the value of a college degree “just in case,” student won’t take my feedback, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Am I off-base about the value of a college degree “just in case”?

I hope you can help me set up my high school junior for success and happiness in her work life. She’s very academically gifted, so her grades and test scores will help her have her choice of colleges. The potential careers she has identified so far are pastry chef or fashion/costume design, which can be great careers, but aren’t always a reliable source of stability and security.

Her dad and I have said we’ll pay for culinary school if she gets a four-year degree first, and we support her looking for colleges with apparel/costuming programs. We just want her to have the option to do a desk job if she ever wants to, and it’s so much easier to get corporate jobs if you can check that “college degree” box!

I told her if her bliss means doing creative work for a living and potentially dealing with the challenges that come with less income, that is great! But I don’t want her to be stuck without options to do more traditional office work if she wants to. (I know I’m much happier to trade my labor for a generous paycheck and then spend it on my beloved hobby than to try to make a living at my hobby!)

Are we off-base about the value of a college degree “just in case?” I don’t want to be like the parents from a movie about someone who loves dance/poetry/art and is forced into the family business instead!

You are not off-base! This is a very good plan. Not only for the reasons you said, but also because it’s incredibly common for what people want out of their careers to change as they get older and tons of people have found themselves wanting to pursue different paths than the ones they favored at age 17. Of course, she could get a degree later if it turns out she wants one — but for most people it’s much easier to do it at this stage of life, when most of their peers are doing it, when our society is set up to better support people in doing it, when she has financial support from you, and when doing it now means it’ll be behind her as she launches her adult life. And the reality is, her path is likely to be easier if she has a degree because lots of jobs still require a bachelor’s (regardless of what it’s in, and even if it doesn’t relate to the work — they insist on that box being checked, which is problematic for a bunch of reasons but still very much the reality).

In any case, you’re not squashing her dreams; you’re offering to pay for culinary school afterwards, and you’re trying to give her more options, not fewer. It’s a good plan (just make sure she doesn’t end up with significant student loan debt).

2. A student isn’t addressing my feedback on her work

I’m currently a graduate student and I also do research in a science lab. Part of my job in this lab is reading papers by undergraduate students and giving them feedback on these papers. There was one student in particular last semester who asked me for a lot of feedback on her papers. She is a good writer and I do enjoy reading her work, but she does something that’s particularly annoying sometimes: I’ll give her feedback, and she’ll hand me back her paper to review again and will have not accounted for this feedback. Because I work closely with her I’m fairly accessible and so if she has questions she’s always welcome to come and ask me about what I’ve said. But I’m getting really tired of reading her papers over and over again seeing these same mistakes and having to point them out again and again.

I used to be an undergrad student who was once in her position, too. From my own experiences, I know how discouraging and hurtful it is to have someone tell you, “I don’t see the point of helping you with this if you aren’t going to take my feedback.” I know she is trying her best, and I don’t want her to feel how as hurt as I did when I got this feedback. I do want to make her understand that I do put in a lot of time to read her papers and I want to know that my feedback is being taken seriously (e.g., if she doesn’t understand or agree with something I said, she should come and talk to me about it). What is a kinder way to communicate these sentiments?

When she gives you a paper to review a second time without having taken your feedback from the first review, say this: “I noticed you didn’t incorporate my feedback from the earlier draft. What was your thinking there?”

Start there because you want this to be a conversation. She might have good reasons for not taking some of the feedback (like she considered it but decided she disagreed or it wasn’t in sync with what she was trying to do). If that’s the case, you can say, “You don’t have to take all my feedback, but when you ask me to review something a second time, can you flag any feedback you didn’t take and note what your thinking was? Otherwise I don’t know if you missed the comment the first time and I should repeat it, or if it’s something else.”

But if it becomes apparent that she’s just missing it because she’s not paying enough attention — and especially if what she’s missing are outright mistakes — just give the papers back to her when you notice that happening and ask her to incorporate the feedback from the first round before you look at it again. If you do that a couple of times, it’ll probably sink in. But you can also explicitly say, “It’s not a good use of my time to review your work a second time when the feedback from the first round hasn’t been incorporated yet. Please make sure you’re vigilant about doing that before the work comes back to me.”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. How can I politely blow off a persistent favor-asker?

About a year and a half ago, I agreed to have coffee with a company intern who was finishing up her internship and preparing to graduate. I did this as a favor to a colleague — this intern never did any work with my team or department and we never interacted prior to this coffee meeting. (Incidentally, or maybe not, she is also the niece of a company VP.) She asked smart questions about my career and department, and how to approach the job search after graduation. I gave her what information I could, told her I’d forward on any entry-level openings that were shared within my networks, and wished her luck.

Since then, I’ve received emails and LinkedIn messages from her at least once a month asking for introductions to people at seemingly every company she’d applied to (all large organizations in my industry). Some of the time, I don’t have an appropriate contact for her, so I tell her as much, but other times I do have a contact and simply don’t feel comfortable calling in a favor on behalf of a person I barely know and haven’t directly worked with.

I know it’s tough to find a good job right out of college, but this has been going on for A YEAR AND A HALF. How can I politely tell her to stop asking me, a virtual stranger, for introductions?

So, some people deal with this by just not responding. I don’t normally recommend that, but in case like this — with someone you met only once and who has been asking for constant help (and especially when you’ve been saying no and she keeps asking) — I think it’s an option for you if you want.

Alternately, though, the next time she messages you, you could say, “I’m not the right person to ask for these sorts of introductions since we don’t know each other well and haven’t worked together. Typically for someone to call in this sort of favor with a contact, it needs to be someone who has directly worked with you or at least knows you fairly well. But even though I can’t help going forward, I hope our coffee a while back was helpful, and I wish you all the best in whatever comes next.” And if the messages continue after that, feel free to ignore them.

4. Application deadlines and start dates

How should we interpret a super short time period between a job application’s deadline/closing date and the expected start date for the position? Sometimes I see as little as a week between these two dates, and I hesitate to believe they can select, interview, etc. candidates in that short period of time. Additionally, the time between when the position is first posted and the application deadline can be quite brief (less than a month), so to conduct interviews as the applications come in seems limited as well. I suspect that in these instances they already have an internal person in mind and are required to post all jobs before hiring the person they already have in mind. Is that correct?

Sometimes but not always.

A really short time period between the application deadline and the expected start date can just be lack of attention to detail. They might have put that start date in back when it was further out and by the time the job posting got routed, approved, and posted, the time in between had shrunk and no one caught it. Or it made sense when the job was first posted but the process has been longer than they expected so the application deadline has been pushed back but no one thought to adjust the start date. Or it’s a quirk of the software they’re using, blah blah blah. I wouldn’t draw any firm conclusions from it.

But as for jobs with less than a month between the posting date and the application deadline — that’s normal! Application deadlines don’t mean “we’ll be done interviewing candidates by then.” They mean “that’s the cut-off for submitting your application.” (And even then they’re sometimes wrong; see this post.) Allowing only a few weeks for applications to come in isn’t weirdly short at all.

Of course, sometimes these things do mean that they’ve already picked out an internal candidate. But you can’t really know that from the outside. And sometimes even when they do have someone internal in mind, a clearly stronger candidate can still get the job.

{ 734 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #2 – Alison gave you excellent advice. Even if telling her to check her work before she brings it back to you upsets her, you will be doing her a HUGE favor. Because this is something she REALLY needs to get used to. She’s simply not going to be able to get away with not incorporating her boss’ feedback into her work even if she has a good reason, but ESPECIALLY if there is not some solid thought process.

    1. Amairch*

      I think OP can also start requiring the student to include a “changedoc” summary noting all the feedback points she was given and what she changed in response. Making her think through her edits will hopefully encourage her to go through them more meticulously.

      1. Mim*

        Agree. I work with uni students on their writing and when I have this problem I often ask them to do a formal response to review or changedoc summary (which is also good practice for responding to journal reviewers if they become an academic). Alternatively, you can use Word track changes or Google Docs to view their edits and responses in real time. The comment function in track changes is especially good for encouraging discussion around any feedback points they disagree with or don’t know how to respond to.

        1. Potsie*

          One thing to consider is whether the feedback is the right type for the stage of the manuscript. If it is a very early draft, perhaps only give feedback about content rather than spelling/grammer/format since most of those sentences are going to be deleted anyway. It’s possible that the student is trying to nail down what is going to be included in the paper before polishing it up to publishing standards. You could even ask the student what type of feedback they are looking for for that draft which will also make it less overwhelming to deal with.

          Once the manuscript gets more polished, you could even give feedback in a similar way as a reviewer would and require the student to write a response addressing all points. This will also help them get used to the publishing process. At this stage you don’t even need to do something like track changes and instead simply say “there are multiple spelling and grammar mistakes” and expect her to go though her paper more carefully and fix it.

          1. Nonprofit Nancy*

            Yeah, I am a writer who deals with beta readers etc. Some readers, the best set up is to only offer one review, not subsequent reviews. It is a different art to read something a second time. It’s easy to become proprietary of the comments you made before. And each review should (in theory) offer different elements, as you note, with copyediting being last. I realize this is not always practical in the case of college papers, so this would be more relevant to something like thesis chapters.

          2. Sarabeth*

            This is important! There are multiple stages to editing, so save your own time and make sure you are giving feedback that is appropriate to the stage the paper is at. You can ask the student to tell you what kind of feedback they need up front; sometimes students really just need help on one specific thing they are stuck on in the writing. But also, if they say that they need help with proofreading and you notice major structural issues, you should address the structural issues and let the student know you’ll be happy to talk about other stuff once those are done.

            Then, as others have said, it’s totally appropriate to ask for a short memo outlining how they have incorporated your last round of feedback before you do another edit.

