“You are so selfish for wasting your professors’ time, scholarship money, and years of your life to get a degree that you will never use.”
When I was a sophomore in college, I had a conversation with a fellow student about what I was getting my degree in and my life’s ambitions.
The conversation was cordial until I said my ultimate goal was to be a stay-at-home mom. His response was the quote above.
That set me on fire.
I couldn’t believe someone would have the nerve to say that, especially someone who is a member of the same church as me, where we are counseled to get all the education we can:
You must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.
–President Gordon B. Hinckley in Seek Learning, September 2007
After the encounter, I was more determined than ever to get a degree, even after I had Jack when I had a year left of school.
I never felt that “just” because I wanted to stay home with my children someday that I shouldn’t get a degree. While I know not every woman can or has a desire to get a degree (and I promise, I don’t look down on you AT ALL if that was your decision), I wanted to share some of the reasons why I got a degree, even when my career goals don’t involve leaving the home.
I hesitated even writing this post, because I know and respect many women who never got degrees in lieu of raising their children, and I think they are probably much better than me in many ways. However, I hope that this post will help another young mom like myself be able to understand why she went to college, despite a desire to stay home with her children.
I wanted to learn
I think one of the biggest reasons is that I simply wanted to learn. There are many ways to learn outside of the classroom, but the type of learning I wanted, I could only find at a university, particularly at BYU.
Although I graduated with a degree in communications, I learned about human and child development, science (from both a secular and religious perspective), and I learned more about my religion than I thought possible. As I studied specifically for my degree, I studied under a professor who was a Pulitzer Prize winner. He taught me so many lessons about not only ethics and writing but about life. I interviewed people from all walks of life, and learned about cultures all around the world. I learned things in a structured environment that I don’t think I could have learned elsewhere.
In a way, I feel like going to college taught me how to learn. I’ll be honest — I don’t think I learned a ton when I was in high school. I learned how to pass tests. And while public school is a whole other debate, I don’t think I truly was taught how to learn until I got to college — the kind of learning where I was actually retaining what I was being taught.
Really, it was kind of a shock to the system at first. I actually found myself having to really learn material, rather than just memorize it long enough to fill in a few blanks. My grades during my first year of college definitely show that I was re-learning how to learn! I believe going to college taught me to love learning and instilled a desire for lifelong learning. Even though my years at BYU are over, I still find myself learning about all sorts of topics on a regular basis and retaining the knowledge like I learned to during my undergraduate years.
Example to children
Lately I’ve read from a few different people who talk about how they won’t be encouraging their child to go to college, and that they think college is a waste of time. I couldn’t feel more opposite.
Yes, there are people who didn’t graduate any university, trade school, etc. who have fared quite well (such as, Mark Zuckerberg.) And that’s great that they were able to be successful. However, in my experience, I have seen many, many people regret not going to school when they were younger. Whether it’s because they weren’t able to find a job that could support their family (regardless of their experience), or because they just didn’t have the motivation when they were younger, or any number of reasons. Getting your education when you can is important.
I don’t know what Jack will want to be when he ‘grows up,’ but I do want to raise him valuing education and with a goal to get a degree. Perhaps that won’t happen for whatever reason, but I hope he will look at the example Forrest and I set for him and consider it as a worthwhile thing to do.
Support Myself and Family/Security
What if I had said, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll go to college, or try and get a well-paying job, because I completely expect to get married, have children, and have a husband with a high paying job,” right after I graduated from college?
I’m pretty sure people would have judged me, looked down on me, and thought I was completely ridiculous.
And, it would have been ridiculous, because when I graduated high school, I had no idea what life held for me. Of course, I hoped to get married and have children eventually, but life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. I know many women who never married, despite their desires to do so, and the majority of them have a degree in something. I’m willing to bet they are grateful they didn’t just skip out on college because they thought they’d have someone to provide for them.
Even though I did get married – and had a child – while I was in college, that was still no guarantee that I would make it through life without having to get a job outside the home. I’m realistic, and I know that life rarely goes as planned, and I want to be prepared if the worst were to happen.
And who knows — maybe one day when my babies are grown, I’ll want to go back to work. Sure, I could go to school first, and then get a job after that, but it’s nice to know that I have a degree under my belt that would make finding a job a little bit easier (and a job that I would enjoy.)
