by Richard K. Munro

College is not for everyone. And College is not for everyone right away. I did not go to college right after high school (unless you count a 10-week summer program with the U. of Northern Iowa) in Spain (I did earn 3 college credits). But then I stayed in Spain for a period of time. I got my BA from NYU. I should have gotten at MA (perhaps) at that time I took many graduate level classes in Spanish, political science and history for undergraduate credit. I commuted so NYU (much cheaper then) was economical (then). But graduate school in the liberal arts seemed then overpriced. I was tired of school (but not reading and learning). So, I served in the Marines and later traveled in Europe and Latin America. I worked in private industry for a period of time but after ten years returned to school to get a Teacher’s Certificate and get into an MA program with the University of Northern Iowa (in Spain). I had only a few marketable skills. One of the best things I did in high school was studying typing (at night school). I became competent and so typed all my own papers in college in English and Spanish. Working at the bank as I did for five years and in the military, it was useful to be able to type. Unfortunately, I came to the computer late but when I did word processing it was a strong skill for me.

Another expertise I had was being bilingual in Spanish and English. Living and studying in Spain greatly strengthened my Spanish (I also studied Portuguese) I worked in Spain as a tutor, translator, and tour guide. I transacted all my business in Spanish.

I do not regret traveling and visiting Portugal, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Germany, Ireland and Britain. I mostly lived in Spain which was relatively inexpensive then. I could not afford to live in NYC in the 1970s but I could live in Madrid and my rent was $100 a month! I had no car but had a EURAIL PASS so I could travel inexpensively all-over Western Europe. In Madrid, Lisbon, Paris, and Barcelona I used the metro and public buses. i had no phone. I had no TV. I did have a radio cassette player. I had a PO box at American Express. I could also cash personal checks at AMEX. Most of my mail was sent to Madrid but I could also pick up mail in Funchal, Lisbon, Barcelona, Rome, Paris if I so desired. I loved living in Europe. I read a lot of books in English, Spanish esp. I went to plays, concerts and opera. I went to soccer games. I visited museums and historical sites all over Western Europe including battlefields. The only reason I came back from Europe, really, was because I wanted to get married and have a family.

I am grateful that America gave me (and my father and grandfather who were immigrants) economic and professional opportunity. I returned to college 2004-2005 on an ISI scholarship at UVA. I earned thirty post graduate credits (and maxed out my pay scale in preparation for my retirement) but cut my losses. I could have academically earned a PhD but to do so I would have had to sell my house cash in my retirement and struggle for years to finish the program and support my family. It just wasn’t in the cards. I had three children to help get through college. I paid my own way for graduate school.

We helped our kids (they worked too) for undergraduate. They paid their own way for graduate degrees which were career specific (engineering, or teaching certificates). If you have a clear career goal college could be a very good choice. If you have no clear goals, then I would suggest

1) working

2) doing 1 tour of service in the military

3) going to a Community College -you can transfer to a four year college later.

My son in law took TEN YEARS to get his BS in Engineering. He started at JC and got his AA degree and then finally went to college full time in Mechanical Engineering. He works for a major Aerospace manufacturer. He is highly skilled and only getting more so as his career progresses. After HS he worked at Sprouts but never gave up his goal. One of the advantages of doing a program over ten years is you can pay as you go. He borrowed no money for living expenses or tuition. My daughter worked on average 35 hours a week at IHOP when she was in college. With her AP credits she graduated in 4 years and gained a K-6 teaching credential with a bilingual certificate. Having her expertise helped her get a job right away. Most of us have to work for living. It is important for young people HS or beyond to GET WORK EXPERIENCE. For too many College is a debilitating hedonistic experience. If you have to work and study you will be more serious. If you are paying your own way and have bills to pay you will be more serioius.

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  1. Excellent piece. I did numbers #2 and #3 on your list, as I had no idea what I wanted to study and lacked both the discipline and preparation for college at the time I finished high school. I also worked a full-time job through most of college, attending part-time. And looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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