The Perpetual Student

It’s a path so many people have decided to take. A backwards path. A path of retracing, rehashing, and starting over. Why do so many people return to settings of higher education so soon after they graduate? Is it a good thing? Before I explore the answer to that question, let’s explain some common reasons that so many young people are choosing to “start over.”

1. Fear of the Real World

It can be overwhelming for many young 20-somethings to face the reality of having to work so damn much. Real life is not all it’s cracked up to be for many college grads. They get a taste of the stale 40+ hours of office air and they’ll long for the days of 2AM pizza and cramming for a midterm in a dorm.

Life seems so much less complicated when your primary concerns are about getting an “A” on a paper or where the next kegger is versus where your next paycheck is coming from and if your room mate is going to make good on his threat to move out and leave you hanging.

Not out of school yet and wish you were? Keep this in mind: if you combine all the hours spent attending classes in an entire semester, you will probably end up with about 80 total. That’s two weeks of work in the real world.  Two.  Try to imagine what it would be like to attend all of your classes in one semester in two weeks. Over and over and over. And you can’t skip any of these “classes.” And if you get even one “F” you could be fired.

Fun, huh?

2. $9 An Hour Versus $37,000 in Loans

Guess which one wins?

Truly fair wages are hard to find these days.  Try paying back your college loans while living in a recession and having to work as a Macaroni Grill waiter or Starbucks barista. Good luck, bucko. Sometimes students will return to school simply so that they can defer their loans (and then take out more!) They do this in the hope that the economy will improve in the future, or that their new career will increase their salary to the point that they can pay back the now larger loan.

Of course, now they’ll have to pay back twice as many loans, even if they can earn a higher salary when they get out. What happens then?

Let’s be honest here. Going back to school for this reason is like avoiding getting hit by a car by jumping onto the path of a trolley. Your situation just went from bad to worse.

3. Boredom

The problem with school is that it provides “something to do” for many people. Once kids finally get out of college it represents the end to a 20+ year period where their entire professional life was proscribed to them.

For the first time ever, young adults have to make their own choices and figure out what they want to do. They are in control. No educational talking heads telling them what the next step is in order to succeed. This works just fine for some people, but for others it is one of the scariest things ever to happen.

What to do now? Well, some can’t take the pressure of having to rely on their own decisions and make their own way, so they turn right back around and enter a life where once again they can let someone else do it for them.

4. Career Switch

Finally, we hit on a more positive reason for returning. And the truth is, this is a cover for many of the above reasons. Plenty of people will tell you that they are returning to school so that they can try something new, but in reality they are just bored, or they can’t pay their bills. Seriously. It sounds better this way.

However, if you are going back to school because you need to change careers and you know that this is really the best way you can reach that goal, then congratulations!

5. Love of Learning

Because of the cost of higher education these days, I have a difficult time believing that almost anybody would return to college full-time for this reason unless they are a millionaire or got some kind of scholarship.

Is Returning to School a Good Thing?

Well, it depends on the reason! Generally, if you need to achieve a specific goal, and you have explored other options, but returning to school is the best one, then of course it is a good thing.

However, if you have just graduated and you are thinking about going back, consider your motivations. Are you just scared? Are you bored? Do you hate the real world? These are actually reasons NOT to go back to school. Face your fears head-on and don’t escape back to the thing that put you where you are. What you really need to do is get in touch with yourself, establish a set of goals and ask yourself who you really are. Don’t just slap a Band-Aid on a broken arm and go play tennis. Ignoring the problem or escaping it will not help.

In other words, don’t just blindly go back to the institution that helped cause and prolong your confusion. The only person who can teach you what is really good for you is the one looking at you from the other side of the mirror.



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