Gen Z has aspirations of the kind of life they want and perhaps college is not in their plans.
According to a recent Nielsen study, about 54% of Gen Z indicated they wanted to start their own company. These want-to-be entrepreneurs indicated control, debt-free, a purposeful life and being good to the planet were driving their entrepreneurial ambitions. And that’s not all. A significant portion of the Gen Z demographic is having second thoughts about whether college, and its debt/cost, is necessary to accomplish their goals.
Gen Z is becoming more open to doing college differently or not going at all, according to a new study by TD Ameritrade. The study surveyed over 3,000 U.S. teens and adults, including approximately 1,000 Gen Z (ages 15 to 21), 1,000 young Millennials (ages 22 to 28), and 1,000 parents (ages 30 to 60). About one in five Gen Z and young Millennials say they may choose not to go to college. Many others see a less conventional path through education as a good idea.
Over 30% of Gen Z, and 18% of young Millennials, said they have considered taking a gap year between high school and college. What’s more, 89% of Gen Z, along with nearly 79% of young Millennials, have considered an education path that looks different from a four-year degree directly out of high school. For Millennials, that’s up 18% from 2017. More and more Gen Z are considering a gap year. Based on rapidly rising technology and “digital nomad” jobs, companies are stepping up and beginning to provide work specific skills.
Companies are now moving into the role of educator to train people for the specific jobs they’ll be doing and keeping their skills relevant as jobs change, too. Firms like Google, Adobe, Hubspot, Microsoft and others offer students inexpensive or free certifications that actually provide job skills training. Something unusual is also beginning to happen. Gen Z students are asking corporate recruiters whether companies will help them get new skills to do their job. With Generation Z in mind, AT&T, Apple, Adobe and others are making job and skill training a high priority.
The other option is to experiment with either a gap year or working in a valuable job to gain early work experience to figure out what they might want to pursue as a career. Working right away is hardly an all-or-nothing choice. If you’ve worked for a few years after high school and it isn’t right for you, going to college is still an option. The same holds true for a gap year, where you could combine work, travel and volunteering to learn more about what matters to you. And going to college later is no big deal. Plenty of programs at a variety of institutions, from community college to Ivy League universities, offer a gap year and also offer financial and other support for “mature” students. In 2018, about 7.6 million students were 25 years old and over, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s over 30% of all college students in the USA.
If you combine the aspiration of wanting to start a company and the questions of whether you need a college education, here are some benefits of not going to college immediately after high school.
Perspective of a gap year. Who actually knows exactly want you want for a career at the age of eighteen? A gap year could be that perfect perspective on learning what matters to you.
Next generation skills. Quite a few employees are looking beyond a college degree and looking for certain certifications and skills. If you know how to utilize these next generation tools, you will be valuable.
Valuable work experience. If you have never had a professional job before, learning what that looks like is invaluable. And if you combine that experience with next generation tools or skills, it’s a double win.
Income, no debt. Working right away after high school in a professional setting will provide you with an income, no debt and the ability to learn what you might actually be good at in terms of a career.
Value and not time. Digital nomads have proven you don’t need to be at a company location to be valued. It’s about getting the job done and so working remotely is a viable option.
Go to college with purpose. Going to college after a few years of valuable work experience allows you to gain knowledge, become more mature and actually go through college with a real purpose.