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Rethinking College and Planning Smart for Your Future

By: Bethany Baird

Eight long years ago, I made a radical decision and chose not to attend college. Saying “no” to college is weird today, but I think it was even weirder back then.

So…what was my deal? Why was I being a weirdo?

Let me me start by giving a small disclaimer: I didn’t say “no” to college because it was too hard, too scary, too expensive, or too anything else I can think of. I also didn’t say “no” to college because I thought it was bad or wrong.

So why did I say “no” to college?

I chose to say “no” to college because it wasn’t the smartest plan for my future.

Thanks to my parents wisdom and counsel, I was able to rethink the normal college route and create a smart plan for my personal future. I took time, before and after graduation, to pray, think, pray and think some more.

During this time of praying and thinking, I realized that there wasn’t a specific college degree I really wanted to pursue. My desires and dreams for the future were not lining up with any available college degree.

I started to question the idea of spending 4 years of my life pursuing a degree that I wasn’t passionate about and had no plans to use in my future.

After more thought and prayer, I made the really weird decision not to attend college.

The months that followed that decision were filled with strangers willingly offering me their advice. I heard comments like,

“Wow! You are missing out on the college experience. Poor girl.”
“Don’t you realize you need a college degree to be successful?”
“How will you have an educated conversation if you don’t have a college degree?”

I’ll be honest with you…at times the negative comments and “shamed” looks did get to me. I didn’t always like being different.

I didn’t always like being the “weird” one.

Despite the negative comments and occasional looks of shame, I want you to know that eight years into my future (me today) I am so glad that I chose the route I did. I’m so glad I didn’t choose to pursue the college route just to look cool, normal, or smart.

I am grateful that my parents challenged me to think ahead and plan out the smartest future for my God-given dreams, goals and life plans.

Would I go back and change my decision? Absolutely not.

If anything, I’ve only become more convinced that there are other (sometimes even better) options besides the brick-and-mortar- 4-year-college route.

I’m sure you are wondering what I did post high school. Great thought.

Instead of spending 4 years in college, I spent my time preparing, learning and studying for exactly what I am doing right now. My dream has always been (and continues to be) to work in a ministry. My biggest desire was to one day write a book, run a blog, and speak to young women.

After high school, I continued my education by reading books, attending seminars, conferences, training programs and getting mentored by wise individuals.

I started preparing for the future by experimenting with blogging, writing and speaking. The hands on experience and constant practice has been (and continues to be) more valuable to me than a college degree.

That’s enough about my story though, Let’s get to your story!

What does your future look like? Have you taken the time to stop, think and pray about your future? Do you know what passions and desires God has given to you?

I want to challenge you to evaluate your own life and think through your future. Please don’t fall in line with the crowd and attend college just because it’s the next expected step. Stop and ask yourself smart questions. Think about where you want to go and figure out what would be the best route to get you there.

Here are a few ideas and thoughts on how you can rethink college and plan smart for your future:

1. College isn’t the bad guy.

Keep in mind that college isn’t the bad guy. You just need to be sure that it’s the wisest and best decision for you. Pray long and hard over what God wants you to do. What passions has He given to you?  How can you best serve Him? Will college be the absolute best option for your life? What are the pros and what are the cons? etc.

2. Do you really want the debt? 

The Bible says that, “the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). That is so true. Don’t believe the lie that you can borrow thousands of dollars and not feel the burden and weight of it. You will be tied down to that debt until it’s fully paid off. Think 5-10 years into your future. Where will you be? Do you want to be trapped in a job just because you need the money to pay off your debt? Think ahead and make sure you know what you are getting into.

3. Think unconventionally.

There are so many amazing ways to go about getting college degrees. There are options like: testing out of courses, online classes, and go-at-your-own-pace plans. College Plus is a great option for those of you hoping to do college debt free or from the comfort of your very own home.

4. Is college a must?

Ask yourself if college is a must for you. It wasn’t for me. I wanted to become a speaker and author and didn’t need a degree to do that. What is God calling you towards? Don’t jump into college unless you’re sure it’s God’s best for you personally.

Those are just a few of my ideas.

There is much more to say on this topic and so many more ideas on how to go about post high school options. I would love to hear your own personal ideas and plans for your future.

