We all have heard the story about the frog who jumps into a pot of water.  When he (she?) jumps in, the water is room temperature, so it decides to hang out there for a while.  Then someone turns on the burner under the pot, and gradually the water starts getting hotter. Then before the frog knows it, the water is boiling, and well…it doesn’t turn out so good for the frog!

Today I received an e-mail from the College Board with the Subject line: For Parents of Seniors talking about the fact that it’s still not too late to make your college choice.  For those still trying to decide, it said “Consider whether the college offers the opportunity to explore many different majors, especially if your child is undecided.”  I wish they would have been really honest and said ‘…and be prepared to open up your checkbook, because taking this approach and not knowing what you want to study before you go will cost you tens of thousands of extra dollars.’

I continue to be surprised by how many families have the attitude that students can’t possibly know what they want to be/become/study before going off to college.  Maybe they can’t know all of the answers, but not even trying to figure it out is like jumping in to the pot of tepid water.   Before they know it, grades will be slipping, they will change majors (often multiple times), then get a degree in something that allows them to graduate – but then leads to seven job changes before they turn 26.

I have a daughter who is a high school senior, and she went on a campus visit where the Advisor for the university told her something like, “Oh sweetie, you don’t need to decide your major before starting college, take your time to figure it out after you get here.’  I wish she would have asked him, ‘and who is going to pay for the additional semesters it takes to graduate (at $23,000/semester!) if I decide to take your advice?

Taking this approach is one of the primary reasons that the average college student today spends 5.5 years on campus, and an EXTRA $30,000 on their college education.  And those costs figures are if they go to a state school – they’re much higher for a private or select school.

Maybe I’m just too practical.  I think a college degree should lead to something – like a job that can eventually pay off the enormous cost of going to college.  We should encourage our students to begin college with an end in mind, not just go to college to find themselves.  They might just find themselves in boiling water…