          3. Former prof*

            To build on this answer (I taught science writing at university for decades):

            There are three reasons this might be happening:

            1. The student does not understand or is overwhelmed by your feedback. As others have pointed out, there are effective ways to give feedback on writing, and they tend not to be the way most instructors give feedback. So research how to give good feedback. You would be surprised what a difference it makes in how students respond and how much their writing improves.

            2. The student does not know how to respond to your feedback because she lacks skills. This might be helped by changing the feedback to highlight a specific method to address the feedback problem (“look at every paragraph and make sure the first sentence tells the reader exactly what the paragraph is about”) or it may require that you coach the student on the specific skill needed. I did a lot of coaching for students who did not have the skills to organize a paper, or did not understand the difference between an argument and a summary, etc.

            3. The student doesn’t value your feedback. It doesn’t mean your feedback is not valuable. You have to not take this personally. For whatever reason, her score on this assignment may not matter enough to her for her to respond to the feedback. She has her own priorities, and she probably understands her own situation better than you. There may be perfectly good reasons why this is a pro forma exercise for her. You can just ask her, without bringing any emotion into it. Alison’s advice here is spot on.

            1. Edwina*

              She could also be
              4. Stubborn and insisting she is right
              5. Sloppy and/or lazy

              It’s important to notice if it’s one of those, too; the response would be slightly different.

            2. Bluenose Ghost*

              Yes to #3. Any time I’m frustrated with not getting through to a student, I remind myself, “student is not interested or able to learn this information/these skills, in this current time and context, for reasons which it is not up to me to judge.”

              I have also heard of (poor) advice given to students, encouraging them to connect “personally” with their teachers by asking for feedback on assignments, as though asking itself is an action that will improve their grades. Often, students who follow this advice do not understand that the purpose of this personal contact requires them to actually adjust their behaviour in response to feedback.

              Professional advice question, have you ever used peer review sessions and found them valuable? I’m thinking of integrating a session or two into my course later in the semester. I wonder if they would be an option for this LW as well.

              1. Former prof*

                Yes, I have done peer review. I learned that it has to be done very carefully and very narrowly – for example, having the peer just check the student answered all parts of the prompt. Otherwise you have poor writers giving other poor writers bad advice. Peer reviews of presentations tended to go much better, but only if I provided a specific feedback form to use.

            3. OhNo*

              As someone who also works with college students on writing, there’s also the possibility that she sees getting feedback as just a box to check, rather than something that she actually has to do something about. It’s worth checking in to see if she views it as just a required step, or a meaningful conversation that will help her grow as a writer.

              For what it’s worth, I usually see that particular issue with students who are recommended or required by a professor to come to me for feedback. Usually, it hasn’t been explained to them why they are being asked to get it, or what the purpose of the feedback is supposed to be. Asking her what she wants to get out of the feedback might be a conversation worth having with her regardless – it will give you a better idea what she sees as the purpose of feedback, which could help you tailor the suggestions you give as well.

          4. TardyTardis*

            Agree–at my writers’ group, we first review on content, and if it’s brought back a second time, people notice if nothing has really been done. If the content changes are adequate, then the comma buffs go at it (Ok, I mark up the commas anyway on the copy).

      2. Senor Montoya*

        Agreed. Also, if she is not incorporating your suggestions at all ever, then she is not in fact “trying her best”. That sounds mean, but it’s a fact. She needs to try harder.

      3. Former Pastry Chef*

        Phone post fail – commented on the wrong link before!

        OP1 – looks like you’ve already gotten some good advice, but I’ll chime in. I went to pastry school after getting a 4 year degree and I am so so glad I did. Food is a hard business. It’s phyiscally very demanding, often mentally boring and reptative work in an industry that treats it’s workers terribly. When coworkers asked me if they should go to culinary school, my advice was always that if they could see themselves doing anything but cooking they should do that instead. The only people who are successful in kitchens are those who2sr whole life is food. Their families never see them and they don’t have a social life with anyone but coworkers. They work 50-80 hours a week. I left the industry after 7 years and was so grateful to have my degree to fall back on. I’m so much happier than I ever was in kitchens. Of my class of 18, only 5 of us were working in the industry after 5 years, and i think it’s down to 2 or 3 now.

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          Agreed. My FIL is in restaurant management. Even though he is in a high level position at a casino, he still works crazy hours. He often not home on holidays. At 60 something he is still working 60-70 hour weeks. He finally is making decent money after almost 40 years. He loves it, but is hates that he works all the time, doesn’t see his family much.

          I do know a few private chefs and private pastry chefs and that seems like “the life”. However I am sure it takes years of experience, to build a client base to be able to support yourself enough to leave restaurants.

        2. BeckySuz*

          Yup! I think that TV and movies have mistakenly promoted the idea that being a chef is some glamorous, creative adventure. While that might be the case for a select few, for every chef that starts their own restaurant and makes their own menu, there are a hundred who work for a larger Corp entity and have little creative control. If you “succeed” and become an executive chef, you might not even be cooking that much anymore. You’re basically a manager at that point. After 15 years in the restaurant business I’ve come to the conclusion if you love cooking, don’t do it professionally! Also you have no life. Like at all. A close friend is an Exec Chef and he’s never home. Holidays and time off are something he’s heard about but experiences rarely.

          However, if your daughter is really set on it, there are plenty of culinary programs that include 4 year hospitality degrees. So maybe look into that. My brief stint in culinary school was in a program like that.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            “I’ve come to the conclusion if you love cooking, don’t do it professionally!”

            This is true of so many things. Part of why we love doing what we love doing is that we do it on our own terms. Make it our primary occupation and it turns into the daily grind. Get a job that you don’t hate, that pays the bills, and leaves you time to do what you love as a hobby. There is this notion out there that this is pessimistic–that we should all have jobs doing what we love. Very few people are so fortunate as to have their bliss correspond with market demand, but even for them, making it into a grind just kills the love. My occupation-and-vocation as distinct entities is not pessimistic. It is how to preserve your passion.

        3. Viona*

          I know several well-known and a few famous LA chefs in their 50s-70s (friend married-into the crowd). Most of them are physically broken to the point of not being able to do some basic movements Such as putting on and tying their own shoes. All of them have some degree of carpal tunnel. All of them have issues with their backs and knees. None of them are satisfied with their careers. Some of them are the ones who “made it” and would be names many people here would recognize.

          If the guys at the top aren’t happy, then there’s something very wrong with the industry. Whatever it is, it won’t be changed within the next few years.

          I think anyone who wants to do anything in food needs to spend some serious time doing grunt work in a kitchen. It’s hot, physically demanding, draining, and often hide-bound and hierarchical to a degree that would not be tolerated many other places. It’s sometimes more Lord of the Flies than Great British Bake Off.

          1. Peachkins*

            Yes, excellent advice. When he was still in high school, my brother thought that he wanted to be a chef. I helped him get a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant where I was a server. He got the opportunity to see how the place worked and talk to the chefs there. It didn’t take him long to decide that wasn’t what he wanted to do full-time. He still loves to cook, but he’s perfectly happy just doing it for his family at home.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Incidentally, I give the same advice to people considering law school. Go work in a law office in a non-lawyer capacity and observe the attorneys’ lifestyle, and general level of happiness. There are some versions of lawyering that allow for perfectly reasonable lifestyles, but they aren’t the top earning jobs. So also take student debts into account.

              For myself, I seriously considered law school about fifteen years ago. Then I worked a couple of years in a big downtown firm. These are the successes: they came out of law school and snatched the brass ring. Even the most junior were pulling down six figures, but were miserable.

        4. Loosey Goosey*

          This is great insight. I know a restaurant sous chef and while they love the work, it is so physically demanding, the culture is…not great, and the jobs can be unstable. The person I know works in fine dining in a major city, but they keep having to start over in new kitchens due to management changes, restaurants closing, etc. Plus, after all that, you don’t get paid very much.

        5. SD*

          Agreed. Case in point: My son had a girlfriend at their top 10% university who really wanted to be a chef vs whatever she was studying (English Lit?). After she got her degree she went to culinary school and spent several years in high-end hotel kitchens in major metropolitan cities. She’s now about 40 and no longer works in the kitchen, although she still loves to cook. Instead she is the buyer for the last hotel in which she was a chef. I think that means the buyer for everything from bed sheets to cumin. Another large hotel in same chain is trying to poach her to do that job at a new hotel they are opening on the other side of the country. I’m quite sure she wouldn’t have been eligible for this opportunity without that BA. It’s good to have options.

        6. plainclothes supervillain*

          This is what I came here to say. #1’s Kiddo should go work in a restaurant; you can’t just go to culinary school and be a chef. You’d have better luck being a line cook in a few places for a few years and do an MBA at night so you know how to make a real business plan. And even then, the restaurant she opens might fail. Restaurant profit margins are razor thin.

      4. LibbyG*

        I was going to suggest this too. It’s not punitive; it’s a commonly used tool in the academic-writing workflow. So I think you would do well to have any student seeking a second round of feedback do it. It’s helpful to them as well, articulating a justification for their decisions and really owning their work.

      5. Elitist Semicolon*

        Former professional writing instructor here! This is what I required of all my students between their first submitted draft and their final documents. I framed it as a memo/letter of transmittal, since many (if not all) of my students would also be preparing those docs in their future jobs, and asked them to identify and summarize revisions based on both my suggestions and on their own revisions. For students who brought drafts to office hours, I always opened with something akin to what Alison suggests: “What have you changed since I last read this?” That, along with “Are there any particular sections you are concerned about?”, were pretty effective in prompting students to articulate which of my suggestions they did and did not take.

