There is no shortage of data about the value of college, or skipping college, or studying this, or working in that field.  Such studies can be interesting and sometimes informative, but at the end of the day, they provide almost no insight into what matters most to you: you.  The worst thing you can do is make personal decisions based on data about some aggregate group you’re supposed to be a part of.

Are pickup trucks a good idea for 18-25 year olds?  Are they worth the cost?  How many studies would it take to prove it?  It’s obviously a dumb question.  There is no one answer for all 18-25 year olds.  Aggregate cost/benefit analyses for all 18-25 year olds buying pickup trucks won’t mean much to you in your highly personalized experience.  It’s just as ridiculous to come up with a single answer to questions about whether college or other education and career paths are worth it for young people.  The only answer that matters is whether a particular path is worth it for you, and that’s sadly given short shrift by most people.

It’s surprising how often young people outsource decision making about their own lives to aggregate data.  So many begrudgingly tell me they’re going to college “because I have to”.  You don’t have to buy a pickup truck and you don’t have to go to college.  The easy way out is to put off difficult self-discovery, self-honesty, and rigorous analysis of all the options before you and the pros and cons of each and instead defer to cultural narratives, parental expectations, or the narrow advice of guidance counselors.

No one can advocate for you like you.  You are responsible for creating your own experience in education and career just like you do in dating and recreation.  Your experience may entail elements common to many other young people, it may not.  It may entail popular choices like college, it may not.  Whatever it is, have a reason for what you choose.

One of the oddest things is the double standard people apply when examining alternatives to the status quo vs. the well-worn path.  All the tough and important questions we get about Praxis are almost never asked of universities: Can you guarantee I’ll get a job after the program?  Will I make valuable connections?  Will I know how to work in X industry?  Will I have an edge over other young people?  Will I know how to start a business? What does the curriculum content have to do with getting me where I want to go in life?

Just because most people pursue a certain path doesn’t mean it’s safer or better for you than blazing a new one.  It’s about you.  Do you know what you want, or what you want to learn about what you want?  How many ways are there to get it?  Which approach seems best to you after careful comparison?

Take the reigns.