Barrett L. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.

I ended last time showing the differences between the decisions the young men and young women make regarding what to do after high school. To summarize, we could say that the decision of what to do after high school has to be made in the light of these questions: First, what abilities has God given me? What are my God-given skills? Second, what does God tell me in His Word as to what is proper and what not? And third, what can I do that best serves Gods kingdom?

Now there still may be large question marks in your mind even though you have tried to answer those questions. These guide questions do not guarantee that you will know what you ought to do after high school. Required is much prayer mixed with hard work, a good dose of sanctified wisdom, and a multitude of counselors. There is no easy answer concerning what to do after high school. In fact, I would be so brave as to say that if the answer for you has been easy, you might do well to rethink your decision.

Since the decision is difficult for many to make, the time after high school can become an uncomfortable time, either wandering around from one unsatisfactory job to another, or going to college because “I don’t know what else to do.”

The Question is, “Should I Go to College?”

For some, that might not be so difficult. You may already know there is no question about that in your mind. You are going to college because you believe that will best prepare you for life. Others might say, “Iam just as convinced that college is not for me. I know what I want to do for my life’s work; and it doesn’t require learning about Shakespeare or logarithms.” Or, you might be on the fence, not convinced yet either way.

In this article, I would like to speak to two of these groups—those who are not sure, and those who are convinced they will not go to college—and ask that they (at least) hear the evidence in support of college.

College is not for Everyone

Lest the impression be left that everyone ought to go to college, let it be said first that college is not for everyone.

For some it simply is not affordable. College is expensive. Tuition, room and board can run into the thousands of dollars. But that ought not stop you from going if you desire to go. For the young person who would like to go to college, who believes he ought to go to college, a lack of immediate funds does not mean he ought to abandon the thought. Financial aid (grants, loans) is available to students whose parents are in a low income bracket. Students who do well in high-school can bag an academic scholarship or two. In some states, college is virtually free. (In California, I obtained my first two years of college, compliments of the state.) But it still might be true that, for some, college is out of reach.

Another reason you might not go to college (a better one, perhaps) is that you simply are not able. Here, too, we must be governed by the guideline—do what God has given us the ability to do. If there simply is not the intellectual ability to go to college, your life is not less pleasing to God than someone who does attend. The Lord determined that for you. It is good.

(My fear is that some will use these two reasons for not going as excuses that they not go to college. Is it possible that you don’t want to study and don’t wantto go to college, so that you don’t seek out financial means and don’t try in high school?)

And last, you might not go to college because you simply do not need to go. Your job is waiting for you. Your future in that job is fairly secure. Or, you have a business that you would like to start, which business requires no college. Or, your father can get you a job in his business which has a good future and requires no further education. There is abundant proof (living and walking) that this can be the case. Some simply don’t need to go to college. And the church needs young men and young women who work in those occupations that require no college.

College Ought to be Considered Seriously

But I hope and pray that all young people will seriously consider attending college for at least a couple of years, keeping in mind the following:

FIRST, but not necessarily most important, every good business teacher in college knows that the statistics given by the SBA (Small Business Administration) show that, of all the businesses that fail, 90% fail because of poor management, especially management of money. A good education gives you the ability to manage your business, communicate with customers, study new methods of your particular field, etc. This could be critical. (Besides, going to college itself is a lesson in careful money management—there usually isn’t very much of it!)

SECOND, I read once that high school education today is equivalent to an eighth grade education 50 years ago. In some instances this might just be true. Then a college education would only lift one up to a level that most high school students were 50 years ago.

Some claim, though, that the education which most of the young people get at a good quality Christian school IS good—even at a par with those of many years ago (I hope this is the case in your high school). Yet there is evidence that the education isnot what it used to be. Consider the pressure high schools feel to offer classes in computer science, typing, auto mechanics, woodworking, metal shop, sports, band, choir, library science, art, home economics, and more (none of which is bad in itself). Is it any wonder the basics are sometimes not given the proper attention they used to receive? There are only so many hours every day. What used to be spent with the fundamentals is not spent when these (sometimes necessary) additions are in the curriculum.

