Captive Consumers: How Colleges Prepare Students For a Life of Debt

Grace Bowyer:

While it’s certainly foolish to rush into committing to college, it’s just as foolish to dismiss it without thought. That’s why when I turned 18 I decided to take a ‘gap year’. I did this because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and it seemed like common sense to gather more information before making any irrevocable, life-altering choices.
Lots of my friends were having graduation parties, which is where the topic came up the most (and was the least avoidable). This is what you talk about at that age. You talk about it with parents, friends, friends’ parents, teachers, guidance counselors, admissions officers; almost anyone you happen to be making polite small talk with. I even wound up defending my decision to my doctor during a check-up.
Eventually, I started to doubt. Was I taking a huge risk by not going, or even by waiting a year to consider my options?
Now that I have more perspective on the situation, it seems absurd that this sort of pressure is heaped upon so many high school graduates every year. It comes forcefully and from all directions. But the urgency is the most confusing part: what real penalty can I expect for waiting a year? Will the job market cease to be there? Is it a race, where the job goes to whoever gets there first? If that’s true, what does that mean for the people who graduate a year after me? And whatever the downsides, how do they compare to rushing into a major life decision (and lots of personal debt) with little idea of what you want out of it?