You can find a run down of the other exceptional TED talks in this series by going here.

This funny and thought-provoking TED talk slash documentary shows how independent film maker, Morgan Spurlock, went about getting brand sponsors for a documentary about sponsorship, marketing and branding.

He even auctioned off the naming rights to the TED talk about the project.

One thing I loved was watching people tell him “no”. One guy even said “yes” then asked to turn the camera off so he could tell him “no”.

As uncomfortable as it is to watch people get rejected, it’s valuable-especially when they persevere and come out on the other side.

How to Cure Alzheimer’s

There’s been virtually no progress in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease since it was first diagnosed in 1906.

Samuel Cohen argues that promising new research could lead to a cure with proper funding and public pressure to do so.

Although Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease (1 out of every 5 medicare dollars is spent on patients with Alzheimer’s), it accounts for less than a tenth of funding.


Confessions of a Comedian With Depression

What’s so haunting about this TED talk by Kevin Breel a young writer, comedian and activist is how he could be just about any kid I know.

I realize anyone can suffer from depression at any time but you don’t think of young, athletic, academic and funny kids when you think of depression. You think of the kid who OBVIOUSLY doesn’t fit in and that circumstance leading to depression.

The thing is, how do I know that any of the 4 kids under my roof aren’t suffering or struggling with depression if, as Kevin described, it’s possible to present two different personas?

Let’s say my kids are all relatively healthy, mentally and emotionally speaking, it sounds like there’s a great chance that one or more of their friends, who otherwise looks healthy and stable is suffering. How can you tell?

Mental health issues are so stigmatized unlike other organs and body parts that are broken that it’s nearly impossible for kids to reach out to the people most likely to be able to help them.

I would love to hear what Kevin has to say about his parents’ role in helping him understand his depression and his ability to advocate for mental health. According to his website, he traveled extensively as a teenager doing stand-up comedy, it sounds like they’re pretty supportive.

If you watch this talk, please let me know if you also can’t stop thinking about it.

Kevin has a new book out that I’m anxious to read.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks.