How To Figure Out If College Is Actually the Right Choice for You

There are thousands of quizzes, lists and extensive articles that help you find the perfect college—but what if you aren’t convinced a traditional college degree program is right for you at all? Sure, traditional college experiences are so diverse that it seems counterintuitive to claim all universities offer a conventional college experience, especially considering some colleges allow you to create your own experience and, in some cases, even your own degree.

While buildable courses might not be the best for those of us who still struggle to find inspiration to make a four-ingredient omelet (seriously, indecisiveness and creativity is a difficult combo to balance), there are other options besides buildable majors and overall four-year programs.

Although there are a myriad of resources for those of us who know that college is the right choice (or we might not be completely certain, but are ready to risk it), figuring out if college or a four-year degree program is the best path, in general, can be confusing AF. Whether you’re a rising high school senior, you took a gap year (or two) between high school and college, or it’s been a few years since your high school graduation, there are ways you can find out if college is the best choice for your needs. (You know, without gambling your credit score. *sobs in student loan debt*)

1. Sit in on a college class

Step up your college visitations by signing up to sit in on a class. While not every college allows the option for visiting students to sit in on classes,  try talking to current students and see if they can sneak you into a course. We get it: Everyone’s trying to find innovative ways to sleep through a lecture while simultaneously absorbing the course material (forget having better sex, sleeping while studying is our ultimate fantasy). While sitting in on a class that you’re not even enrolled in seems like more work, it could give you some valuable insights on college life.

If you email a professor (or three) about observing their class and none of them respond (because college professors are canonically terrible at that), then sign up to audit a class. Most universities offer an option to audit a class. While you still have to pay money to audit a class, they’re typically offered at a reduced rate because you aren’t actually eligible to receive credit for that class.

Sure, paying money to gauge interest in a future career or college itself may not sound ideal, and you’re not wrong. But, auditing a class or taking the time (and money) to travel and visit a campus could help you gain a more tangible understanding of the college experience—which will help you decide for yourself if this is what you want right now in your life.

Related: What to Do When Your Parents Are Too Involved in the College Process

2. Talk to people in your aspiring industry

Talking to people in your (hopefully) future industry can feel scary. Well, talking to people in general is frightening because people are terrible. While talking to people in your dream career might not help you get over your phobia of talking to people, it can help you understand how individuals become (apparently) fully functioning professionals.

If making verbal words work (or words in general) is a dilemma, here are some potential questions you could ask to gain a better understanding of the company and how you can get into the industry.

  • What kind of degree (if any) did you get before your first entry-level job in this career?

  • What courses did you take in college?

  • In what ways do you think a four-year degree helps you be a better employee?

  • What are some of the education requirements for this field and how have they changed since you started this job?

If you still have questions, ask a professional in the industry if you could job shadow them for a day. Job shadowing can help you learn what types of skills and education go into that vocation, which will help you decide if college can help you become a more efficient asset to that line of work. A lot of industries and companies offer job shadowing opportunities that you can apply to, so you don’t have to suffer through those dreaded cold emails. (Unless that’s your jam, but if it is we’re def judging and somewhat jealous.)

3. Research job requirements

A quick Google search of the job requirements for a publicist would yield a plethora of outdated criteria. However, you can use your Insta-sleuthing skills to search LinkedIn for recent publicist openings. Scroll through the entries and write down any of the common requirements, whether they’re programs, education or soft skills. Listing these commonalities could help you figure out what degree, if any, is right for you.

Searching aimlessly for similar job openings could give you thousands of results, so make sure you research the companies you’d like to work for and prioritize those requirements on your list. If you find that college could help you get your dream job, this list could ultimately help you find the college and the major that could set you apart from your competition in the industry.