        And, as Observer says, it’s a service to the student to let them know that you cannot review their work unless your feedback has been sufficiently addressed. Even if they don’t make the exact changes you are asking for, the fact that you flagged a certain area as needing revision is a sign that the student needs to rethink how they can express that information. Supervisors in the workplace won’t be pleased with “Oh, I didn’t get to it yet” or “Yeah, I didn’t agree with you so I didn’t change anything.”

    2. Former Pastry Chef*

      OP1 – looks like you’ve already gotten some good advice, but I’ll chime in. I went to pastry school after getting a 4 year degree and I am so so glad I did. Food is a hard business. It’s phyiscally very demanding, often mentally boring and reptative work in an industry that treats it’s workers terribly. When coworkers asked me if they should go to culinary school, my advice was always that if they could see themselves doing anything but cooking they should do that instead. The only people who are successful in kitchens are those who2sr whole life is food. Their families never see them and they don’t have a social life with anyone but coworkers. They work 50-80 hours a week. I left the industry after 7 years and was so grateful to have my degree to fall back on. I’m so much happier than I ever was in kitchens. Of my class of 18, only 5 of us were working in the industry after 5 years, and i think it’s down to 2 or 3 now.

      1. WineNot*

        #1 – I love your thought process here with wanting your daughter to go to a traditional university before deciding on either a culinary or design path. Those are two completely different careers, so if I were a mother, I would also be a little concerned that my child would choose one of those paths, realize they hate it and have to start all over again with another path. Getting a traditional education first is a prudent decision to make.

        However, when I began college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I am 27 and am just now starting to get a sense of what I want to do with my life. I have said before in similar conversations with younger relatives, family friends, etc., that I wish I had done a gap year in between to at least attempt to get a grasp of my life before immediately going to college. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is even a little unsure. There are some great companies out there that arrange these gap years for you. I think it could be HUGE in her figuring out what she wants and how she wants to get there. Best of luck to you all!

        1. Meg Murry*

          I was going to suggest this as well. What if you daughter applied to traditional 4 year colleges her senior year (while she still has access to SAT scores, guidance counselor recommendations, etc) and then deferred for a year to do a gap year where she tried out actually working at a bakery, etc? Or what about a hybrid at a community college where she agrees to do 2-3 traditional classes toward a 4 year degree (English, math, etc) and 1-2 classes on the career/trade school path (culinary/pastry/fashion, etc)?

          While I do agree it is typically “easier” to get a 4 year degree straight out of school – that is only if the student is motivated and wants to pursue that path. If she is unsure, it may be money down the drain toward classes that may or may not count toward a degree (especially if she fails or drops them) – in which case she may be better off working now or going to a 2 year trade school and then working her way through a 4 year degree once she has more motivation.

          1. TM*

            This is such a good plan. Applying to college while you are “in the mode” of high school makes so much sense. All the supports are there and if you have acceptances in hand, you will have an array of choices in front of you. Then your gap year has a deadline and you can feel free to explore without worrying about going through the process again. If your exploration makes you realize that you don’t want to attend the school you deferred, you will likely be out a deposit, but that seems a small price to pay compared to marching off down the wrong path.

            Even if that doesn’t appeal, I would encourage her to apply to college along with any of her other options, just to have that as one of her choices.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Our local high school has a culinary track; a lot of people either decide this is the life for me, or um, nope, but it helps people decide, and in many cases, helps them get jobs without college if they don’t have the opportunity.

        2. Tisiphone*

          For #1 – Your plan is a good one to require a degree first, then culinary school.

          Now to address the comment: I’m like you! No idea what I wanted to do at age 17. Still no idea after holding off a year on college. I was deathly afraid of debt so I never went to college. Instead, I fell into what eventually became IT and still have a technical job. It pays the bills and lets me have a life.

          These days, even jobs that people like me can do and do well now require a degree. It doesn’t matter what kind of a degree, you just have to have four years of something.

          So back to #1 – Those four years will open up a bunch of doors if culinary or design doesn’t work out, and the education could also help her with the business side in case she ever wants to own her own business.

          Good luck!

          1. WineNot*

            It’s so hard! Who knows if I would have found myself in that one year, but I’m sure it would have been an experience that I’d look back on and really appreciate. Also, why speed up real life when you could take a whole year off before even going to college?! Sounds good to me…

          2. WineNot*

            Also, taking a gap year is most likely something that would have gotten me weird looks and opinions as a senior in high school. Where I grew up, the kids who decided to do something less-traditional after graduating were almost judged for it a bit…so horrible tot think about students, parents and teachers judging kids for not doing what everyone else is doing for whatever reasons may exist, but I guess that was just the bubble I grew up in.

          3. TardyTardis*

            A gap year may make it harder to apply for scholarships, because you won’t normally have the backup of the counselors at the high school who are often really good at finding them.

        3. Mandi*

          I agree. In today’s climate, I just don’t know how prudent it really is to get a just-because Bachelor’s degree. I went to college with a clear vision for my future and changed my mind several times. I’m very proud of what I accomplished academically- I ended up crafting my own interdisciplinary degree from scratch- but now at 26 and 3 years into a job outside my field, I’m more confused than ever. I wish that I had gone to community college to reduce my debt load, or that I had gone to trade school to give me opportunities for union jobs. I’m currently trying to organize my coworkers to unionize my workplace (school special ed paraprofessionals) because of our abysmal pay. It doesn’t feel good to be sitting on $40k in debt, making $13/hour.
          The degree is often necessary to get the job, but that doesn’t mean the job will pay well enough to make the cost of the degree worth it. For that reason, someone who isn’t sure or wants the degree as a backup probably shouldn’t be looking at 4-year universities. Community colleges often have better educational experiences anyway because the professors are there to teach, not to have their research funded and the diversity of experience in the student body requires a more holistic approach to education that honors students’ human responsibilities.

      2. Retired and Happy Now*

        A relative has a son about to turn 16. He is musically talented and wants to pursue a career in that field. His parents agree he is talented and could go far but they are asking (telling him?) to do a double major in business so that he has options to pursue behind the scenes jobs in the arts.

        1. HP*

          My undergrad degree is in Music… Jazz Studies (a performance degree)… on electric bass. All signs point to “not making money after graduation,” LOL. I minored in Advertising and PR. I eventually also went to get my MBA (with concentrations in Management and Marketing) – which I got part-time, while working in non-profit, and paying for out of pocket. I was adamant about not taking on more loans.

          It’s been quite sometime since I graduated (undergrad) college (>15 years), I can say that while my path maybe hasn’t been “traditional” – today, I consider myself to be successful as a marketer in the pharma world pulling in a decent salary and working on a franchise I wouldn’t have imagined myself working in (neurology). I spent 10 years in non-profits, pivoted to corporate and landing into the pharmaceutical space.

          Would my path have been different (or easier) if I had a different degree? Maybe. Maybe not. Ultimately, I think being adaptable, bringing value to your employer(s), and being a generally decent human being to work with, has helped me get where I am.

      3. All monkeys are French*

        I agree with the idea of getting the BA first. That’s what I did. The BA will give her a leg up if she decides on a different field. But please make sure she knows that a culinary degree is NOT as necessary if that is the direction she chooses. In my experience, hard work and humility are the most important educational tools in the culinary world. I’ve known some very successful chefs who never went near a culinary school and a few debt-saddled bozos who got the degree and still couldn’t make soup. The best thing would be for her to get some kitchen/bakery jobs while she’s getting the undergrad degree to get some experience and see how she likes it. After that, if she’s savvy and ambitious, she can find work anywhere with the same prospects as someone with the culinary degree. But it’s true what everyone is saying about the low pay and physical strain. My back and joints ache daily, although I’m still happy I haven’t spent years chained to a desk. I imagine there are physical consequences to that life as well.

    3. Sparrow*

      I do think this is different from not factoring in feedback from your boss, though. Things probably work differently in the sciences, but from my social science/humanities perspective, academic work is generally meant to reflect the individual’s own analysis, so I think declining to follow feedback from others if you think it’s not in line with what you’re trying to accomplish can be ok, even if it’s ill-advised.

      That doesn’t mean OP needs to continue wasting their time, though. I don’t know exactly what the expectations are on OP, but if a second read isn’t actually accomplishing anything, I’d seriously consider declining to review papers more than once and take the approach of, “Here are my thoughts; do with them what you will, but if you’re not going to factor them in, having me re-review the paper isn’t a good use of time for either of us.” If we’re talking about papers for publication or something more along those lines rather than class assignments, you might not want to cut them off, but I would follow Alison’s suggestion of asking for more context for their decision-making and decide how to proceed from there.

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        I’m curious what scale this editing is. I’m guessing above formatting, but it is it more “these sentences should be clarified” or closer to “your entire point is badly supported”?
        Regardless, I a lot of undergraduates haven’t had a lot of experience with revision before, and applying criticism to writing is really a learned skill. And there’s a difference in applying “clarify your wording” critique and applying “rethink your approach” critique.” I certainly recall being daunted by paper re-writes as a student, and I had had more practice than most with the revision process

        1. Yorick*

          I teach a writing intensive course. At first I provided track changes for their early drafts (along with comments for more substantive issues). But they clearly didn’t even look at them. They didn’t change even the simplest things I pointed out (such as typing “trail” instead of “trial” every damn time) – and all they would’ve had to do is click “approve all changes.”

