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Is College Right for Everyone?

by Natalie Santana 3 years ago in college

One might be able to buy an education at college but there are no classes about common sense available anywhere.

Breathing in deeply, I flip the light on my register, a signal for customers that my register is now open. So begins the next six hours of cashing people out and listening to everyone’s life stories. Working at a grocery store gives you the competence to interact with a variety of different people. Some may decide you’re their new best friend. Some may believe they have to tell you what they did last night at Jenny’s party, or how their cat Maisy had ingested Antifreeze the night before and was now lethargic, unable to move from the couch. (Both of which are true). Each day, walking in you never exactly know what to expect. Each day I am meeting people of all different educational backgrounds. What is the same, is that people everywhere all share the common need for food and at least have a basic education. As I move the "closed" sign off of my register belt, I tighten my ponytail, douse my hands in hand sanitizer, put a smile on my face, and greet the first customer of my shift.

Throughout the store, along with customers being all different people, my coworkers are all different. The ages of workers at my Big Y run from fifteen and still in high school, to 74, deaf, and retired from a previous job. All workers looking to earn a few extra dollars. Being able to work with people having such a wide age gap allows me to see how different people’s lives can be if they finish high school, drop out, go to college, don’t go to college or pursue a career in the blue collar workforce. Looking at everyday people you can’t always tell what their education background is. Might be a bit of a blessing, no? One of the six head cashiers at the store is a 20-year-old female. She’s enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Working at Big Y is something she dislikes, but knows that everyone has to start somewhere. Living in a sorority house on campus, she always has a group of girls around her. Working at our store has become less of a priority for her, and now her main focus is school and good grades.

In comparison, based on the way he carries himself, looking at my 22-year-old service clerk (the bagger) you’d never be able to tell that he dropped out of college and never once looked back. Like most people who actually have a degree, he knows how to carry himself and actually does it well. The one mechanism everyone working has in common is the intention of being able to decipher the differences of right and wrong. One might be able to buy an education at college but there are no classes about common sense available anywhere.

Is college the right thing for everyone? Some may argue college is the next step in everyone’s lives after graduating high school. Some may say that it is completely up to the discretion of whomever’s life is being discussed. Is college worth it? There are degrees attainable that will pay themselves back in the long run, but what about those jobs that don’t? Should college be labeled as an essential part of doing well in life? Is holding a job an essential part? What exactly IS doing well in life? Who's to say what is “normal” or “essential” and what isn’t? Shouldn’t everyone be able to chose their own paths when it comes to college, just like they can chose which way to drive to work in the morning, or what to put in their coffee each day? Most can pursue a higher education but higher education might not be the right answer for everyone.

Through the years, college and schooling in general has changed a great deal. Has the worth of an Associate’s degree and of a Bachelor’s degree all but diminished? The answer is not a clear yes nor is it a no, but I think we can all make a guess at what the answer may be. An adult can get a job with either of the two degrees but can only get so far. Growing up living in a household where one parent was a bilingual tutor/preschool paraprofessional and one was a principal of a school, education is "key." The preschool paraprofessional wants to go back to school and get a better job. She only has her Bachelor’s degree and realized that going back to school is the only way she can go where she wants. Her hope to become a child psychologist is still alive in her eyes because to her, it is never too late to go back to school and further your education. The principal went back to school and received her Doctoral degree in Education and is now a superintendent. Each went back to school to get a job they liked more than they were currently holding. But is going back to further education the best choice for everyone? Etched in my mind has been the same phrase my parents have fed me the whole time I’ve been growing up: “Without a college degree, you can’t achieve much in the real world.”

But is that the truth? Sure if you want a high paying job, the better a degree, the more you are likely to get paid. Can not much be achieved “in the real world” if one does not have a degree of some sort? College seems to be a stressed concept to many. Sometimes it seems as though students go to college only to fit in with their peers. In my graduating class of 198 students, all but five students chose not to pursue any education. College isn’t right for everyone and we need to stop pretending it is. Not every student that will graduate high school or receive their GED will be “college material.”

Working at a big chain supermarket such as Big Y proves that the perception of college being imperative isn’t the case. I’ve met a multitude of different people in the months I spent working there that exhibit this as case and point. Taking a look back at my coworkers, they are evidence that a college degree isn’t a necessity for holding onto a job. The coworkers of mine are either in high school still or at least have a year of higher education under their belts. All dabbled with higher education and yet a good handful of them did not feel it to be right for them.

Opportunities are everywhere if one knows the right places to look. Not everything requires a college degree nor does a college degree mean one is better than someone else. College doesn’t prepare you for the real world, the real world is what prepares you.

The last of my customers is about to walk down to my register. A mom with a shopping cart full of groceries and two kids trailing behind.

“I’m going to be a teacher at day and ballerina at night, Mom,” the little girl says. While she is talking, her brother walks over to the bagging area at the end of the register. I scan a couple items and send them down the belt for him to bag.

“I want to do this Mom. I want to bag and work here,” the little boy says glancing at me. The mom looks at me with a "yeah..right" look and rolls her eyes. I smile at the little boy and send a few more items down towards him.

“You can! Go to school and come work here when you’re fifteen!” I say smiling. Is that the right thing to say? To tell him to go to school? My opinion can influence others and their ways. Who knows what the little boy’s future will hold? What is most likely the case is that he will succeed in whatever he wants to do when he’s older, whether he pursues college or not.

“$2.34 is your change and you won a silver coin. Thank you and have a wonderful day,” I say to the family with a smile. They all say thank you and walk away. Shutting off the register light, I place a closed sign on my belt and begin the process of cleaning up. Another day down, another day I learn that much more about people.

Natalie Santana
Natalie Santana
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Natalie Santana

Sleep deprived mom of a three year old. Crazy Boston sports fan. Will eat any food placed in front of me. Knower of useless facts. If there's a dog, I'm probably petting it.

See all posts by Natalie Santana

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