Why are you going down the road you are going? Have you taken the time to stop, think, pray and plan?

I’d love to chat about this with you more in the comments section below.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com | 15660921595

Rethinking College and Planning Smart for the Future

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  • Leisha

    What kind if seminars did you attend?

    • Hey @disqus_AvNH9UsBOU:disqus I attended several different seminars and conferences over the years. I attended the basic and advanced seminars for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Those seminars and training conferences are AMAZING. If you ever have the opportunity I would highly recommend them (http://www.biblicalcounseling.com). I also attended the basic and advanced seminars for IBLP. I attend a program called EXCEL, which sadly does not exist anymore. I’ve also attended several True Woman conferences and many others like that. I hope that helps 🙂

  • Grace

    I’m just taking a shot in the dark here but is college like university? :/

    • SavedbyGrace

      Yes. Why?

    • They are very similar. Colleges tend to not go past the 4 year degree. Universities typically offer bachelors, masters and advanced degrees. 🙂

  • SavedbyGrace

    This is so funny that you wrote about the topic of college:) Me and my best friend were seriously just talking about college yesterday:) I will be a senior this fall, and I was explaining to my bestie that yet another person asked me about where I was thinking about going to college. I explained to that person that I was going to take a different route, and pursue my passion of photography. The person was like “OH! okay. So you’ll be working on photography rather than college?” I had to explain that college was just not for me. It’s hard when you have tons of people telling you to reconsider your decision about college. I even have my grandmother (who is unsaved) always telling me that college can give me degrees, and degrees can give me a huge selection of job offers. She is not really in favor of, (in her mind), not having a “higher class job”. But I think that God has blessed me to where I can learn how to be a professional photographer, and I am going to use that gift to it’s fullest! It’s just hard listening to the negative feedback, even from your own family. I just wish some of the people that don’t support me with my other passion in life, would understand that being a professional photographer is what I want. And that not having a “higher class” job is not what will make me happy in life. Pray for me! As it is very difficult to deal with the negatives of not going to college:) Great post! It encourages me to stand firm on my decision

    • Annie Edwards

      Mind if I ask the steps you’ll be taking in pursuing photography outside of college??….I’d love to learn more about that route.

    • Elizabeth Williams

      It can be so hard when you don’t have your family backing you up! I don’t know what God’s will is for your life, but I know that if you follow Him, He won’t lead you wrong! And sometimes it’s going to be hard to do what we know God wants us to do, especially when it means standing alone.

      • SavedbyGrace

        I really appreciate your words! It means a lot!!

    • Funmi Ajike

      I’ll keep you in prayer!

      • SavedbyGrace

        Thank You so much!!

    • @SavedbyGrace I am so glad you were encouraged by this post. It sounds like you have put a lot of thought into your future and are seeking God’s will for your life. In the end pleasing God and following Him is SO much more important than your friends opinions. Keep seeking Him <3

    • Funmi Ajike

      Hey again,
      I just wanted to ask for your name, because during my prayers so far i’ve been referring to you as “saved by grace” and i think using your name will be better and more direct 🙂

  • Elisabeth

    Hey Bethany, thanks so much for this topic!!I’ve never really wanted to go to college either!Once reason, because school is not that fun, and the other because lots of times I’m not that smart.I could never see eather spending that much longer with not much I really wanted to study!!Since I’m homeschooled, I’m not around people much, but my parents do sometimes ask “Would it bother you to see your friends go off to college?”The honest answer is not really.I have just started rethinking my feature recently, be as I have a year and a half of school left I would appreciate if you could pray for me to make sure I make the right decision!I have always wanted to get married one day, and have a Large family, and maby write a series of family friendly books, but I want to leave all that in God’s will, and make just the right choice!!Please pray also that I pick what I do because it’s what God wants for me, and not just because I’m shy, or I really want it!I know I have plenty of time left to decide, and I think for the moment God wants me to write a family friendly series of books, but I want to make sure it’s God’s Will first!!Thanks, and by the way I applaud your decision in such a college driven world!!