          1. Anonymous at a University*

            This is why I don’t review student papers by e-mail anymore unless I’m teaching an online class. For whatever reason, they will incorporate the feedback on typos, adding missing words, clarifying what their point in a paragraph is supposed to be, etc., if I have sat down with them and worked through the draft on paper, or even if they’ve turned it in outside of class as a paper copy and I’ve done that. But whenever I sent feedback to them on an online draft, no matter what format was used, they completely ignored 99% it and I had to look at the same problems (often grammatical ones or ones that meant the paper didn’t fulfill the assignment) over and over again. Then these same people wanted to argue with me by e-mail when they failed and when I pointed out that I’d been telling them since day one, “This paper is not supposed to be about gun control, it is supposed to be about [actual assignment],” they would say, “But how do you expect me to see that unless I opened the draft you resent me???”

            It is not worth it, for me.

            1. Koala dreams*

              It’s common for people to not know those functions if they haven’t been taught them. Maybe it’s better now, but when I went to high school our computer courses were really basic, and didn’t include a lot of things that would be useful for writing college papers.

              1. Anonymous at a University*

                In the case of specialized functions, sure. But I was writing long end comments on the papers and in the e-mails themselves (I was resending mostly Word documents) and comments in the margins for the typos and smaller points. Even if they don’t know how to read Word marginal comments or have them turned off for some reason, I don’t know how the hell they were missing the paragraphs in the e-mails or at the end of the papers that said things like, “This paper currently does not fulfill the assignment because [X]. This is what you need to do to fix it.” I think they simply didn’t look.

              2. Elitist Semicolon*

                I had an entire class practically gasp in wonderment when I showed them how to use the “compare documents” function. All of a sudden writing team reports and figuring out what was revised in which draft got a whole lot easier for them.

                1. Observer*

                  I do think that teaching students how to use these tools is important. But when they are saying “Why would I even open the draft?” that’s not a problem with not understanding the tools. It’s just not paying attention.

            2. Observer*

              The correct answer to that question is “I expect you to open that draft.”

              The thing I think that students need to be told explicitly is “When you send me a draft for review you need to open up what I send you back and LOOK AT THE COMMENTS AND CHANGES.”

              This is not difficult stuff and they absolutely need to learn to do this.

              1. 'Tis Me*

                I find it a bit mind-boggling that they *wouldn’t* open it… But then I work in Production in academic publishing and have had quite a few snotty emails from authors who want to know why they are expected to review and check their copy edited, typeset proofs because they have already revised them in peer review and their accepted manuscript was clearly finalised at that point, so I probably shouldn’t be at all surprised…

                If you’re wondering, no they weren’t final. Otherwise they would be published as a Word doc . For one thing their references have been checked against the CrossRef Database with any missing elements added. Occasionally items get misidentified (e.g. if somebody published a thesis, an article based on the thesis, and then a book/chapter based on them both, all with the same title, if the referencing author didn’t give the details in full and perhaps got the publication year off). Or sometimes the academic editor does a full language edit between acceptance and sending us the paper and they have been known to misinterpret something and introduce an error. Or if they used an unusual character set or embedded special characters as images in the text occasionally they won’t reproduce correctly. Or sometimes we’re sent an earlier revision in error… Ideally there will be few or no corrections needed at this stage; sometimes authors rereading it with a different layout suddenly realise there are actually rather large issues that need to be addressed before publication.

          2. College Career Counselor*

            Agreed. There are students who just. don’t. make. revisions. EVER. I noticed this with a number of students in a class I taught a couple of years ago. Evidently, they couldn’t be bothered to do it for whatever reason (ran out of time, didn’t understand the feedback–which I find hard to believe, felt they’d “done the work already,” or something else entirely) and just turned in the same draft as their “final” one later. I guess they were satisfied with the D they earned.

            1. Zennish*

              The thing they need to understand is “D” in the school world=”Performance Improvement Plan” in the work world.

      2. Observer*

        I think declining to follow feedback from others if you think it’s not in line with what you’re trying to accomplish can be ok, even if it’s ill-advised.

        There is a difference between declining to incorporate feedback and ignoring it, though. Ignoring goes from “ill advised” to “not ok” even in an academic context. And if they are not planning on staying in research roles, then it moves to “career inhibiting”.

        1. Anonymous at a University*

          Plus, let’s be real, a lot of (undergrad) students are just not good editors. I’ve had students tell me they wanted to do something different from what my feedback suggested, I said, “Write it and then let me see it,” and the results were…not spectacular. Think saying they want to write a long paragraph instead of splitting it up as I suggested and doing one that’s two pages long, one sentence, and rambling so much that it’s impossible to tell what the topic actually is. I’m willing to work with undergrad students and explain my feedback- that’s a huge part of my job and one I really like- but the idea that they’re not taking the feedback because they know better and have stellar ideas is not always the case.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Yeah, I used to get a lot of “well, it looks okay to me, so it’s fine.” Nnnnnnno.

    4. Quinalla*

      Yes, don’t fall into the trap of trying to be nice and not hurt people’s feelings and actually hurt their schooling/career. People need direct feedback, you can still be kind about it, but it is ok and actually the right thing to do to be direct. I say this from EXPERIENCE as I fall into this trap all the time. I have to remind myself that giving direct feedback is an act of caring, withholding to spare feelings is actually the cruel thing to do.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        This is where I land too. I feel like the OP is projecting way too much of their own delicacies on to this student. “I don’t see the point of helping you with this if you aren’t going to take my feedback” is not really a hurtful statement to me…it’s blunt but not rude; and if the student really isn’t incorporating changes from their mentor, it’s probably necessary for both the student to find a new mentor that they will learn from, and for the mentor to work with someone willing to be taught.

    5. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Very much this. OP, you are overly involved in her emotional experience and it is clouding your judgement.
      You don’t want to hurt her feelings. You don’t want to crush her dreams. Well, you killing her with kindness. You don’t have to be rude to be helpful. But if you are going to mentor this woman, you need to give her feedback and you have to let her feel how she wants to feel about it.
      Otherwise, you’ve wasted her time and burned yourself out for nothing:
      “He’s a nice guy so when he asks me to print his documents, I do it, even though I have to stop my work and he knows how.”
      “She’s a sweet woman, so when she wants to take an extra fifteen minutes for lunch, I cover, but it’s now twice a week.”

    6. firsttimer*

      Always take advice from Beyoncé: “Until I see some of my notes applied, it doesn’t make sense for me to make more.”

      1. Tina*

        Oh god this.
        After several years of proofreading other people’s novels and sometimes putting my own on the back burner to do so: if I read someone’s first draft out of the goodness of my heart and they’re now asking me to read the second, note on previous draft ignored with no explanation is grounds for instant return of manuscript with a note explaining where to find the spellcheck function in Word.

    7. Proxima Centauri*

      I think a change log or track changes is best.

      As the feedback giver, you need to accept that giving feedback doesn’t mean making all the changes suggested. Sometimes, there is a good reason to not make a change. It might detract from the point they are making, etc. Yesterday, for example, my boss gave me a suggestion on a bullet point to add to the deck. I ultimately didn’t do it. because, though a good observation, was germane to the message I needed to convey.

      Also, when making suggestions, ask yourself if this makes the document better, or just different. Different isn’t always better. Just different. When I give feedback, I will often mark these suggestions as “editorial”. Sometimes they make them, sometimes they don’t.

  2. Mer*

    #1 – My sister went to pastry school about 10 years ago when she was in her early 30’s (she already had a degree in journalism). After baking professionally for 6 or 7 years, she ended up transitioning to HR at her culinary job (HR for a professional kitchen – yikes!) because pastry work really takes a lot out of your body. You’re standing all day, hunched over a good amount of time, rolling out heavy doughs. She ended up developing Popeye arms (don’t know if there’s an actual name for that) and carpal tunnel syndrome.

    All this is to say, the same thing may happen to your daughter and while she is younger than my sister was when she started baking professionally, the work may eventually take a toll on her body and it’ll be good to have something less physical to fall back on.

    1. Avasarala*

      Yes, culinary work is very physical! So is apparel if you’re sewing and designing. She might want an “out” that she can transition to afterwards.

      As someone who pursued an interest while my parents encouraged me to look at boring businessy jobs with more security, the most disheartening thing was feeling like they didn’t take my interest seriously. To them it was a passing interest that couldn’t possibly lead to good work. To me, it was my passion and the field I wanted to work in. As I told them in one big argument, I didn’t want to do something else for 10 years and then hopefully a client comes along that needs my passion and then I can finally use it–by then my skills will have rusted and I’ve spent 10 years doing something I don’t want to do. So I think it’s really important that your child feels your support and encouragement, not just your fear.

      And happy ending for me, I have worked in my field for that past 10 years, and sometimes I use the other skills I learned from college to open new doors. Like Mer’s sister, having that college degree could be the difference between starting over from scratch, and “hey this designer also has a business degree, maybe she can handle the business side of fashion too.”

      1. valentine*

        We just want her to have the option to do a desk job if she ever wants to
        She may experience this as you not believing in her, especially when it’s the opposite of what she wants. College shouldn’t feel like you’re stuck doing chores before you can go out and it could drain her drive, leaving her feeling thwarted. Why not pay for where she actually wants to be, when she wants to be there?

        1. Allonge*

          Based on the letter, I have no idea what the daughter wants in the way of schooling. She wants to be a chef OR a designer. That is all we know. We don’t know if she bakes every evening, sews her own clothes, has worked part time at restaurants, or just thinks these are cool things to be.

          She is fine either way! It’s ok to have divergent images of what someone wants to be, especially at 17! But her parents, if they pay for her further education, are absolutely in the position to say: have you considered this? Getting a business-related degree would help in either carreer path.

          My point is: yes, it may sound like they don’t believe in her. Maybe they don’t, and that has to eb uncomfortable. But believing in your child is not the same as letting them make all the choices without your input.

          1. LW1*

            We believe she can do anything she commits to, but she is still very open-ended about her interests. So far, she likes to make a batch of macarons when the mood strikes her, or whip up a costume for a convention. (I’ll be helping her find a summer job in a local bakery if I can!) Since she’s still very much in the “I like this as a hobby” stage, that is a big part of us wanting her to give college a shot. If she had been sewing her own designs for years and was passionate and focused about going to a certain design school, or if she works at Happycakes this summer and asks for all the hours she can get, or if she starts her own cottage baking business, and really wants to hit Johnson & Wales immediately, we would consider it.

            While she’s in the “I don’t know, I seem to like this?” phase we want to push her to keep a wider array of possibilities.

            1. Shadowbelle*

              Shoot, I did the same thing at her age. (I also trained horses and taught riding.) I thought I’d be a writer or a set designer or a costumer. But I got my bachelor’s, lucked into a completely unrelated field through a side-door job through a college friend, and I’ve been in IT my entire career (completely unrelated to either my degree or my youthful interests).

              The point is, you meet people in college who have totally different interests from you, and take different paths. You get to explore more. And you might just find a career that you never thought of, but which suits you in a completely unexpected way.

            2. MoopySwarpet*

              I think a general business degree in addition to culinary or design would probably serve her well. I was recently at a large gathering where someone was talking about how 5 of their kids (and/or kids’ spouses) had business degrees and vastly different careers. I can’t remember what the jobs were, now (too many people/stories – everything is a blur).

            3. desdemona*

              I wonder if you could encourage her to look at schools that have a solid core curriculum but let you build your own degree, or have culinary classes & fashion related classes she could take (and maybe even major in?). I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there are schools that teach fashion business, for people who want to become managers/agents/etc. And a design major is a definitely possibility – but most schools wait to ask you to declare until end of your sophomore year, so she’d have time to explore.

            4. NotAnotherManager!*

              I think that, given where she is, your thinking is very reasonable. You’re not shooting down a lifelong dream, you’re being practical when she’s not set on a particular path.

              The other thing is that doing something that is a hobby for you as a profession may suck the fun out of it. Sometimes, it’s good to have a hobby you can do to decompress and not turn it into a job.

              I had a friend in HS who wanted to be a theater major, and her parents agreed to pay a theater degree only if she had a second, more practical major as well. She chose business as her practical major and now run the business office of a fairly large theater and occasionally understudies parts. Before that, she was the tour manager for a traveling stage production.

              1. Vendelle*

                Exactly. I’ve had a lifelong dream of becoming a professional singer and singing teacher. I first studied speech therapy and then, after I found a job, tried to get into a conservatory. I made it, had one year where I took whatever lessons I could, and you know what? It was SO different from what I had expected that I slowly but surely started to resent having to sing. In the end, I nearly stopped singing altogether and only now, mor than 10 years later, am I actually able to enjoy any singing at all.
                So yes, please do encourage your daughter to find out what she really wants. A job at a bakery would be a great way to find out if that’s what she really wants to do. And if not, she at least has learned a valuable lesson and will know her own mind better, before it’s too late to turn back.

            5. Tzeitel*

              This sounds really healthy and reasonable. Just make sure she’s able to explore her creative side (and lets be real – making it in a creative industry might not be any more difficult than getting a traditional kind of job these days, depending on the field!) in whatever school she goes to. For example, my sister wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue music or science, so she went to a traditional school rather than a music school, but still played flute in the school’s music department and double majored in music and science. Also, make sure she does not accrue debt so she has freedom to make a creative choice later – she does not have to go to the fanciest school!

            6. twig*

              I think if you frame it, particularly, as building/developing the business skills to run a successful baking or design business, rather than as a “fall back” it would be helpful.

              That way you are still encouraging her towards her passions and helping her to develop the underpinnings to be successful business-wise in those passions (or support herself with those business-related skills while working on passion-projects on the side)

              1. twig*

                All that being said, I’m think of myself as a hedonist when it comes to college. Study what you love. When will you ever get the chance, again, to devote some serious time to studying the effects of British colonialism on modern literature (or the countries Britain colonized) or develop your drawing skills, etc

                College can be a time to broaden your world-view and learn more about other people from other places and cultures (even just other places in your state).

                It can be a “training wheels” experience for adulthood.

                I do think there is value, however, in getting some basic business computing classes in there. Learn Word, Excel, acrobat pro, database basics, graphics programs etc. I suppose a lot of this stuff may actually be taught in high school now. (I’m a digital immigrant -graduated high school in ’95 and learned most of this kind of thing on the job)

            7. Ra94*

              Great analysis- it sounds like she’s a really talented person and has a lot of options, and you’re trying to keep as many doors open for her as possible. I know that at her age, my friends and I had little idea of what most ‘jobs’ actually involved, so we were drawn to what we could understand. Being a photographer, journalist, or baker made sense because those were hobbies we’d tried, while I thought I wanted to be a French translator because French was my best subject. So who knows what possibilities might open up for your daughter as she learns more about what’s out there!

              1. Cascadia*

                Yes to this! Having now spent 10 years in the working world I am still surprised by the number of jobs that are out there. I feel like I am constantly meeting people and hearing about their line of work and thinking, “wow, that’s a job?!?!?”. When you’re in high school it’s hard to know just how varied and diverse the working world is.

            8. tink*

              Are there any local technical schools in your area where she might be able to combine business study with a culinary degree? Community theatres where she can get some real experience of what costuming (at least for the stage) would be like?

              1. Anne of Green Gables*

                Yes, this was going to be my recommendation as well. I work at a community college with a robust and well-respected culinary program. (We also have a pastry arts program.) Students who graduate from our program take all the general education requirements and have an associate’s degree–I realize perhaps not as flashy as a bachelor’s, but it will check the box for a lot of folks. We also have transfer agreements with the state university system, of which there is a branch in my city, and lots of our students get an associate’s degree here and then transfer to a 4-year institution. At the moment, community colleges are being viewed more and more as a place to start college for financial reasons, so an easy transfer arrangement with local 4-year institutions is becoming increasingly common nationwide. (US; I can’t speak to higher ed trends outside the United States)

            9. Wing Leader*

              May I make a suggestion as a college grad myself? Please do not push her into college right away. I would recommend letting her take a gap year, work a part-time job, and spend that time exploring her interests and seeing which direction she truly wants to go. If she’s interested in being a pastry chef, she needs to make more than macaroons and see if she enjoys it. If she’s interested in fashion design, she needs to research and do more of that as well. Let her find what she actually wants to do for the rest of her life (or at least a good portion of her life). Otherwise, college will be a waste of time and money. I was pushed immediately into college without knowing what I truly wanted to do. I ended up changing my degree several times and even changing schools twice. Just give her a little time so that when she does go to college, her path will be clear.

            10. EventPlannerGal*

              First off, I really like you. You seem great.

              Second of all, I can’t speak to costume design but do you know anyone who does work or has worked in hospitality who could talk to her about the pastry chef thing? Because I seriously, seriously cannot stress how different working in a commercial kitchen is from enjoying making the odd tray of macarons. It is very stressful and hectic and fast-paced. It’s either boiling in the kitchen or freezing in the freezer. It’s incredibly repetitive and until you work your way up the ladder there is very little room for creative expression. The hours pretty much preclude socialising with anyone but other hospitality workers. The customers are assholes. Your coworkers are probably assholes. Your bosses are assholes.

              A lot of people thrive in that environment! I extremely do not, lol. But she really needs to get some experience of it, or as you say somewhere like a bakery or cafe or something at least, before committing to a culinary programme.

              1. Kiwi*

                To add to everything above, all the chefs I know have little time or patience for kids who came through culinary school. They much, much prefer kids who came up the old way – starting out as kitchen hands and working their asses off.

                As for fashion/costume – a good fashion degree will include robust business modules. I tried the “safe” degree and couldn’t do it. Transferred to a Fine arts degree and dont regret it. I now work for a media company – it turned out to actually be hugely transferrable

            11. Tisiphone*

              I have friends who own their own businesses doing costuming and catering among other things. It will help her if she does get that four year degree to take some business classes in addition to what she loves most. If she ever wants to own her own business, either as a sole source of income or in addition to a regular job, she’ll have the means to make it work.

            12. Glitsy Gus*

              This is such a great place to be, i hope she enjoys it!

              I have a B.A. in Technical Theater and my specialties are costuming and lighting. I loved getting my degree and I learned so much, I do not regret it at all. However, similar to cooking, costuming is very physically demanding in the long term and there are a lot of dues to pay in the industry. I’m not saying this to discourage her at all! I have been working in theater for over 20 years, sometimes with a day job sometimes not, so I think it’s a great idea. Just speaking to the reality.

              I worked with High School theater students for a long time and I’ll give your daughter the advice I gave them: 1. Get a BA not a BFA. If you decide to keep going you can get a MFA down the road, but a BA will serve you better than a BFA in almost every situation, including if you decide to transition into a more office based job. 2. Get a minor in something related to theater, but more recognizable, like Communications, Creative or Technical Writing, or even basic English or something else that she enjoys that is a bit more mainstream. It’s only a couple of extra classes but it’s something that a non-industry person will recognize. I spend SO MUCH TIME trying to explain to potential employers what, exactly, a Theater degree is and that it really is a writing, design, and critical analysis degree. You can avoid a lot of that if you just have that minor on there.

            13. CM*

              Your followup comment makes me think about Joanne Chang, who runs a successful chain of bakeries in the Boston area. She’s a pastry chef with a degree from Harvard and her first job out of school was in consulting. Combining high-level skilled labor with analytics and business skills is an amazing combination. I also had an electrician once with an MBA, who was making tons of money — same idea. So it’s not necessarily that she needs the degree just in case she wants an office job at some point. It could really expand her options in her chosen field.

            14. Smithy*

              You seem great and your daughter seems great – and just here to cheerlead your thoughts on the approach.

