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The Element Blog

do you have to go to college

I never intended to go to college.

Mostly because what I wanted most was to be an actress—even until I was in my last year of high school.

Despite the fact that I had no experience in the field, not even school plays (eesh!). But what I did have was the certainty that I never wanted to go to college. I just couldn’t afford dumping thousands and thousands of dollars into school when I had no idea what I would go for.

So while I used the excuse that I wanted to be an actress and therefore, didn’t need college, the truth was that I just didn’t want to waste the money.

I didn’t have the money to spend. Sure, financial aid was an option but even that system is fucked up (my parents had zero ability or intention of helping me pay…so why the hell would I could their income..?).

And that was smart on my part. Seeing as in many people I know are paying between $400-$700 per month just to pay off student loans…(while most aren’t even using their degrees!! WHAT).


No. Fucking. Thanks.

You with me?

Are you debating this for yourself, unsure if you want to go to college or go back to school?

Not sure if you even need to go to school but just don’t know what other options you have?

I’ve been there. I had to battle teachers and family members who simply didn’t agree with me that college wasn’t necessary (for me, that is).

And they were all wrong. I’m making close to 6 figures as a 25 year old with no student loan debt.


^ immature? Maybe. But it’s true and I’m eternally grateful I didn’t allow myself to listen to everyone else’s limiting beliefs and pushes to go to college.

And you shouldn’t listen to them either. Not if you think there are other options out there for you—and there are! I’ll even cover them below.

But first you’ve got to understand the information before you can make a sound decision for yourself.

I did research before saying no to college. I made pros and cons lists and I want to share some of that with you.

Because I’m not here to tell you to skip college. I think your parents might hunt me down and murder me if that were the case.

I’m just here to share the right information with you, and my experience as to how I was able to forgo college and still bring home nearly 6 figures at 25-years-old.

Do you need to go to college?

Unless you want to be a doctor or lawyer or something else that requires extensive specialized knowledge, the answer is likely “no”.

Now, this is my perspective, coming from someone whose family was broke as hell, I had no savings when I graduated high school (which is a problem for another blog post), and I had no idea what I would’ve even gone to school for.

For that reason, I didn’t go, much to the disappointment of opinionated family members.

But the thing is, and what frustrates me the most, is that college seems to be the “only” option after high school in order to get a good job.

I even had homework assignments that were related to applying for college. And when I refused to do them on the basis that I wasn’t gonna fucking go to college, I didn’t get any points for those.

A bit of a tangent but the answer to the question of do you need to go to college is a big fat, drawn out “no”.

You don’t need it.

The fact of the matter is that when you go into the work force right after high school, no matter what you’re trying to do, you’ll have 4 years of experience when your peers graduate.

The way the current work field is moving, that experience (if valuable) will put you in a position higher above those with a degree.

Now, this won’t be the case everywhere, but if you’re on the line and are interested in a certain field, it’s worth at least entertaining the idea that a college might not be necessary at all.

Is it worth it to go to college?

There are people who can easily go to college without a clue about what they want to do because money isn’t an issue.

I wasn’t one of them.

My parents didn’t have a college fund for any of us. Hell! There are 6 kids (8 counting the step siblings)…

So college funds? Are you kidding? We could barely afford extracurricular activities for us, let alone thousands and thousands of dollars for college.

Which meant I’d need to take out a bunch of loans.

Why didn’t you apply for scholarships then, Bella?

Alright ya fuck, here’s why: Many scholarships are only awarded to people who have done extracurriculars, had time for them, or had stellar grades.

And while I did graduate with a 3.7 cumulative GPA, I didn’t have any of the others.

I worked. I had to work. At one point in high school, I had 3 jobs just so I could afford car insurance, and gas to drive places, and to purchase my own face wash and shampoo because I needed to pay for those things myself.

And the system for scholarships? They don’t really ask you about that stuff. Many don’t take into account the fact that kids have to sometimes help support their family.

And those are the people who need the money the most!

So for me, college wasn’t worth it financially. I just couldn’t stomach how much it would cost for 4 years, and how long it would take me to pay it all off.

But that’s also because I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do.

Bottom line: if college doesn’t make sense financially and you don’t want a career in a field where it is required, then it’s likely not worth it.

But this is something you have to decide for yourself. Because I’m not going to tell you it’s not worth it, because it is for some people.

It just wasn’t for me and the situation I was in.

Do you really need a college degree?

I laugh at this question.

Because most of the time, people don’t end up using their college degree for the job they get. The degree simply “gets them in the door.”

Which, again, is a load of bullshit. It’s like paying $80,000 just to get an interview, essentially, when you can get an interview in other ways.

Trust me, I have.

In fact, Washington Post reports that only 27% of college graduates have a job related to their major and degree.