College fills in the gaps inevitably left in high school education, which gaps need to be filled to live in this world.

THIRD, without a college education, there are few jobs available that will pay sufficiently to support a family—what with Christian school tuition and all the other expenses of a family. Unless you have the ability and diligence to run your own business, you will have to work for someone else (most of you will). And the simple fact is, unless you are highly skilled or well educated, that “someone else” does not very often pay sufficiently to support a family. If the parent (or parents) have had a college education, their families generally have fewer financial struggles. More often, a family must struggle to make ends meet, wishing that their wage-earner had the ability to get a better job.

Today, even highly skilled workers are finding that their skills are not sufficient for them to keep pace with the changes in technology. There are radical changes in the workplace that affect your need to be educated. Jobs that formerly required little education now call for much more than common sense and strong arms. In Newsweek magazine, September 21, 1987, an article entitled “Back to The Basics” warned about this very thing. Please read this carefully.

“The information age isn’t coming to the workplace, its here. ‘The traditional low skill auto jobs don’t exist anymore,’ says David Cole, director of the University of Michigan’s office for the Study of Automotive Transportation. ‘No longer is an individual just going to put a screw in an opening. ‘ To master the statistical control methods now used in the auto and other industries, workers will require sophisticated math skills. If production goes awry, old-fashioned mechanical aptitude won’t count for much. On Polaroid’s old machinery, ‘you know where to kick,’ says Linda Stoker, director of technology-readiness programs at company headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. ‘But the new technology is robotic and electronic. You have to have a sophisticated technological background to understand the implications of a readout.’ 

“Workers are also starting to see basic education as a matter of self-interest, At General Motors, new technology has forced retraining every three to five years—and employees without the basic skills quickly fall behind . . . ” (Emphasis mine: BG).

“Employees without the basic skills quickly fall behind.” Think of the old-fashioned auto mechanic, who formerly could train for and do well in his occupation in a short time, now needs advanced training and skills to do well. But it doesn’t stop there; every year technology changes and new skills need to be learned. The point is: in order to be re-trained, you need to be able to study and understand new concepts.

I do not write this to scare you. I write this only to add some weight to my plea to you: please try hard in high school; and to go to college if you possibly can.

FOURTH, all young people ought to consider college, because it is after high school that young people really begin to mature and, therefore, are more willing to learn. And what a golden opportunity to learn!

College is a maturing experience. Learning is done in an open atmosphere, apart from the pressure of parents. You’re on your own. You learn because youwant to learn. You learn to study because you want to study. For many, it is the years of college that transform a young person to an adult.

FIFTH, I make a plea to consider college because young people are called to develop their God-given skills to the best of their ability.

Again, What about the Girls?

College is not for all of you either, for some of the same reasons as the young men.

And again, for girls the decision may be even more difficult. I sympathize with you. There are so many options and so many uncertainties, that the young women need to pray for wisdom, and work just as hard to make a decision. Will you marry? (And what adds to this difficulty is that you’re a girl! And you know what I mean.) Is marriage even on the distant horizon? Are you dating a young man seriously? Is a decent job available immediately? Is college useful if you don’t graduate?

Let me only say this: I have not talked to any young woman (or old) who says she regrets having gone to college. (I would suggest that you talk to godly women who have faced the same decisions you are facing.) A college education is a learning, maturing experience. At college you gain experiences you gain nowhere else, which will even help you in your home as a wife and mother of children.

But suppose you decide that college is not for you this year and you work for a year. That does not preclude going to college next year, or the next, especially if marriage is still not in the picture. Only pray that God will give you the job that will utilize your abilities to serve Him best.

Let us be cautioned at this point. Our perspective is spiritual. Our concern is serving our God in His world. How can we do that best? By developing our God-given bodies and minds the better to serve Him.

My prayer for you? That you will “pray and work” for God’s guidance for your life after high school. God bless as you face your hard questions.