              When I was that age my list of hobbies and interests included sports, creative writing, theater, history and traveling. Some of those interests died out after a college class or two (xoxo theater, creative writing and history). And some died when I realized what jobs in those fields actually meant. Names like “entertainment lawyer” sounded cool. Contract review and negotiation – not so much.

              Long story short – I was a perfect candidate for a liberal arts education and degree in the social sciences. My parents did put limits on me in terms of what schools I could/could not attend – but if it was a school we agreed on, they never limited my classes, extra curriculars or majors.

              As someone who was had good grades, was precious, and quick to fight with my parents just cause – this approach ultimately did work out well. I went into a career (nonprofit fundraising) where the path for 17 year old me makes sense – but I needed the space to get there on my own.

            15. Petunia*

              You’ve gotten some great replies. I also went to culinary school at age 30, after getting a bachelor’s degree. I wanted to open my own bakery–and was about 7 years into my 10-year plan, when the two owners of the bakery where I was working got a business divorce. It reinforced what everyone is saying: it’s a grind, it’s physically demanding, etc. etc. It made me reevaluate my choices. I still occasionally get starry-eyed about opening a bakery, but it should be a sound business decision, not a romantic one.

              I also took a gap year between high school and college. I agree with the deferred enrollment! I was able to get a 6-month work visa and worked at a restaurant in London. The other cool thing I was able to do with my pastry arts degree was to work as a baker for a season at McMurdo Station, Antartica. If your daughter likes to travel, culinary training is great! But definitely, have the backup plan. I’ve been working for a food website for the past 14 years, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without a college degree.

            16. BluntBunny*

              Also she maybe able to get a part time job at a laundrette or dry cleaners, that do alterations. Being a chef or pastry chef is long hours, maybe she could email some local restaurants, or bakeries for some work experience. In my country it also common to do a year out, it’s not just for traveling it can be working to save money up for university or volunteering. I’m not sure if this is something you do in the US but it can be really helpful, I changed the subject area I was planning on going into. Choosing to go on to university shouldn’t just be, you have no idea what to do this is a good/useful degree do that, whatever course you do will be difficult and cost a lot of money, you need motivation and determination to complete it. I have seen some good suggestions on possible courses, it sounds like she is a creative person who likes making things a STEM subject may also interest her.

            17. Dasein9*

              This is just the phase for starting college! All those intro courses taken for general education can be a great way to find out what we like to do.

              It sounds like you understand that it’s unreasonable to expect a college major to match up 1:1 to job expectations, so please do encourage your kid to study whatever interests her. Being interested in learning is the main difference between gaining a well-rounded education and simply checking off the boxes to earn a degree. The former only happens when we make connections between ideas or disciplines or events and that only happens when we enjoy what we’re learning about.

              Once your daughter knows what she wants to do, internships will be a big help.

            18. StrikingFalcon*

              Also, encourage your daughter to look into and think about not just what kind of work she enjoys doing but what kind of lifestyle she wants. No one ever brought this up with me at that age (it was always ‘What do you want to do?’ and ‘Do what you love!’), and it’s really important to consider before you invest 4 years in a degree or schooling and then realize that actually, you do want holidays off or whatnot (which chefs rarely get holidays – they are the busiest times for restaurants!)

              1. StrikingFalcon*

                Some specific things to think about:

                Do you want to be able to leave work at work, and have time for hobbies, or do you want work to fill your life? (Working as a professional chef is incredibly demanding of your time)

                Both fashion and restaurants have particular cultures, and frankly, those cultures aren’t always healthy. Is she aware of those drawbacks?

                What’s the most boring part of the work involved in pursuing the careers she is considering, and how much time can she imagine spending doing them. Is it worth it?

                How much do the careers she’s considering require her to “earn her way” to get to where she wants to be? A couple years? Twenty years? It varies by field – is she prepared to put in the work to do it?

                Where does she want to live? It’s best if she can go to school there, so she can start to build her network, but sometimes a program is worth going elsewhere for. Still, it’s worth considering.

                Do you want to travel often, occasionally, never? What if that travel is mostly doing boring work in interesting places? How often will she need to move to make a successful career? Does she want to do that, or settle he whole life in one place?

                1. AuroraLight37*

                  Part of the reason I went into library science is that I like to leave work at work and not work holidays. I go in, do my shift, and then I’m done. No paperwork to take home, no meetings after or before hours.

                2. Des*

                  I’ll also add that it often helps if you know someone who did pick that particular career path and can either shadow them or otherwise find out what their day-to-day is like.

            19. Nellie*

              I would also encourage you and your daughter to think about a traditional bachelor’s degree could open up additional doors related to her hobbies. People who make a living doing cosplay, for example, need marketing and business skills to make it a viable business! They need to be able to write a marketing plan, know how to be a great public speaker, do bookkeeping, be great at self-promotion, know how to set up a consulting business, etc.

              This isn’t a binary choice between “boring office job” or “something I love.” While a bachelor’s degree in, say, marketing or accounting can be a “fallback” if she later decides she doesn’t like culinary or design school, it can ALSO be a way for her to make a living in those two tough fields. I would really encourage you to view this as a way to make her more marketable, and not sell it as a backup plan to a career you don’t view as very realistic. This isn’t a matter of “just in case” — this is a matter of making her more well-rounded in competitive fields.

            20. Des*

              She may also simply not know what else is out there that she might really love similarly to baking or costumes. Higher education can open up your eyes to new possibilities!

          2. Snow globe*

            One thing I’ve learned (the expensive way) as a parent, is that if your kid is really not interested in college and they are only going because that’s what the parents want—they won’t do well. Maybe in a few years it will be more difficult to go back to school, but if they go later because they *want* to, they will probably be more successful.

        2. Mary*

          I think this depends on the relationship between the parents and the kid–some young people will experience this as very undermining, and others will be very happy to take it onboard as a potential consideration.

          OP1, what I would do is sell the four-year programme on the basis of the skills that will be useful to her regardless of what she does. I’ve just edited an article about a fashion school in London, and there was lots about how much they teach students about brand management, social media, networking, business and commercial awareness and so on. All of these things would be super useful if she wants to run her own business at some stage, or is going into any kind of creative or visual career!

          1. Helena*

            If that’s LCF, my in-laws work there. And yes, they are very committed to turning out graduates who are ready to work in, and succeed in, the fashion industry (because successful graduates are what attracts new students onto their courses). Which absolutely means understanding the practical/business/finance side of things, and being able to market your brand effectively.

            OP2, if your daughter is going to be a successful entrepreneur/small business owner, she would really benefit from some accounting/business classes, maybe as a minor.

          2. Ethyl*

            For culinary paths, Johnson and Wales in the US has a business/management track as well!

            LW 2, also bear in mind that in each industry, there are many jobs that aren’t always visible or even known about by outsiders. So the options may not be “bake cakes all day every day” or “sew costumes in a tiny room in the basement of a theater all day every day.” Maybe it would be a good thing as you are looking at colleges and programs to talk to the career services departments and see where some of their graduates have landed.

            When I told my parents I was majoring in geology, they literally could not imagine a single job outside of college professor or working on an oil rig. But of course there are tons and tons of career paths out there, from computer modeling of various kinds, to working for companies that design and market different types of testing devices, to oil and mineral exploration, to environmental cleanup…… Not to mention that a lot of those companies need sales and marketing and business development types who know what they do! But outside of people who do those jobs, pretty much nobody knows about them, so imagining a career path as an “outsider” is difficult. I hope that makes sense and is helpful!

            1. Anon for reasons*

              I graduated in Geology and ended up managing the IT for the Royal Household, so anything is possible

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                Well, I’d love to hear more about this job on an open thread even though I’m not at all “into” the Royals.

            2. LW1*

              “in each industry, there are many jobs that aren’t always visible or even known about by outsiders”

              This is a great insight! Thanks, we’ll keep this in mind and share it with her!

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                This is so true! Just thinking about the costume shops I worked in you will have:
                Designers and their assistants, Costume Dept. Manager, Shop manager, shop foreman, show manager, drafters/drapers, stitchers, dyers, milliners, cobblers, jewelers, archivists, wardrobe supervisor, laundry staff, dressers, storeroom managers, sundries specialist, shopper, accountant, and other roles depending on the shop. And that’s JUST costumes, in technical theater/film in general it gets even bigger.

                1. AuroraLight37*

                  Michele Carragher was the professional embroiderer for Game of Thrones. Who knew that was a thing?

            3. Lora*


              My mother went to fine arts school and had exactly zero clue how a liberal arts university / state school / elite yet focused schools (e.g. CalTech, MIT type of places) / SLACs operated, let alone what a degree from those places would be like or what it would do for me or what kind of jobs were available other than a very narrow range of commercial arts/marketing things that she personally knew about. At one point she attempted to “forbid” me from taking the General Education Requirements of literature, social studies / history etc. on the grounds that it was a waste of time to take any classes not required by my major, and I’m certain that if she had been paying any part of my tuition she’d have refused to pay; this was despite the department and my adviser explaining to her in little words that such courses were graduation requirements. She has never, in 30 years, had any clue what I do for a living, why anyone would want to do such a thing (I’ve tried to explain in little words: mom, you saw Breaking Bad, right? imagine that but, like, legal), and actually 100% believes that the companies I work for consist of mustache-twirling cat-stroking evildoers who sit on top of a pile of gold whilst cackling and swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck.

              I know for a fact she is not alone in this belief, as many people have expressed similar notions to me when I tell them where I work. For my part, I’m pretty sure that Marketing has a sign over the door that says “Welcome to Marketing! 2 drink minimum, Happy Hour 2-4” and all Corporate Finance reports from venture capital groups are written in cocaine on the bathroom sinks, but I recognize that these views are probably not 100% accurate.

