Graduation and Success: Is It All About Higher Education?

In the months of May and June we can go to the mailbox and find invitations in the mail from family and friends to come celebrate their children’s graduation. Kids are graduating from high school, college, or beyond. There is the happiness of the accomplishment but I would like to share with you the other side of the coin…

The burden of DEBT 

As a person who has spent a total of 22 years in school, 9 of which was in higher education, I acquired a debt of over $165,000 in educational loans. Shortly after I graduated, I was required to pay $1250 a month to start paying back my debt. 

Many of my graduating Chiropractic class were in the same boat having a debt of over $1000 a month to pay. This burden caused many of them to work for other docs in situations where they were not happy just so they could survive. Others had to defer their loans meaning not pay them because of financial hardship) and some 10 years later are still deferring their loans. The burden of debt was so bad for many docs, some told me they wished they could give it all back because they hated the burden of being BROKE.

The US News Reported in 2010 that the average cost of tuition and expenses (living, books etc.) ANNUALLY WAS

For a 4 year public school like SUNY Oswego was $18,000 
A 4 year Private school like Lemoyne was  $28,000  
A 2 year school $11,000

Now a large majority of students do work while going to college, having a part time work-study position, or retail or food service jobs to help pay for their living expenses. I worked all through college but many months couldn’t make my living expenses and would need parental help. One year I was so broke that I actually needed to go on Food Stamps to get by.

The Burden of Finding a Job

The Associated Press reported about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or working jobs that they are overqualified for like food services. 

The worst degrees were college graduates that majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities. The best employing degrees were with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees.

They say that high school graduates have much higher unemployment rates and many who have been downsized from jobs make the decision to go back to school. But yikes, would they be better off not attending?

What can we do to help our children find the best careers?


Bethany is a 16 year old who just graduated high school a year early. She has had her own business now for over a year. She assists business owners with online tasks and social media management. Her hourly rate is $17 an hour for virtual assistant services (more for social media services), which is more than what most 20 year employed veterans make. Her parents started grooming her several years ago when they realized they were deficient in really grooming their kids for success. They have invested over $12,000 in trainings, classes and education so Bethany could be successful at an early age. 

Now Bethany’s goal is not to be a Virtual Assistant her whole life but she is using this business to fund her other passions as well as learn and grow.  Read her article “5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Take a Gap Year”.

Cameron has always been a worker helping his family with their family owned businesses. Since he was a young kid, he would clean the carts, pick up trash and collect balls at their family golf course and range. As he grew, his responsibilities grew but he has always known how to work. It wasn’t an option, it is what they did. At the young age of 18 he was approached by a local farm owner to come work for the summer. His outstanding work ethic, responsibility and motivation over that summer put Cameron in a management position. After just 2 years, the owner has asked him to partner in growing the farm and managing the farm. 

What did Cameron and Bethany’s parents do to help their children be successful?

Cameron’s family led him by example of work and required helping the family business and working at a young age. I hear many parents give excuses why their children don’t work…  or why they don’t require their children to work, and then give them privileges like they did.  Cars, paying for insurances, or giving spending money with out work. In life we do have to work. It’s all part of it, but we can teach them the rewards of working and how to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Bethany’s parents understood their own shortcomings and got training to improve their parenting and then invested in their children’s success.  As a parents, don’t think your child has to have graduated high school before they can start being successful. Learn what is available for kids out there.  Ask one of your friends who is successful in business to mentor your kid, or even let a child who is eager and motivated to intern or be an apprentice with them.

Is higher education right for my kid?

Cecelia was a very bright studious driven young woman who did everything well. Upon graduation she had 4 good work internships that should have landed her a job right away, but unfortunately didn’t.  And 2 years later she is one of those underemployed even though she is above the pack.

John barely graduated high school but found a great passion for computers. He loved learning new things. He taught himself computer science, started working at a computer store and constantly learned more. He invested in learning PEOPLE and communication skills, which led to top IT positions within a Fortune 500 company.

I don’t know if higher education is right for your kid or not. But in Cecelia’s case, she may have benefited from taking a GAP year (read Bethany’s article) to develop her connections, networks and skills before jumping out in the work force. She was so burned out after graduation and stressed about finding a job. Then she was had more stress when she didn’t find a job. A gap year may have been a good choice for her.

Is your child passionate about something? How will you help feed that passion? Are you teaching your kids people, job or business skills? Do you need to improve your people or parenting skills? Don’t be offended, we ALL can improve.  Start with you and watch your children blossom. It’s never too late.

What do you think about graduation and success? Please leave a comment below.  

We publish newsletters and blogposts twice a week for our readers for general education purposes only. We cover topics that are related to achieving and maintaining total wellness which includes our emotional, physical, spiritual and financial health.

  • KimS

    Great article that I hope every parent takes the time to read, and then has their child read if they are old enough!!!

  • Debbie

    I wish I had understood this better when my child was growing up, I would have encouraged her in the direction of her strengths and I always knew it was not academically but in a different direction.

  • eyespy

    Oh – so success is really about money. Hmmm….

  • Richard Davies

    At 73 years of age with a comfortable retirement and having help raise 4 successful children 3 with advanced college degrees and one without.  It is my firm belief that teaching responsibility for your actions and the importance of a good work ethic will get you down the road in the right direction quicker than just advanced education.  PS  I have no college degree.  Our oldest grandson and his now wife, graduated last May and in two weeks were working full time in jobs appropriate for their education.

  • Ebarbagallo

    This is valuable information for my kids who will have kids in college in the coming years. Groom them for success