Advice: Should I Follow My Family’s College Tradition Or Do What’s Best For My Career?

Education is a confusing place and when you’re trying to figure out a direction, you need help. We’re here to give it.

By Dewey Finn | Published

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Education is a confusing place and when you’re trying to figure out a direction, you need help. We’re here to give it.

The following is a question asked by a confused college student calling himself “Alakazam”

“I’m a college freshman studying Cybersecurity, I’m currently attending a school more focused on soft business and liberal arts however. I originally decided to attend here as I was awarded a scholarship by a program I was forced to leave after a few days. Naturally, this eliminated most of my desire to attend.

I began looking for other schools more focused on my major shortly after this, and my parents took immediate issue with this. I should note that my grandfather and both of my parents are alumni, with both my parents holding bachelors and masters degrees from this school. While I understand they want me at their alma mater, they studied business and education whereas I am pursuing cyber.

I understand that they want me to continue the family tradition of attending here, but I have nothing in common with the people I have class with. My school is a well known party school and most people who attend come from out of state. I’m local and deal with social anxiety lol.

Whenever I bring up how out of place I feel or voice my concerns about the school, my family quickly shuts me down and tells me that it won’t be better anywhere else and that I’m not appreciating where I’m at. That might be true, which is why I need help deciding what to do.

Regardless of what I decide, I have to finish out this spring semester. Should I really just stay and suck it up?”

Alakazam goes in a lot of different directions here, but ultimately his dilemma boils down to one, simple question: How important is tradition? 

The answer is: Not at all, unless that tradition brings something positive to your life.

Christmas is an example of a positive tradition. Every year families gather together to reconnect, show their appreciation for each other, and create a magical and fun environment for their children. Every family does it a little differently, but for most people it’s a largely positive tradition which benefits the life of everyone who keeps it.

Traditions are only worth following if they serve a purpose. Christmas serves the purpose of bringing people together and making them happy. So what about Alakazam’s dilemma of tradition?

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Alakazam’s family went to a certain school and want him to go there. Why? Because they went there. Why does that matter? Because they went there. Is “because they went there” a good reason to do something? Only Alakazam can answer that question, but to most ears that doesn’t sound like a reason at all.

Is there a situation in which Alakazam should follow his family’s tradition of attending the same University? Sure, if there’s something in it for him. If your family’s connections at that college save you money or get you into a better program, or in some way set you up for a better life in a way you can’t get somewhere else. Then that’s a tradition with benefit. But that’s clearly not what’s happening here at all.

The purpose of college is to prepare you for a career. If the college you’re attending isn’t doing that one, then it has failed in its purpose. There’s no good reason to keep going there and certainly not just because your parents did it. 

The world has changed since your parents were in school and so have the needs of students. Which college you attend or indeed whether you’ve attended college at all is becoming increasingly less important. What matters is that college fills a specific need for you. When it stops filling that need, to continue going there out of sycophantic adherence to an outdated pattern isn’t just stupid, it’s madness.

So no Alakazam you shouldn’t keep attending the same college. And no to everyone who wonders whether they should mindlessly do something just because that’s what everyone else has done before them. 

Plan your life with purpose. Plan your life for success. Be flexible, be ready to change. Be your own person.