College, yes or no? If college, what major?

student on sidewalkNot every child will attend college. Helping your child plan for life after high school should, however, include discussing whether college is the route to take, or not. If college is on your child’s radar, but he/she does not have a clue of what major to choose, that is not uncommon.

College comes with a cost and students often graduate with college debt. (I will address avoiding college debt in another blog.) In order to make a wise decision regarding whether your student needs to go to college, or not, there are many areas to discuss.

  1. Students typically graduate with an average of right around $40,000 in debt. In 2016 Bryan College was ranked #2 of the top 50 private colleges with the least amount of debt. The average debt of graduates at Bryan that year was around $11,000. What will it cost your child to graduate college?
  2. There is an opportunity cost to consider for students heading to college. Four years of full time wages will be lost. In light of that, consider what your child will be doing for the rest of his/her life. Will the time and expense of college be recouped? Is college necessary for your student’s future plans? Some career choices require degrees (teachers, attorneys, doctors, nurses, etc.) while other careers do not (videographer/photographer, mechanic, etc.). However, even if your children’s career choice does not require college, if they plan to be employees than oftentimes a degree brings a higher salary and an increased chance at promotions. And, if your students plan to be self-employed then gaining the connections and skills college affords may be worth the time and cost in the long run.
  3. If your student’s talent, passions, and skill enable him/her to begin working after high school at a job that will provide for the family with the possibility of moving up the ladder without a college degree, then college may not be necessary.
  4. Sometimes children have no idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives, so college may help them make a decision. And, as is the case with one of my sons, he went to college so he could continue to play baseball. The degree was a bonus. Beginning college makes sense especially when scholarships and grants cover most of the expenses.

moneyAs Christians, the decision to attend college should never be based strictly on financial concerns. Jesus certainly cares about your money and how you spend it, but if your child is doing what the Lord wants him/her to do then He can provide financially for your student’s future. If you had asked me, before our oldest daughter came to Bryan College in 1998, if we could afford it (having 8 other children at home), I would have said, “No way. Not without a miracle,” yet between the scholarships and grants we were able to afford her tuition!

At Bryan College we live out our mission statement, “Educating students to become servants of Christ to make a difference in today’s world.” Our main mission is the kingdom of God. Our motto is, “Christ above all.” For a Christian heading to college, families should be asking, “Will college do the most for equipping my student for the kingdom of God?” If the answer is no, then taking a gap year or finding alternative programs (or jobs) may be something to pursue. If yes, then be careful that you do not force your child to choose a major simply because the end result is a high paying job. The world measures success, oftentimes, in terms of dollars earned, but that is not how the Scriptures define success (Joshua 1:8).

Of those heading to college, it is not unusual for a student to enter college without a definite major in mind. Bryan College is a Liberal Arts college so beginning with basics usually prepares most students well for any major. There are a few majors that may require intentional planning beginning with the Freshman year such as biology, engineering, music, and education. However, students may be able to choose those majors and still graduate “on time” depending on how many credits they need for the major they choose. Students who change majors after their Freshman year may find that they have to attend an additional semester (or two) in order to graduate. If this is the case, then taking summer classes may be a way to get caught up while saving money!

As a parent, there are ways to help your child choose a major:

  • Help them think through their interest and goals by allowing
    them to talk.
  • Have them take several personality tests/vocation tests to see
    if any patterns stand out.
  • Take advantage of visit events and encourage your son or
    daughter to meet professors and sit in classes.
  • Consider apprenticeships or internships (or job shadowing).

If they begin college without an intended major in mind, do not stress. Encourage them to take general education courses and keep a big picture perspective. If you are a believer, you can trust God to help direct your student’s path. Luke gave also gave this advice, “Expose your students to godly people who are serious about the Kingdom of God in order to help them with their choices.”  He also said, “The sovereignty of God is real so do not forget your theology as you consider the cost of college or as you consider you son or daughter’s indecisiveness. Your children are not powerful enough to mess up God’s plan for their life. So by all means, plan, but don’t forget that God is in control.”

courtney nursing groupOf my nine children, 4 of our 5 sons will graduate college (and the fifth is doing quite well as a builder and knife maker).  Of my 4 girls only 1 will graduate college as she is pursuing a nursing career. The other 3 daughters are wives and mothers who either homeschool their children, work from home, and/or work alongside their husbands. One daughter attended Bryan one year and then she met her husband. Another daughter attended a women’s discipleship program in Texas where she met her husband. The third daughter worked at a ministry one summer where she met her husband.

We want our students to be where the Lord wants them to be, whether that is in college, pursuing a career, training for a vocation, being a wife and mother (or husband and dad) or being involved in full time ministry. As you navigate these years, pray for wisdom and guidance as the Lord directs your child’s steps to a future that will bring glory to Him, and the Kingdom of God will be advanced.

 

 

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