Laugh with me!! That’s insane! Comment below if you had no idea the number was this fucking low.

Only 27% of people who pay thousands of dollars to go to college end up using it.

Once upon a time, 10-20+ years ago, college degrees held a lot more weight. They still do to this day, but this is reducing significantly as business owners and recruiters are realizing a degree doesn’t mean someone can perform well in their role.

When I was working in human resources, I did a bit of recruiting. And was told that if someone didn’t have a degree, to skip over their resume.

Um…what? Even if they had more experience than someone with the degree?

Yup. It was on the basis that those people were more “responsible” and “capable” because they had done something difficult: college.

It took so much willpower not to lay out my own life experience, struggles, and childhood hardships to prove that college doesn’t have jack shit to do with capability.

But instead, I ended up vouching for and hiring people without degrees, who were more qualified.

So, do you really need a college degree?

The answer is usually: no. You don’t “need” one unless you’re in a field requiring it (sciences, lawyer, doctor, that stuff).

What are alternative to college?

Here’s the stuff you’re probably really after. If you don’t go to college, what are the options?

Obviously you know there are tons of jobs not requiring a degree, but most you’re thinking about probably aren’t lucrative, they probably don’t pay much.

And that’s fair. But it’s simply because you just don’t know what’s out there. Because I had no idea, either.

So here are some alternatives to college and how you can go about landing yourself a great job in these fields.

1. Freelancing

I was a freelance writer for about 3 years before I was found by Self-Publishing School’s CEO through a blog post I wrote during that time.

But writing isn’t the only freelancing job you can get.

Here are a few freelancing careers to think about:

  • Writing (blog posts, articles, website copy)
  • Web Designer
  • Photographer
  • Social Media Manager
  • Teaching/Tutoring
  • Graphic Designer
  • App Developer
  • SEO Specialist
  • Branding / Public Relations
  • Translator
  • Book Editor
  • Web Researcher
  • Customer Service Rep
  • Audio or Video Production
  • Data Entry

All of these options can be self-taught through Google, Youtube Videos, or online courses.

Even if the courses cost money, they’re usually very minimal in comparison to college.

How to get started in freelancing

If this is interesting to you, there are a few steps you can take to get started on this today.

  1. Decide on a field
  2. Create profiles on freelancing sites
  3. Educate yourself on the field
  4. Seek help from those experienced
  5. Start building your portfolio
  6. Cold pitch for clients!

I’ll write a post about the steps above in greater detail, because there’s sooooo much to know!

2. Entrepreneur

I know. You probably just rolled your eyes. I get it lol.

Business owner? Building your own business? Come on, Bella. That’s too hard.

But is it really? In this day and age? With all the access we have to build one starting literally today?

“But aren’t entrepreneurs usually from rich families?”

No. In fact, many of the most successful people had hard childhoods. They struggled. They didn’t have anything when they started and yet, they made it happen (many WITHOUT college degrees!)

[need examples]

3. Learning from courses/the internet

I have a job in content marketing. Do I have a marketing degree? Nah.

Nor do I think I could have sat through all the classes necessary to get it. SNORE.

Instead, I often joke that I got a degree “from Google.” And that’s because I really learned the bulk of what I know from Googling shit, watching Youtube videos, and free online courses.

It wasn’t until I got the marketing job I have now that I started learning from paid courses (paid for by the company!).

Today, there are experts all over the place sharing their experience and knowledge online. And the best part?

They’re cheaper than college. Always.

The thing I love most about online courses is that they’re not textbooks. You’re not getting the information that’s outdated and old and might not work anymore.

Instead, you’re getting information from people who have had real experience in the field and can inform you with the how, but also with the stuff to avoid and mistakes to steer clear of.

4. Trade school

Most people roll their eyes at the term, and you’re likely already aware that the trades desperately need workers.

Just realize: your reaction to this is conditioned by society.

You roll your eyes or turn your nose up at “trades” simply because we’ve been taught to see these jobs as “less than.”

And that’s fucking bullshit. Take yourself down a notch, you’re not better than any of these jobs, especially since you’re not even sure what you want to do with your life.

That’s not me trying to be mean. That’s me trying to help you understand just how much society has fucked you up in the head regarding post high school options.

So, to convince you (and your parents, let’s be real) further, I’ll bring some facts into this!

Did you know that if you go to trade school to be an electrician, it usually only takes about 9 months (instead of 4+ years!), and your starting salary into the field is an average of $54,110 (in 2017, so probably more now depending on where you’re located!).

So, at 19 years old if you pursue this right out of high school, you could be making a really comfortable living, with no student loans.

Too good for trade school now?

There are so many professions in this “trade school” field.

