In defense of the non-college student

Jackie Mantey

I spent last weekend in a $130, satin, apple-red bridesmaid dress in the middle of a cornfield. One of my best friends said her vows to the love of her life and headed off to Vegas in a streamer-clad car.

While this occasion made me happy beyond belief for my lifelong friend, left in the dust of her “Just Married” window stickers were hoards of college-aged adults left to explain the direction our roads have headed since high school graduation four years ago.

There’s something about the ceremony of a wedding (only beaten by the uncomfortable critiques at family Christmas) that seems to make adults who have witnessed our growth from training bra days to training work days assume it acceptable to give us the third degree about very personal decisions — grandma’s prodding 24-year-old kin about when they were getting married; a friend’s father admonishing a groomsman about why he chose a lower paying job.

Ah! The horror of overcompensating baby boomers!

Having brought my boyfriend with me, I seemed to have dodged a bullet from Grandpa Politically Incorrect. However, I had another life decision on my side: the fact that I’m eight months away from framing a college diploma.

This striking realization came as another best friend of mine and I were speaking with some adult relatives about the crŠme de mint chocolate tractors. Nothing too uncomfortable about green baked goods, right? Until one of the relatives asked my friend when she was going back to college, because she had to get past her fear of the books if she really wanted to make a difference.

There we were — stuck in a moment of awkward and “Screw you.” Too bad a rep from David’s Bridal wasn’t there because I’m certain the red my friend’s face turned and the purple mine grew after almost choking on a tiny chocolate tractor wheel have never been documented in bridal party couture.

After removing the stunned look from my face, I politely told the adults that I know some people who do read the books but will never make a difference and quickly guided my friend to the dance floor.

That friend is one of many who went to college for a year, realized it wasn’t for them, quit and started working full time. While there’s no excuse for people thinking she won’t make a positive difference in someone’s life because she didn’t waste $15,000 on a degree she knew she’d never use, the elitism of the college degree is one that we witness every day.

But, underneath the surface of people not pursuing higher education is the fact that college fresh out of high school is not right for many people not taking economic means into consideration.

We shouldn’t promote an ideology that says “diploma means success even if you’re miserable.” Even worse is the fact that such perceptions only discourage those who have dropped out from ever going back to school.

Instead of alienating, colleges should work more on recruiting and appeasing non-traditional undergraduate students. Even at Kent State you can find an atmosphere of awkward around adults in lecture classes who are older than the professor.

Instead of admonishing these students and people like my friend, we should applaud the fact that they were self-aware enough to recognize when something wasn’t right for them – even if it meant a snubbing from society.

Jackie Mantey is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].