If our kids can't get jobs anyway, why bother going to college?

As a follow up to last week's article and all the accompanying statistics about the challenges our kids will face finding a job after college, I began to think that it might make more sense to put it off for a few years. I still think that college is important (necessary). If our kids are not qualified to flip burgers now without a degree then they better get one. But, does it have to be right after high school?

There is a reasonable period of floating around after college before settling into a job that requires a degree anyway. According to the Fed research, the unemployment rate drops steadily for college grads from a high at 22 years old to level off around 27 years old*. Would it be more valuable and less depressing for our kids to get the coffee shop job after high school and start college later when they are 23 or 24?

Consider two identical applicants: Bill and Bob. Both young men graduated from college this year with a 3.5 GPA and a BA in Business from the University of Arizona (acceptance rate of 77%). Both men finished their degrees in four years but that is where the similarity ends. Bill is 22 and he went directly from high school into college. Bob is 27*. Bob finished high school and went to work as a Barista at the local Starbucks for 5 years working his way up to Shift Supervisor before leaving to go to college. If you were screening resumes, which one would you wish to meet? Or, more importantly, is there any difference at all? What if we add a 3rd candidate? Bryan is 27 and went to high school with Bob but then went straight to college. When he graduated he found a job as a Barista and has worked his way up to Shift Supervisor in the 5 years on the job. Bryan is applying for the same corporate, entry level position as Bob and Bill.

Age College Graduation Current Status Experience
Bill 22 2015 Recent Grad none
Bob 27 2015 Recent Grad Shift Supervisor
Bryan 27 2010 Shift Supervisor Shift Supervisor

Of the three "recent college grad" applicants described above, Bryan is probably the least attractive applicant in my opinion. As a recruiter, there is always the question for applicants like him, "Why didn't you get a real job sooner?" or "Is there something wrong with this applicant?" The same thinking does not apply to Bob who had his coffee job before college. The sad thing about this result is that Bryan may be the the most likely archetype for our own kids.

Of course, the potential danger for our Bob candidate who started college late is that he may also require another 5 years of floating around "after" college before he finds a job that requires a college degree which puts him at 32 years old before his career gets started. I don't believe this will be the case though. My educated guess about the reason behind the "floating years" is a lack of focus and career goals for most 22 year old grads. Something our Bob and Bryan candidates will have worked through already.

Starting college late may not be the right choice for all kids but given the job market and (probable) lack of stigma for late grads I think it is a reasonable alternative to consider.

*According to the powers that be in people statistics (U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), "...recent college graduates are those aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree or higher".


  1. This article refers to our graduates taking time off after college to travel. A good idea I think but it does not always translate into a marketable resume without the work experience.http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/how-millennials-are-changing-international-travel/373007/?utm_source=SFFB


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