College took away the majority of my 20s. It was also freaking expensive to study here in the U.S.
My two degrees were worth it though. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. My brain never felt very awake until about my junior year of undergrad. Graduate school kicked on the afterburners. Neither put any money in my pocket (they took lots out!) but they gave me the firepower to figure the money problem out. My first businesses were founded before I graduated. The first few didn't involve much bass playing, but they kept the lights on and the bass lessons paid for. Eventually bass playing took over. Yet high school did a great job at convincing me I was stupid and not going to achieve much. College undid this and then some. It was very crucial for everything I do now.
But college is such a massive investment of time and money that a lot of people are questioning whether or not it makes sense to go at all. On top of that, many teenagers aren’t given the information to make a rational choice as to whether or not college is a good idea at all. I sure as hell wasn’t. And it definitely isn’t for everybody. It was presented to me very plainly as the only respectable option after high school. Not going at all was a form of failure. That kid with the plan to wait a year or two to work and figure himself out? He better get his act together, the town busybodies would say.
Ever since I was in 7th grade it was made clear to me that the entire reason I show up for school everyday was to prepare me for college. This was deeply woven into the culture around me. Most classes at my high school came in three flavors: "college prep”, “honors”, “AP”. AP classes offered the potential to get a few college credits in high school. College college college.
At that age I had no concept of what college really was or why I needed to go so badly. I also didn’t have the intellectual resources to question it much. I was excited to go. I was really bored being stuck in the suburbs and college seemed like a convenient escape. Exciting and socially acceptable. Perfect.
Actually, no, not perfect. Exercising the desire for escape is a terrible reason to go to college. I was just going along with other people's plan without thinking. Some of my peers did the same thing and it wound up being a mess. It worked out for me. Big mistakes were made but I got the important stuff right. Why? I’d bet that 80% of why it worked out for me and not others is that I had a few smart people telling me what the important stuff actually is. The other 20% is me having the sense to listen and follow through.
Things are different now. I’m not that little kid anymore. College was part of my path but wasn’t a nice straight, paved road. Bumps, bruises, hard work, and luck all played a big part during school as well as after. I'm relatively young but I’ve been at it long enough to see what has worked and what has not. My first serious actions to become a professional musician were over ten years ago and my first music lessons were ten years before that (it's late 2015 now).
Now that I have some momentum happening, it is time to pay it forward. If I can share my past experiences to take some of the bumps and bruises away from your future experiences, it is worth doing.
I’m going to be as candid as I can to help you have what I did not:
Tested information to make a choice for yourself and get the most out of it.
Don’t just mirror what I did. I got lucky in lots of ways. I was pushed into college and I'm publishing about it because you don't have to be pushed into it too. Use what I say as a point of reference, not the gospel. Change my luck into strategies you can apply to make educated choices. I'm going to give you the best of what my mentors told me. It would make my day for you to take this stuff and use it shamelessly!
Since this is a huge topic, I will be writing about my thoughts and experiences over a series of posts.