Here are a few of the highest paying (since money is a thing we need to think about in this day and age):

  • Construction Manager – $49.57 average hourly
  • Aircraft Mechanic – $31.36 average hourly
  • Plumber – $27.96 average hourly
  • Electrician – $28.46 average hourly
  • Wind Turbine Technician – $27.88 average hourly
  • Commercial Driver – $28.59 average hourly
  • Computer Network Architect – $53.43 average hourly
  • Applications Software Developer – $51.96 average hourly
  • Computer Programmer – $43.07 average hourly

There are so many options when it comes to trade schools that will allow you to make a very comfortable living with minimal continued education at a much more affordable price point.

You can read more about those jobs and more here.

5. Apprenticeships

In my opinion, these aren’t nearly as popular as they should be.

What better way to learn the necessary skills than to immerse yourself in the field? That’s the best way to learn a language, right?

So why doesn’t this apply to careers?

There are apprenticeship programs all over the place where you can work alongside someone who’s doing the job you hope to do.

This is also a great way to find out if a field is best for you.

While harder to find and usually more difficult to get into, you can learn more in 4 years as an apprentice than you can going to college.

I personally think this is the way our education and job system needs to move in order to meet our increasing needs as society. And while it may take a while to get there, the more people opting for this option, the better.

When you’re an apprentice, you’re following alongside and helping someone who’s in a position you hope to be in one day.

You’re observing what they do, how they operate, and taking in so much more than you would in a classroom.

Do your research! Or simply ask! Most apprenticeships will start out at about $15 per hour and increase as your skills do.


How to talk to your family about not going to college

I’ll be honest with you: there were only a couple family members against the fact that I didn’t want to go to college.

I was so fortunate that my mom and dad didn’t really put up a fuss. Firstly, my mom never went, so she didn’t have much of a say.

Secondly, my dad isn’t all for college in the first place, so that was helpful.

But I did have other family members push me, challenging me and were even kind of assholes about the matter.

And that’s what I imagine most people’s parents or direct guardians are like.

So here’s some of my advice about how to talk to your family if they’re pretty strict about wanting you to go to college.

1. It’s your life

It’s hard for parents to let go and admit their children have their own lives.

They’ve spent that past 18+ years taking care of you, guiding you, and it’s hard to turn the switch off and see you as your own person.

But if you sit them down and just say, “Hey, this is my life. You’ve done your job and have prepared me to make good life choices and this is my choice,” it’ll be hard for them to argue.

Now, they likely still will. Because you can’t just flip a switch and make them see you as having your own life.

They’re invested and want to remain so.

But sometimes you just have to tell them that your happiness is different from what they think it is, and let it go.

2. Tell them your alternative plan

Your parents are worried about you, okay? They just want what’s best.

And in their experience, from when they grew up, college is the best option. But that’s just not the case anymore. The stats are against them.

But they still want to make sure you have shit figured out.

So after explaining that you’re not going to college, give them you why, and then tell them what you plan to do instead.

Usually, if you have a solid plan and can back it up with stats that make sense, their arguments are rendered pointless.

Now, a lot of parents use their children as an ego boost. Which is unhealthy as fuck, but that’s how it is sometimes.

Which means they might continue to argue just so they can say their child is a college graduate. They want to wear that badge of honor. So if you think your parents/guardians are like this…

Literally just call them out on it. Ask them why they’re pushing their own egos onto you and explain that that weight isn’t yours to carry.

But really, you just have to tell them your plan instead of college, and give them the confidence that you’ll be just fine.

3. You deserve their respect

I think this one gets to parents more so than others. If you bring up the fact that they’re disrespecting their own child, it might help them see their flaws.

It’s funny to me how many parents/guardians blatantly disrespect their children.

And they don’t even see it that way, which is even more fucked up.

You deserve respect and just because you’re their child doesn’t mean they don’t owe you that. Remind them that by trying to control your life and choices, they’re only disrespecting you and making you feel as if you can’t share your life with them.

That last bit might scare them enough into accepting your choices, even if they don’t agree with them.

4. Give them the facts

College is dying. It’s ridiculously expensive. It will take years to pay off student loan debt, resulting in a lower quality of life for you.

The fact that you have so much debt will increase the stress in your life. Do your parents really want you to spend years being stressed and worried about paying loans?

Not to mention that you’ll have to (probably) have a home of worse condition, a car that might not be that great, and you won’t have the freedom necessary to enjoy life.

Just hit them with that 27% statistic—that only that amount of people even use their degree.

And then ask them if they would suggest you sign away $60,000+ for something you’re not even sure of.

Their answer might surprise you.


Ultimately, it’s your choice to go to college or not. If you have no idea what to do, then college might not be the best choice right now.

But make sure you have a plan. Create a life that will allow you to live happily, healthily, and successfully even if college isn’t on the docket. Because you owe that to yourself, if nothing else.

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Do you have to go to college? 5+ Alternative Options