  • Rosalie

    Hey!! 🙂 🙂
    Thank you SOOO much for posting on this!!!
    I’m finishing up my junior year in high school, and people keep asking me “So… where are you going to college??? What are you planning on doing?? etc. etc.” and I’m just like: “Ummm, I don’t know if I’ll go to college. I don’t need a degree to do what I want to do, and so I don’t know if I want to spend the time and money.”
    And then they go into the whole, “What??”-mode.
    Thank you sooooo much for this post!!

    • @Rosalie, So glad you were encouraged. Honoring God and seeking His will is most important. Keep striving to glorify Him! <3

  • Elizabeth Williams

    I’m glad that you took a step of faith and followed God’s plans for you even though it went against what was expected of you!

    • Thanks for the encouragement @disqus_5YpbXzg7FS:disqus

  • Courtney

    Great post! I also had to deal with many, many, MANY derogatory comments about my decision three years ago to not go to college. People told me flat-out that I was crazy, that I was missing out, that it’s just the thing to do, etc. I had so many friends that were going straight from high school to college but had no idea what they really wanted to do, and yet when I explained to people I didn’t want to go without a plan, they still didn’t get it. I would sometimes try to explain that all I’ve ever really wanted to do was get married, raise a family, and maybe live on a farm someday. I love writing and making things, and I’ve had jobs since before I graduated high school (farming, tutoring, babysitting, running an herb store, etc.) which have been great learning experiences. I could probably count on one hand the people (besides family) who actually encouraged me to just trust God’s plan and His timing, and that maybe, just maybe, college wasn’t the answer for me. But I got through the discouraging comments and worked hard at my jobs and helped at home with my family. Now, three years later, I am married to a wonderful Christian man who always admired my desire to be a homemaker and future mother.
    I definitely do not regret not going to college, and am grateful that I took the “risk” and let God show me which way to go. His ways are the best.

    • @Courtney Thanks so much for sharing a piece of your story. I love seeing how God worked in your life. Way to be faithful and honor Him with your life. Keep seeking Him and following His plan. <3

  • Funmi Ajike

    Thank you Bethany for this great read.
    Its been a topic on my heart for the last few months. I’m currently in year 11 and i was looking at schools for sixth form (year 12 and 13). It really got me thinking about university and my heart felt overwhelmed because i don’t know if thats what I should pursue . I’m just praying for God’s will for my life to be done and I should not hinder his perfect plan. Please keep me in prayer to have open ears and a willing heart to hear and obey God’s instruction. I’ll also be praying for all the lovely sisters on this blog, Much love, Have a blessed day everyone xx

    • me

      New Zealand? 🙂

      • Funmi Ajike

        Nope, I attend a British school in Dubai

    • Thanks for sharing @funmiajike:disqus It sounds like you have a strong desire to please God and honor Him with your future. Stay in the Word and continue to seek His will for your future. He says in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understand, in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

  • CT

    I wanted to entertain the idea of not going to college, but my parents highly encouraged me to further my education and continue further studying a skill/field which I started really in elementary school. I prayed about it, and decided to honor my parents’ request. It’s also semi-affordable so we can manage to pay for it without any loans. I’ll be going to a state university this fall and am excited most of all to share the Gospel there with the people who so need it!

    • Hey @disqus_AVwvcSjG1S:disqus The Bible says that there is wisdom in numbers and that we are to honor our parents. God often works through the wisdom of our parents and it sounds like you heeded their advice. 🙂 Keep seeking God’s will and following hard after Him. Blessings girl <3

  • Big Sister

    Thank you for this post. I’m supposed to graduate next spring, and in our church, college is considered a no brainer. The minute someone finishes high school, they’re off to college. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not the only person who has chosen to take a different route.

    • @Big Sister It is always encouraging to know that we are not alone in the decisions we make 🙂 Having the support of others is always encouraging. Keep seeking God’s will <3

  • A

    I have to admit that I didn’t put as much thought and prayer into going to college as I should have. I’ll be graduating in nine days from the local community college. Was it the best choice for me? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that God has definitely used this leg of the journey to help me grow. This comment isn’t for or against college, but I’d like to add my own thoughts to what Bethany has already said:

    1) College isn’t the bad guy. I actually had a hard time reconciling my decision to go to college with the choices “everyone else” was making. Most of my fellow homeschool graduates, young church attendees, and Christian family members around my age chose a Christian school or another path entirely. But what is right for “everyone else” isn’t necessarily right for you. “Pray long and hard over what God wants you to do.”

