Zamfir wrote:But how is it an illusion? If you doñ't know what to do anjd take a dead-end job, you also end up without marketable skills, but then without a degree. Which is not an enviable situation, even compared to college debt.
Really there's nothing about stupid jobs that helps you discover what you want to do and what you're good at. Of course, you could find an inspiring job that does help you with skills and with finding a path in life.
But if you knew where to find that inspiring (to you) job, you wouldn't be someone who doesn't knoe what to do.
It's an illusion if you think that after you graduate with your BA in psychology that you will have a job waiting for you as Clarice Starling (I have known several of these), or that when you graduate with an interdisciplinary studies BA in communications and gender studies you will walk into a job helping men and women communicate (another true story without a happy ending). Most people don't go into a dead-end job with high hopes of achievement in their field.
But again, I'm not arguing against going to college. I'm saying that part of the reason many people do is because not only are they expected to (by parents, guidance counselors, etc.), but also because it's a very convenient way to avoid answering the hard questions for a few years. This can be bad news if, for example, you finally figure out that you want to be a physicist, and that your dual major in philosophy and music does not advance this goal, and in fact makes it harder because now you're in debt (okay, this one is me). It's simply a misunderstanding that the degree automatically qualifies you for a good job (that you like, pays well, and actually exists).
One solution is not to enter college until you have a specific career goal. Taking a non-career job for a few years does not prevent you from going to college later, and you'll get more out of college and inspired to work harder if you know why you're there both in terms of what you want (a specific career) and what you don't want (a soul-crushing minimum wage job with no prospects for advancement). The carrot and the stick working in harmony.
On the other hand, college can be a good way to find out what you want to do. So you could enroll with the goal of finding a career path to pursue. It's riskier for the reasons that kiklion mentioned, but even if you fail to find a career you're passionate about, at least you'll end up with a degree of some kind.
So again, I'm not saying going to college is a bad idea. I'm just saying that one will be much better off if one thinks a lot about what's going to happen when one graduates rather than just checking off 'go to college' on one's to-do list, and one's professors are not necessarily going to remind one about this or help one with it. (The only professors I had that addressed post-graduation life were my physics professors who wanted to help us get into grad school.) Many professors (especially in the humanities) and administrators actually discourage career-mindedness, saying that education is not supposed to be job training, but a means to becoming a well-rounded person, etc. If done well, I think it should be both. Career planning should be taught, not discouraged.
Rant mode: off