I have always questioned whether college is the exclusive path to a successful career. The answer is fully dependant on how an individual defines success. What’s also common knowledge is that success always comes by gaining knowledge; those who are successful are usually well educated. We tend to automatically connect education with college, and so we tell our children that they must attend college to have successful careers. We overlook the fact that some of the most successful people of our current generation did not receive an institutionalized education. This should not come as a surprise because we are aware that knowledge and education are not confined to the walls of a college classroom.
Still, I am left wondering about the path to a successful career, and I recently got a glimpse into the meaning of true success in a conversation I had with my student. I am currently an educator at a college-preparatory high school. As a school, we hold the expectation that each student apply, is admitted, and graduates from a university. The problem with this expectation lies in the fact that not all of our students consider college to be necessary for their career. My student, a young woman with a dream to open her own beauty salon, knows that going to college will not provide much support. Instead, she is applying to cosmetology school where she will learn the basics of cosmetology in order to establish her business.
At this point, the observant reader will suggest that going to college can provide my student with the necessary business education to open and sustain her beauty salon. Though this is a great observation, she has an alternative plan. She will partner with her good friend who already owns and operates a successful business. My student will learn the business side of running a business from her friend, so she does not need to attend college to gain that knowledge. My student presented an elaborate plan for her future career, and I was amazed at the fact that she did not, at least for a moment, mention college.
My student defines success as finding your passion, and following it until it is fully realized. She is passionate about cosmetology, so she will dedicate her life to the art of grooming. Sometimes, our passions do not require a college degree to be validated. Some students want to dedicate their lives to cooking, others to building and fixing cars, others to building homes. It is a passion, and the lack of college does not make them any less apt to make a success out of our young men and women. College is but a path to a successful career, but the straightest path will always be travelled when we chase our passion.
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