              1. Late to the game*

                This felt like me! I grew up solidly working class and if it wasn’t mechanic, practical nurse, elementary teacher or county road worker I had no idea. I almost became a teacher (terrible fit for me) just because I needed SOMETHING to study at university. I had no idea there were other jobs/careers/things to do in life. Sometimes I’m still confused.

        3. Cordoba*

          “Why not pay for where she actually wants to be, when she wants to be there?”

          I’m not in the habit of letting 17 year olds decide what I should do with tens of thousands of dollars of my money.

          Agreeing to pay for school *generally* does not mean that the person paying does not get to impose conditions around school/program/progress/whatever. If the student’ doesn’t agree with this they’re welcome to pay for college themselves.

          It’s OK to “not believe in” somebody when they propose a plan that is provably unlikely to work out. I’m paying for a nephew’s schooling right now. If at 17 he told me that he planned to be a famous rock star instead of going to college I would not pitch in to help him with that plan. I’ll happily help him get a worthwhile degree and *then* try to go be a star.

          1. Ethyl*

            My spouse’s mom imposed conditions on his attending school, including the majors he was allowed to study (engineering only). He was not allowed to change majors even after he figured out engineering was a terrible match for him. He became depressed, stopped going to class, and flunked out. It took him decades to rebuild his life from that. But hey you do you.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Thank you. I wanted to respond to that but just couldn’t not come off as a complete a$$.

              2. Aquawoman*

                I think it’s pretty unrealistic to expect someone who’s barely an adult and who’s been trained his entire life to let his parents call the shots to suddenly seize the reins of his life at all, let alone when it will come with a $100,000 price tag.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  I disagree. You can do it. That should be a message we are promoting, not that it is unrealistic. My father is a narcissist, and I was raised being told what to do and had a sheltered upbringing where I wasn’t allowed to work unless they said, I had to do the extracurriculars they said, etc.

                  I actually went to engineering school, too, which pleased my dad, but that was not the issue we struggled with. I was pregnant when I was 18. My parents had a couple ideas–cut off contact with the father and raise the baby on my own. They would rent an apt in my college town and pay all my bills. Option 2 was to give the baby up for adoption to my uncle and his wife (WTF?). I chose my own option to marry the father and raise the baby in our own household, transfer schools, and finish college. All that happened over 20 years ago. My dad is still a narcissist who tries to run my life, and I still push back. (Also still married to my son’s father.) I’ve had some friends end up like Ethyl’s spouse. (I think those of us raised by narcissists may flock together or something.) But, it doesn’t have to end up that way. Also – college doesn’t have to cost $100k (speaking as the mother of a senior.) Just keep believing that you have no control in life and see how far that gets you.

                2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  “trained his entire life to let his parents call the shots”

                  That’s not exactly A+ parenting, if at 17 you’ve never let your kid make some important decisions. You shouldn’t be training your kid to let you call the shots; you should be guiding your kid towards independence. That way they can actually BE independent.

                  So in that scenario, if you have not been a dictator calling all the shots all the time, a 17 year old should absolutely be able to make decisions about his or her goals and how to get there. IMO, this should be a collaborative process. It’s your money, but it is the kids life.

                3. Viona*

                  Another Allision,

                  I get what you are responding against and where you are coming from. However “You can do it” is a horrible message to be sending to people whose challenges are not over-controlling, pessimistic parents, but are racism, structural inequality, poverty, etc.

                  I always bristle with the “You can do it” message. Quite frankly, many of my friends and clients can’t. No matter how hard they work, they will never have the money and the opportunity to become what they want.

                  My friend Sheamus who lives in coal country in Kentucky and has only a HS degree always wanted to go into theater. At 16, he became the sole breadwinner for his family.

                  My friend Anton grew up in South Central LA. Lost 2 siblings to violence (one gang shooting, one killed by a cop). He wanted to be an artist. Great skills with the spray paint. He’s now working at an Arby’s. He can’t afford art supplies and can only work on what he loves when one of his wealthier friends “commissions” something for him to do and buys the supplies ahead of time.

                  My friend Ila is primary career for her two parents, whose cancer is likely a result of being near a Russian nuclear power plant. She can’t go out and do anything she wants b/c her entire life is caring for them.

                  I point these out to say it’s a very privileged, middle class POV in the USA to say “do what you want is not unrealistic.” For many, many Americans, it’s simply impossible. They are too busy trying to survive and keep their loved ones alive.

                  Let’s all try to remember that.

                4. AnotherAlison*

                  Ouch Viona, better check yourself before making assumptions. My parents were regular middle class (truck driver and accounting clerk) in a blue collar area of Kansas City, but I’ll give you that I still was privileged.

                  My husband is not (other than he is a white male). One of his parents graduated high school. His older sister was born when his mother was 18, he is 2 years younger, and he has a half brother 3 years younger. His parents were divorced before he was 2. He grew up in trailers and went to some extremely disadvantaged schools. His mother decided to live her dream when he was in high school and after his dad’s wife refused to let him live there, he dropped out, lived with his sister in the projects in Syracuse for a while, then was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in a rural town further outside of Kansas City (still a trailer). He had to pay his own way since he was 16, barely graduated high school (based on gpa), didn’t go to college. We got pregnant and he worked two jobs to support our family. One job was in an industrial printing factory as general labor and one was driving a lumber truck. His sister ended up having 3 kids by 3 men and spending most of her life on welfare and waitressing. His brother is in prison.

                  So, yeah, I get why some people can’t do it. We weren’t talking about those circumstances here. But don’t think all people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds can’t do it. (BTW, we didn’t have help from my family because — strings attached.)

            1. Cordoba*

              If my parents are paying for college and imposing some conditions that I don’t agree with, then can’t I just … not accept their money and do my own thing?

              This just puts me in the same boat as millions of other students who are paying their own way, right? It’s not ideal but it’s certainly not the end of the world.

              Do you contend that the people paying for somebody else’s education should have no say in how their money is being used?

              1. techRando*

                The fact is that if you have parents with money– especially money saved up for college– then you very likely won’t be eligible for financial aid until you turn 26, iirc. I knew a number of people who were abused by upper middle class families and as a result had to drop out of school when they decided to not allow their families to emotionally abuse them continually. Some were able to qualify for merit scholarships at technical colleges, but that’s still a much more limited set of training than a 4-year state university offers.
                This is one reason that I’m in favor of free college for everyone, not just people with “financial need”.

                1. Cordoba*

                  Are parents with money morally obligated to pay for the college expenses of their adult children?

                  I think it’s great if they do, but I also think they’re allowed to decide they’d rather spend that money on retirement/travel/charity/whatever instead.

                  I’m all for free college for everybody. Until such a time as it becomes available “kid who was raised in a family with advantages/resources such that ‘parents pay for college’ was even an option has to find a way to pay for college themselves” doesn’t strike me as that terrible of a situation.

                2. Anonapots*

                  I think if you can afford to pay for your kid’s college and are interested in raising a self-sufficient human being who can contribute to the society they live in, then yes you are morally obligated to pay for college for them. I don’t think it’s outrageous to expect them to get good grades and do well, and I do think having a general plan is great. However, as I work with young adults in this age bracket, they often have a pretty good idea of what they want to do, being interested in baking or costume design is actually a pretty darn good start considering the thousands of career paths available, and research has shown people will change their careers many times in their lives, so this idea that she gets to Age X and doesn’t want to do Thing anymore isn’t shocking or worrisome.

                  LW1, I do career planning with young people your daughter’s age. One of the things we encourage them to do is instead of planning based on what they do want to do, it’s just as important to plan based on what they don’t want to do. “I don’t want to work with computers” is a pretty good place to start and eliminates a whole section of education and training. “I don’t want to sit at a desk all day” does the same thing. That might be a good conversation to have to help narrow the field a little.

                3. NotAnotherManager!*

                  You can also petition for emancipation or for your parents incomes not to be considered in your financial aid. I had a friend in college who didn’t receive a penny from his parents after the day he turned 18 and another whose family was abusive and was controlling her college fund as a means to control her. Both were able to demonstrate that they were self-supporting and received no funds from their parents, though it was a process and involved lots of documentation, and both were able to obtain grants and need-based aid for school on solely their own financials. It’s not easy (unless you are a parent or married), but it’s possible.

                  I was “lucky” that only one of my parents was a narcissist trying to prevent me from going to college – the other parent worked closely with an attorney and a tax professional to protect me from them, which was expensive and risky to their divorce proceeding. I know a lot of people don’t have the guts or resources to do what my mom did to make sure I went to school.

            2. somanyquestions*

              Why didn’t he just do what he wanted and pay for it himself? Decades to rebuild his life because his mom wouldn’t pay for the school he wanted? Really?

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                Well, if you are under 24 (and not married, without kids) colleges consider you dependent, whether your parents are actually willing to help pay for college or not. College has not been a thing that people can simply work their way through to pay for a long time. So – if a parent refuses to pay, a student’s options are generally working plus student loans. And perhaps you have heard the noise about the massive amount of student loan debt and how much of a crushing problem it is for many younger people.

                So it is not as simple as “just do what he wanted and pay for it himself” and to dismiss a complicated and knotty issue that way is entirely unrealistic.

                1. somanyquestions*

                  She said her husband spent decades rebuilding his life after his mom would only pay for an engineering major. There was time in there to get a degree in something else. Also- if this was decades ago, college was a lot less expensive.

                2. Paulina*

                  She said her husband spent decades rebuilding his life after his mother’s insistence that the only worthwhile thing to study was something he didn’t like, and sucked at, led him to failure and depression. It’s a lot harder to pick up from failure than to take a different path from the start.

