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College? Don’t Sell Your Kidney Just Yet..

                        by John V. Gallant

I spent almost 20 years managing large construction projects watching people slog through menial jobs because they didn’t see a path to success, and I want to debunk this dreadful myth.

Let me state, unequivocally, there is most certainly a path to financial wealth and security that doesn’t involve a college degree. It can be as simple as getting a job, and treating that job like a career. It can also be training at a technical school.

For the record, technical school is not an inferior “alternative” to college when it comes to the opportunity to make money. A motivated young person can earn much more over their lifetime by choosing to follow their interests rather than following what many of the traditional fables state. Especially when you factor in the lost wages for the four to twelve years you are spending money rather than making it.

Lifetime earnings

You may have seen the graphs purporting to show how much more a college educated person can make over everyone else in their lifetime. I find fault with this line of thinking, because these graphs show the earning potential of the technical school graduate plateauing at some point. While that plateau may exist if you do just enough to not get fired, it is most certainly not the case if you take what you do seriously, and put forth real effort to learn, grow, and create.

For example: A high school graduate chooses a technical degree to become an electrical apprentice. This person hires on as a journeyman electrician, and starts earning a decent salary. A little over three years later, with a good bit of effort, and careful study of his craft, this graduate can sit for a state test to become licensed as an electrical contractor. At this point, he or she can find a larger company that wants licensed EC’s to manage larger projects, or could venture out on their own. The hard-chargers that venture out on their own can make millions.

It is also worth pointing out that this isn’t just for boys anymore, and truthfully it never really was. Women have proven to be excellent leaders and managers in the trades, and some of my best project managers in construction were women. WWII proved that women are capable (and often excel over men) in trade fields.

The missing link between the ones who do, and the ones that don’t, seems to be whether or not they know that they can. I am not sure we are doing a good enough job in outlining the possibilities, and we really need to. Hell is a mental construct, and it looks a lot like sitting around in a hot attic cutting ductwork without seeing an opportunity to better yourself.

The Upper Keys Rotary Club and The Gigantic Nautical Flea Market

As you probably know, The Upper Keys Rotary Club offers scholarships for college bound students. What you might not know, is that we offer scholarships to technical schools as well. We are in the process of creating an online application for both graduating seniors, returning students, and technical school applicants.

If you do have a college bound kid, please ask them to read and understand the following: No one is going to hand over your “key to the city” just because you earned a 4-year degree. Your diploma isn’t going to be worth much if you just show up and do just enough to pass your classes either. Whatever you do, it’s going to take real effort.

If you yourself have a college bound kid, I’d like you to read and understand the following: A Fraternity or Sorority is almost nothing like what has been portrayed in the media. Opportunities abound in having a ready-made-group of young adults who can help your child navigate both the academic and social pitfalls of college. It is priceless. The bonds that form last a lifetime, and I can attest to many of the successes in my life to Alpha Gamma Rho at UF, whose mantra is “building better men”.

Potential Students:

I find it terribly unfair that anyone would look at a junior in high school, and ask them to make a decision about what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I am jealous of those of you who truly know, because I certainly didn’t. If you don’t know, I want to tell you the majority doesn’t either, even if they think they do. Relax, breathe, and engage with what you do know.

If you do go to college, seek out every last academic opportunity and take advantage of where you are, and what you have access to. Know that when you graduate, you are now just starting your journey. If you believe that you are going to graduate with student loan debt, you had better make certain the field you chose allows you the opportunity to repay the debt. Pay attention to fields in which your student loans may be reduced or eliminated by your employer. There’s no getting out of student loans, and avoid the Stafford loans at all cost.

Pay cash. Nothing is a bigger wake-up call than receiving your diploma, only to find a job market that shrugs at it, and having to pay a significant portion of your monthly salary to repay these loans. Forgo the new iPhone, reduce your cost of living, it pays off in the long run.

Bringing it all together

There are many paths to success, and not all of them are financial. Many people believe that happiness and fulfilment are found in fields which do not correspond with high incomes. Some find it in teaching, others find it in environmental science related areas. Ultimately, isn’t success supposed to lead to happiness?

The point of all of this is to tell you there are multiple paths to success, and the idea that success is somehow dictated by spending four years and a small fortune for a ticket to ride needs to be torched. Good luck to all of you who are starting school in the Fall, and Go Gators!

John Gallant, Broker/Owner of Blue 9 Realty, Inc.