The UnCollege Alternative: Your Guide to Incredible Careers and Amazing Adventures Outside College

The UnCollege Alternative: Your Guide to Incredible Careers and Amazing Adventures Outside College

by Danielle Wood


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060393083
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/22/2000
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Danielle Wood lives in San Francisco. Although she went to college, she's taken a lot of her own advice: she was an apprentice, an intern, a voracious traveler, and a self-proclaimed dabbler before trying her hand at writing. She's currently at work on her second book.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Just the Facts:What Your Guidance Counselor Isn't Telling You About College

“You can do a lot of things if you don't know you can't.”
— Sam Brownback, U.S. Congressman

You had about ten years of bliss. From six to sixteen almost no one asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. Junior year of high school hits and whammo! Suddenly you're supposed to have all the answers. And you don't, do you?

Well frankly, if you did it would be a miracle. At sixteen it's doubtful that your work experience extends beyond the local mall. The truth is, it's a rare person who's sure what they want to do with their life at age thirty, let alone thirteen.

OK, so here's the problem. Just because you don't know what you should do with your life doesn't mean no one else does. We're talking parents, grandparents, guidance counselors, the mailman . . . everybody's got an opinion. Unfortunately, your uncertainty makes you a prime target—you might as well be wearing a sandwich sign scrawled Please Advise. In other people's eyes, you're like a fresh lump of clay, waiting to be molded. Your Uncle Morris wants you to be a lawyer. Your mom tries to convince you that accounting is making a comeback. “Plastics,” your neighbor winks.And then it comes, like a life preserver thrown over the edge of a sinking ship . . . the college option. Four heavenly years of keg parties and career postponement. A sticker from the college of your choice slapped onto the bumper of your proud parents' car.

There's no doubt about it. In this day and age, going straight to college is the obvious choice. Soobvious, in fact, that few people consider doing otherwise. Before I shatter your illusions, let's get one thing straight—this book isn't meant to convince you that college is a waste of time. I spent four years behind university walls and I don't regret it for a minute. What this book is meant to do is open your mind to a sea of options you may never have considered, so convinced were you that college was the only ride down the rainbow to the pot of gold. Let me throw a curveball your way—you can succeed in life without a college degree. Almost 20 percent of this year's Fortune “400 Richest People” did.

History Lesson

Heading straight to college may seem like a given now, but this wasn't the case for most of the century. Before World War II, only one in six Americans went on to college. Then along came a little thing called the GI Bill, meant to make it possible for former soldiers to get an education. Suddenly the college gates were thrown open and the stampede began. It's only in the past fifty years that college was transformed from the exception to the rule. Since the end of World War II, the number of entering freshmen has shot up from 15 to 65 percent. College is being touted as the new necessity.Which would be fine if it were true. News flash: 70 percent of all jobs in the United States only require alternative education and on-the-job training. Don't get me wrong. I'm in no way trying to say that college is useless. Higher education is a wonderful thing. But be aware that it's also a two-hundred-billion-dollar industry. It's no accident that the national opinion about the necessity of a college degree has changed—it's the result of years of hard-core marketing.

Never before have so many students been told that college is the way to go. A study by the U.S. Department of Education showed that a whopping 65 percent of 1990's high school sophomores reported being told by their guidance counselors that they should apply to college—twice as many as in 1980. Even students who scored in the lowest quarter of their high school class were being pressured to apply—never mind the fact that they showed little interest in hitting the books.

The Big Lie

When I was a kid, my mom would never make me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She told me I didn't like them. I grew up eating peanut butter sandwiches and jelly sandwiches, but never mixing the two. Truth is, I didn't try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I was about twenty. Strangely enough, I loved it. All those years my mom had told me that I hated PB&J. And I believed her. Turns out it was my mother who hated it, not me. I had been subtly brainwashed . . .

So big deal. I ate tuna fish. In this particular case, the consequences weren't drastic. But college is another story. All across America, high school students are being told that college is their admission ticket to life, as if their diploma will pave the road to certain success. The truth is that there are more college graduates than there are jobs that require a degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 28,983,000 college graduates in the labor force in 1990. Twenty percent of them were “underemployed”—working in jobs that didn't require a degree. And despite the contention that college will land you a fat little paycheck, statistics from the Bureau show that more than one fifth of college graduates earn less than $23,317—the median for kids with no more than a high school diploma. It's true that college opens doors for a lot of people. But be aware that each year a large chunk of college kids graduate and wind up working behind the same Starbuck's counter as their GED brethren.

This isn't meant to depress...

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Editor's Note ix
Just the Facts: What Your Guidance Counselor Isn't Telling You About College
Ask the Experts: How to Find Your Calling or Advice for Finding Yourself
Stepping Out: Why Time Off Is Time Saved
Globe-trotting: How to Work Your Way Around the World
Internships: If the Shoe Fits, Work It
Do the Right Thing: Jobs for People Who Want Good Karma
Giving College the Kiss-off: Training for Real Life
Make Your Cake and Eat It, Too: Careers in the Kitchen
Healing Hands: Careers in Alternative Medicine
Busting the Blue Collar Myth
Sitting Pretty: Breaking into Beauty
Life with Mother Nature: Jobs in the Great Outdoors
Art Smarts: Art Without Starvation
How to Be a Player: Going Hollywood
Yes, Sir!: Careers in Uniform
Getting High (Tech): How to Make It in a Brave New World
Who's the Boss: Starting Your Own Business
Afterword 315(2)
Appendix: Homework for Life 317

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