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Leveling Up Smart - College isn't the Only Way Forward

Ladies, I am all about the #LevelUp. Nothing looks better on a woman than a good mood, and one way to boost your mood is to take care of yourself. Personal accomplishments, career achievements, taking care of one’s physical health, looking after one’s mental health, all of these are excellent pathways to take on the journey of leveling up.

But in your search for a better you, there are pitfalls you will need to look out for. Specifically, I want to caution about the damper student loans can create. As a former educator, I urge black women to only enroll in school for a degree program if the degree is absolutely vital to their goals; if having a college degree is not absolutely necessary for the profession, consider other, less expensive routes to take.

While a college degree is a definite accomplishment, the power a college degree has in most fields has lessened over the last two decades. In many fields, a bachelor’s degree won’t take candidates as far up the salary ladder as it once did, requiring education beyond the typical four-year degree for most career advancement.

This, coupled with the fact that college tuition, books, and other school-related costs run students an average of $30,000 when all is said and done, makes college a helpful but expensive option. And without a focused plan for repayment, many students do not fully repay student loan debts until up to 25 years after they’ve attended school. That’s a long time to carry around a large debt.

There are other options for success that do not require a college degree. Now, more than ever, it is very easy to create and market a business online for relatively low overhead. Black women are the largest group of entrepreneurs emerging in the United States today.

This means that greater than any other demographic in the US, black women are starting businesses, building brands, and realizing what it’s like to establish something they can own that will pay them back in the form of financial security. Running a business is not easy, but if you have a product the public needs, and a means for differentiating yourself in the market, entrepreneurship should always stay at the forefront of your mind.

However, starting a business is not an easy undertaking. Any entrepreneur will tell you that it requires nuance and skill along with infinite amounts of patience to grow a successful business. It is not for everyone. If you decide that it is not for you, consider pouring your energy into networking and getting to know professionals in your desired field. A lot of career placement success comes from who you know, so getting to know people on the inside, along with industry best practices, what employers in the field are looking for, and other helpful trends is useful for a candidate.

School may come up in these conversations, but you will likely be encouraged to seek certifications, not necessarily a degree. Certificates are on the rise as word gets out that more and more people just don’t want to have to spend four years in school to get a degree anymore. They are also much more economical than a degree, meaning you will pay less and learn specialized skills that can be used on the job immediately. You may need to get more than one, and you might need to renew your certification every few years to stay current, but this is expense is more doable than the large lump sum tuition costs for obtaining a degree.

The choices are all up to you, but as you build the beautiful future you are craving as a result of loving yourself, be sure to make choices your future self can thank you for. Creating a lot of debt might be harder to deal with as you make other financial decisions later on, such as marriage, the purchasing of homes, cars, and welcoming children. Always remember that there is more than one way forward and choose the best route that works for you.

Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.

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