Each week, as people subscribe to our newsletter I send them a thank-you email and ask what brought them to DitchingSuburbia.com. About half of new subscribers respond. We love hearing the hopes and dreams of like-minded people, enchanted with the idea of jumping off of the suburban hamster wheel life.
One comment has stuck in my brain this week - from a single mom considering the fulltime RV life:
(My son) is 17 and loves the idea of going on the road, but worries about his future, how he will get into a good college.
It’s a valid concern - and coming from an obviously-responsible teen thinking past his next iPhone upgrade.
Where Do Traveling Teens Go?
We launched with a 12 and 13 year old who are now 17 and 18. During our years on the road we have watched other traveling families with teens for insight. What would their kids do when they graduated?
Would colleges turn them away because they hadn’t precisely adhered to the formula of college prep classes, sports, music and community service?
In other words…have we screwed up our kids by traveling fulltime?
It’s not an easy question to answer. We can count on less than two hands the number of graduating teens that we know about. We’ve seen traveling teens launch:
- Into the military
- Directly into jobs
- Then boomerang back to the family
- Out to live with non-traveling families
Our own 18 year old isn’t immediately college-bound, so we haven’t had any conversations with colleges. We don’t really know what a college would think of his travel experience.
Is College Worth It?
MsBoyink and I followed the formula.
We got good grades in high school and did well on the standardized testing. We got into good colleges. After graduation we listed our degrees on resumes and got professional jobs.
It worked for us.
But the landscape has shifted.
Articles like this one paint a grim picture of the educational landscape:
..college tuition has increased 600% since the 1980s, student loan debt is passing one trillion dollars, half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, and 85% of the 1.8 million new grads are moving back home with their parents.PenelopeTrunk.com
Sure, that was a couple of years ago. And other articles have different numbers. But ultimately they all tell the same story. College costs have skyrocketed along with graduate debt levels. And the chances of walking directly off the graduation stage into a nice cushy office job with a 401K are lower than ever.
Colleges Are Focused on Themselves
But here’s the thing - when you ditch suburbia you begin a process of extracting yourself from the clutches of a number of cultural institutions.
- You let go of a traditional job.
- You remove yourself from the crazy keep-up-with-the-Joneses suburban culture.
- You’ll find new & different ways to live your faith out - outside the traditional church.
- Your travels may make you question even the nature of our government (does your vote really matter?).
We also look at college with new eyes. We see huge institutions with lots of real estate. We see long-standing but irrelevant traditions. We see wealthy people concerned about “prestige” rather than effectiveness. We see money and ethics laid on the altar of sports.
In short, we see a system that looks more concerned on self-preservation than the needs of its attendees.
We’re not interested in being part of that.
Having a Good Story
We’re instead betting that the experiences of almost 5 years of fulltime travel will ultimately be more valuable than a traditional high-school or homeschool high-school experience for our kids.
We think there is value in having a memorable story. A story that is different than 99% of the other people applying for a job or college entrance.
What’s That Mean For Our Grad?
I wish I could wrap up this post with a great “Our kid launched and is making his own way now without college” story.
We aren’t there yet.
He’s been working part-time at Subway and doing Little League umping. He’s earned enough money to buy his own laptop - but is still looking a bit short on launch funds.
Generally the idea is to drop him in Dayton, Ohio this fall. He intends to find lodging and work and then set about getting some traction in the acappella music industry (for which Dayton is an unlikely hotspot).
College acappella is popular there and he does want be part of that. We are coaching him to find the “minimum buy-in” necessary. So not attending college fulltime (and racking up debt) just to be involved in a campus activity, but rather see if enrolling in one 2 credit-hour class is enough.
We’ll post more about his launch as it happens.
What’s Your Take?
Are you planning to send your kids to college in the traditional fashion? Or - like us - bucking the system and betting our kids will still come out ok?