Hell No, We Won't Go: Going Directly From High School to College is Not Right for Many Kids. More Students See the Value in Taking a Break

September 01, 2001

Hell No, We Won't Go: Going Directly From High School to College is Not Right for Many Kids. More Students See the Value in Taking a Break

In the spring of Kerianne Byrne's junior year, she began a rite of passage for
most high schoolers—the college-application process.  She took the SATs and scored in
the 1200s.  She got high marks in Advanced Placement classes in history, English, and
mathematics.  She had a close relationship with her German teacher, ensuring at least
one glowing recommendation.
There was one problem.  Kerianne didn't want to go to college.  When she told
her guidance counselor at Oakton High School, the counselor was surprised.
"You know you can get in, right?" the counselor asked.
Kerianne promised she knew. "I want to learn what I can't learn in a textbook,"
she said.
The school counselor called Kerianne's parents, Dennie and Eddie.  The
counselor told them she thought Kerianne might be depressed and recommended she
see a therapist.
"We went just to appease the counselor," Dennie says.  "The therapist laughed.  
She said, 'How could a kid who gets up at 5 AM to practice with the swim team, who
gets good grades, who works a part-time job, be depressed?  Your daughter is fine.'"
She just didn't want to spend four more years in school.
Her parents always knew that Kerianne did not like school.  Both college
graduates themselves, they encouraged her to take the SATs and get good grades to
keep options open.  Her mother research alternative schools like St. John's College in
Annapolis, where students study only the "great books."
Her parents finally accepted what their daughter was trying to tell them: Not
everyone wants to go to college.

Each year millions of kids finish high school, worried about what the future will
bring.  Many look for answers in glossy college viewbooks.  They flip through pictures of
serious students in lecture halls and kids smiling in dorm rooms.  They become
convinced that a bright future begins in the hallowed halls of the University of
Virginia, Loyola College, or Harvard.
No one can deny the benefit of a college degree.  "Training has a shelf life of
five to seven years," says Maynard Mack, director of the honors program at the
University of Maryland. "Education lasts a lifetime."
Going to college has become expected in the middle class—a must-have slip of
paper that promises jobs and a crown of intellectual credibility.  In his book, The Future
of Success, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich describes the obsession with going
to college as part of a desire to find ways to "sell" yourself.
Since the GI Bill was passed in 1944, enrollment in colleges has increased
steadily.  It continued to grow after Congress enacted the Higher Education Act of
1965, providing grants and loans to children of the working class.

by Brooke Lea Foster, The Washingtonian

updated: 9 years ago