    2) Do you really want the debt? If I actually sat down and did the math, I think that my college paid ME to go to school. Thanks to scholarships and loans, I never had to pay a bill or take out a loan, but I know that isn’t the case for the majority of students. If I had needed a loan, that likely would have stopped me from going to college.

    3) Think unconventionally. My best friend took a through-the-mail course to earn a business certificate that works for her situation. I considered a similar route. I could even have earned my very same degree from the very same college entirely online. What I chose was to spend three years pursuing a “two-year” degree, rather than cramming all my classes and not learning anything. There’s more than one way to do things.

    4) Is college a must? Do NOT believe the hype. Just like most of society’s modern ideas, you don’t have to do what is considered normal to be successful, and more importantly, to honor God. You don’t HAVE to go to college. You don’t HAVE to earn a doctorate if you do go to college. You do NEED to pay attention to God. THAT is the best decision I could have made three years ago.

    • Althea

      I agree with you 100% on this topic. I am going to be a freshman in college, but I do believe that there are other options that people can take to earn an education. College is not for everyone, and it should not be viewed as a requirement to earn a good career/job.

  • Leah

    This decision proved to be right for me too 🙂 thank you for bringing up this unique perspective in this day in age!

  • Elaine

    thanks for your post… i originally had decided not to go to college, my plan was to wait for a guy to come along, get married and e a stay at home mom… when life drastically chaanged and i ended up getting a job as a preschool teacher i found that i love to teach chldren, now while i still definatly want to get marriede have have a family someday (God as a guy for me somewhere i hope) because of the need to support myself i am now planning on attending a college part time, do CLEPS and one day become a teacher.
    God changed my plans in the past He may change them again, He proved Himself faithful, I will trust Him for the future, college or no college.

    thanks for the blog- it is encouraging to me,
    Elaine

  • Lena

    This was a very interesting post. I myself graduated high school in 2012 and from there headed to a state college. All my life I was considered “smart” so it was only natural for me to continue my education but, daily I ask myself why I’m I working so hard and paying so much money? I’m I doing it for myself and my future or because that’s what “smart people” are suppose to do? I recently obtained an Associates degree and I’m thinking hard about not continuing my education. I believe with or without a degree God has the final say so for my life. All I’m asking is for is prayer. As I pray for myself I’m asking you guys to pray for me, may I find and tap in my God given purpose.

    • Tyra

      That’s exactly how I feel. I’ve always been considered smart and had good grades and right now I’m studying the first semester in a prestigious Law program in Sweden (I’m Swedish) but I’m constantly questioning why I’m doing it. Something about it just doesn’t feel right but it’s as if I’m not allowed to feel that way, since I don’t know what else I would wanna do.

  • Cate

    Thank you for this post Bethany! I’m only a sophmore in high school, but I’ve never been thrilled at the thought of going to college; and just like you, it isn’t the though of too much work or money or anything like that. I often think about my future and what may be ahead, but ultimately I have to trust and rely on God. It’s easier said than done! Although many careers interest me, I don’t have a passion for just one. Ultimately my dream job would be a wife and stay at home mom. It saddens me that our culture discourages young women from becoming that, and encourages them to become independant individuals. Instead of worrying about my future though, I need become more reliant on God.

  • FballFan44

    Thank you so much for this post! I wish this blog was available when I was in high school. Right after high school, on my graduation day I flew to be with my biological Father’s family. They of course wanted me to go to college and be nurse. While my Mother’s family said go to work, get your feet wet in the world. Because I lived with my Father’s family, I felt obligated to do as they wished, knowing in my heart that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew is I wanted to change peoples lives. Unfortunately school didn’t work the way I planned, it was okay but I hated it because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wish I followed my heart and just went into the work field because now 7 years later, after 3 different jobs, I know what I want to do. It took a ton of praying, loads of trials and lots of tears to finally get where I am now. But I honestly wouldn’t change it for anything because of the experiences I’ve had and the people I met. I truly think they prepared me for the future that lies ahead of me. Sorry for the rant, just had to share!


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