I know that the unemployment rate for people with college degrees is high, but judging by the number of jobs I’ve seen that just require a college degree, I still think it is easier to find a good paying job when you have one.
Even though I am very blessed to be at home with my son, I do work from home, and I have had quite a few people contact me about having me do work for them and chose me because of my degree. I’m grateful that I’m able to contribute to our family’s income, and I believe that my degree helps with that.
Is it bad that I wanted to have the college experience? Absolutely not! I wanted to make memories and friends that I would cherish for a lifetime. I grew up hearing such fun stories from my parents about their own time at college, as well as some of my siblings, and I knew it was something that I wanted to experience.
I think there are lessons and experiences you can only have when you attend college. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, so that’s not the college experience I am referring to. I wanted to enjoy living on my own with people who had similar values and interests as me. I wanted to attend college football games, take interesting classes, and just be in a college town atmosphere. And I’m so grateful that I did!
I truly met some amazing people (such as, my husband!) while I was going to BYU. While I’m sure I could have met people that I loved had I just moved out and found some kind of job instead of going to school, it would have been different. I feel like I forever am connected to anyone that attended BYU. Often, when we are out of state, and either Forrest or I are wearing a BYU shirt, we’ll have people come up to us that had attended BYU as well.
Even the jobs I had while I was at BYU gave me some wonderful experiences. Because they were jobs available only to students, I wouldn’t have been able to have them otherwise. I learned a lot about mental health, organization, and marriage and family therapy as I worked at therapy clinic. When I worked at a museum, I learned more about anthropology, Utah, and other cultures than I would have otherwise.
And really, I had experiences I couldn’t have had otherwise. I experienced consequences for sleeping through a class, or staying up way to late watching the show 24. I learned how to live with five other girls, all with varying backgrounds and schedules. Even though I went to BYU, which is primarily white and LDS people, I still met so many people from different backgrounds and cultures that I don’t think I would have otherwise. The experience of going to college is one that I don’t think you can easily replicate.
Teach my children
I believe that education starts in the home. I believe all parents, regardless of their education status, have the ability to teach their children morals, how to read and write, and other essential things, but I feel having a degree has enabled me to teach in a different way. Sometimes I consider homeschooling, but even if I don’t (and I probably won’t), I want to teach my children where I feel their schooling lacks, and even teach them things I don’t believe they are learning at a school. I want to be not only be able to help my children with their homework, but able to effectively research a topic and to love learning. If I do choose to homeschool, I feel that I’m better prepared than I would be otherwise to do that.
Access to More Resources
Even though I’ve now graduated from BYU, I still will be able to reap the benefits. BYU (and I’m sure most colleges) has a huge database of job opportunities and ways to connect with other alumni, even for people living outside of the state. I also am able to participate in activities with the BYU Alumni association (I’m actually currently the secretary of the Denver chapter). When I was a student at BYU, I had access to an incredible library (as well as tons of online research databases, only available through the college), countless activities, cultural events, teachers who had incredible stories and experiences to share, and much, much more. I could use Adobe software for free on-campus, was able to get tons of student discounts places, etc. While I didn’t go to college solely for these purposes (obviously), they sure were a nice perk.
I felt like I should
I’m a religious person. I believe in prayer and in personal revelation. For me, I always felt like going to college wasn’t an option – it was a necessity. It was something that I had felt strongly about since the time I was young, and I believe was confirmed to me through prayer. For whatever reason, I was supposed to go to BYU and get a degree when I did. I obviously met Forrest while I was there, and that changed my life for the better, but I know there were other reasons why I needed to go to college. I may never know the extent of why I was supposed to, but for me, feeling like I was supposed to was one of the greatest reasons of all. I will never regret it.
I feel like going to college gave me lots of options. I could work, stay at home with my children, or even go back to school later on and get a graduate degree. Of course, all of these are options for people who don’t go to college, but I think it would be a lot harder to go back and get a graduate degree when I’m older, if I first had to get an undergraduate degree. Even though to some a college degree doesn’t mean anything, to me, I believe it gives me so many options.
I’m not always the best at expressing myself, or my thoughts, but I hope that I was able to convey a few reasons why I went to college. I don’t feel like I really need to justify it to anyone, nor do I think I’m better than people who didn’t go to college. However, I did write this with the hope that someone else can relate to it. Whether or not you agree with me, I value education and believe that getting a degree is a good decision. It was for me, at least!
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.