              2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                But I do agree, BTW, that setting some conditions is reasonable (i.e., what kind of school parent is willing to pay for, for example). Just not the kind of “you must be [x job here]” that the commenter you’re responding to was dealing with.

            3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              My dad wanted to be an architect. His parents had 3 options for him: engineer, doctor, lawyer. He did engineer, hated it, and quit the lifetime job with a pension to become a salesman and then owned his own small business. Friends, the family pearls* never got passed on because they were being clutched for 50 years.

              *Pearls as in made to look like pearls. No oyster was involved in the making of anything

          2. AnotherAlison*

            Right. This. My son (now a college senior) wanted a sports-related career when he was in high school. He plays baseball at his university and is getting a business degree. He now thinks chasing a sports career is kind of a waste of time. He knows his new head coach was a former player at that school and was making like $20,000/yr as an asst. coach. His friends that graduated last year with Sports Management degrees are just doing regular jobs that don’t require a specific degree. Like someone above said about the chef world, only do it if you can’t imagine doing anything else. My son actually wants to have money to do things that he hasn’t been able to do during college (snow board, dirt bike, buy a newer truck).

            It’s not that I don’t or didn’t believe in my kids’ dreams, but I know that your world view changes from the time you are 17 to 27. If the kid is that passionate about something, then do it on your own. Tell your parents thanks-but-no-thanks.

            Note I also don’t think the reverse works very well. If the kid goes to culinary school then wants to get a 4-year degree 10 years later, the parents should not be financially supporting them then. For me, it would be now or never.

          3. Dust Bunny*


            My parents supported my siblings and I . . . but we all went to normal colleges before going on to whatever we’re doing now. The deal was that we had to successfully finish a Bachelor’s in something (assuming everything else in life proceeded normally, of course) and then we were free to do what we wanted.

          4. A Non E. Mouse*

            I’m not in the habit of letting 17 year olds decide what I should do with tens of thousands of dollars of my money.

            I have a junior in HS myself right now, and this is exactly where we are falling.

            It’s my money – so here are some conditions.

            How we have approached it so far – with not a lot of angst, actually some good discussion – is:

            1) The first two years of classes (some of which he’ll have completed with dual credit in HS) are lower level anyway. Most of what you take then can transfer to any degree, and with a good amount of planning you can make sure they all go towards any school you’d like to attend after that, and any of the degrees you are actually interested in. So for that 1.5 to 2 year period, you don’t have to *really* declare your major – just pass your classes. We have told him the benefits of doing these years at a Junior College so that he ends up with an Associates degree, but won’t force that option on him.

            2) His ultimate goal involves owning a business. Great! Get either an accounting or business degree, or a degree related to the industry you’d like to own.

            I went to college under similar conditions from my parents. Did 17 year old me think it was massively unfair and they didn’t believe in my dreams? Oh yeah, thought I was, you know, fighting the good fight and all that.

            But 40 year old me? Thinks they were pretty smart to guide me (against my will) a few more years.

            1. Yorick*

              This is all true in a way, but if he does know what he wants to major in, you should let him pick it now. There can be real benefits from having your major professors for 4 years instead of 2.

            2. Risha*

              Hm. Putting aside the question of whether this is a fair condition to put on a child looking at their future… You should be aware that not every major at every school really sets up their scheduling to accommodate the “got my general requirements out of the way at a two year college” plan, so either you’re drastically limiting his choice of schools, or there’s an excellent chance that you’ll end up paying for 5+ years of college, even if the first two are cheaper than they could have been.

              (Number of credits needed to be taken per semester can be worked around; your major requiring a course that’s only offered fall semester every other year with three prerequisites that can’t be taken simultaneously, much less so. You couldn’t earn a business degree at my alma matter in under 3.5 years physically there, from what I remember from picking classes (20 years ago). A scheduling mistake by my advisor my first semester freshman year meant I had to scramble to take basic accounting at a community college over the next summer in order to get into a class that had to be taken fall of sophomore year in order to graduate within four years.)

              1. Anon Higher Ed Professional*

                And depending on the school and major, lower-level courses taken elsewhere may or may not transfer in as equivalent to courses required by a major. This happens sometimes in STEM fields, if the second school doesn’t consider the courses in the first school to be equivalent to their own prerequisites.

                1. Anonapots*

                  The state I live in has a block transfer AA/AS degree, meaning any general education classes taken at a CC will transfer fully into any state school. You may have to take a higher level math or writing class, but all your gen ed. classes count.

            3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              1) is absolutely untrue for most STEM degrees. Partly because there are so many requirements that all build on one another so if you don’t take the first courses your first semester, you’re probably tacking semesters on to the total degree. Additionally, my dad is a professor at a state university that lets people with AAs from community colleges transfer in, and he says every student in the classes he teaches who has done this is noticeably behind the other students, as the community colleges in the state just don’t teach the fundamentals of the major as well as the state universities, and many of them wind up switching majors because they aren’t prepared for the upper-level coursework. It’s a problem.

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                Can’t speak to STEM, but social science majors in most state schools will be all right. There are great teachers in community colleges, who are there because they love the subject but don’t want all the ‘publish or perish’ nonsense.

            4. Smithy*

              Depending on the choices of your son’s friends – this may vary – but as someone who did transfer in undergrad, it’s a hit on the social experience of college.

              It may well be that the larger university plans involve a community college followed by 4 year university in the same city. But as someone who transferred as a junior to a new university in a new city, it’s a decision I really regret. Making friends, building social networks, and experiencing college clubs are all deeply hampered by starting later.

              I’m not presenting this as some kind of Ivy League/Varsity Blues scandal concept of rubbing shoulders with elite families. But simply that a young person who is struggling socially is apt to struggle academically.

              Personally, I thought that transferring was so necessary as a means of address ABC issues I was facing in my current program. All it really did was give me DEF issues. Normally juniors have priority choice of higher level classes, but as a transfer I was applying with freshman and received no priority on the classes in my major that I wanted. Also, as a relatively extroverted person, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where I fit socially and my grades that first semester certainly showed. It was like having two freshman years – which is not an experience I’d recommend.

          5. Smithy*

            I think there’s a lot of balance to be considered, particularly for those who graduated even just 15 years ago were likely looking at a very different post graduate world. That being said – speaking from very personal experience – I do see a value in essentially receiving any kind of bachelor’s degree when a young person who has vague dreams.

            Whether that degree is in music, basket weaving, or medieval literature, it’s a period of time to support a young person growing up as well as providing a hard credential – the bachelors. What I think is honestly more important is the financial conversation around what parents can fund without requiring anyone to be in debt. And that will vary from household to household. (Slate recently had a good article about it

            When I was 17, I knew I wanted the chance to travel and liked the idea of the UN “stuff”. I got a BA in anthropology, but through some trial and error in my 20’s found that fundraising for nonprofits really suited me and connected to those 17 year old dreams. But there was no way someone telling me at 17 about fundraising would have remotely appealed to me.

            I get the concept of pushing for specific degrees that have obvious professional tie-ins, but there are so many ways a BA in something at career unspecific as anthropology can lead someone to a desk job.

            1. A Non E. Mouse*

              The degree I hold has absolutely nothing to do with my day-to-day job – in fact none of the people in my department hold a degree related to our actual field.

              I told our son that honestly the years earning the degree are basically just getting a pre-req for life out of the way (a degree does open doors, whether or not it SHOULD), and allowing yourself a few more years to mature on your parents’ dime.

              But we are also very clear that if he’s not a student (even part time!) somewhere, then he’s a full fledged adult and will be learning how to fly, because we will be kicking him out of the nest.

              It’s his path to pick, but only one includes my financial support.

          6. Ra94*

            While I think OP’s approach in this case is very sensible, I’m not sure I like your framing here. 17-year-olds are one year away from adulthood, and making financial support conditional on a specific school or program seems pretty controlling to me. Parents should certainly give advice, and they don’t have to pay for anything ludicrous (an obviously terrible school or the like), but choosing a college and a major is a big first independent step.
            In the case of the rock star dreams, I also think there’s a difference between ‘believing in’ someone and financially supporting them. You can encourage someone’s musical ambitions while saying they’ll need to get a day job to support themselves.

            1. Anonymous at a University*

              I also think it depends a lot on how often the student changes their mind. My parents were upfront with my brother that they would pay for four years at the college he chose and he could major in whatever he wanted. He ended up changing his mind four times- business to real estate to marketing to accounting- and then in his senior year he discovered that what he really wanted to do was computer science and he could complete this degree in another two years. He went to our parents, and they said, “Wonderful! Start looking up financial aid, because we’ve paid for four years and that is the deal.”

              My brother got his degree and is now a very well-paid IT tech, and he had minimal student loans he has already been able to pay down. But even if that wasn’t the case, I would think my parents were being absolutely reasonable by not paying for two more years of college, especially since they couldn’t know for sure that computer science wouldn’t be another, “Whoops, I changed my mind” kind of thing.

              1. Ra94*

                Yeah, I think that’s very reasonable. I feel like there’s a big difference between saying, “We’ll pay for X years or $X of education” upfront and letting the child choose, and saying “You either do the major I want you to do or I’m not paying for it.” To me, that’s using the power of your money to control someone’s choices, and that’s not what adult life is about.

        4. Socrates Johnson*

          I mean, if they are paying for it, they basically get a lot of say. And it’s not like they are saying they were paying for college and then she’s on her own. They basically are committing to supporting her for 6 or more years of additional schooling. And college offers a lot more than just a degree.

        5. Valprehension*

          Most people can only afford to bankroll so much schooling (if they can afford to back any at all…). It’s fair to prioritize where they want to put their money beyond “whatever you want, child of mine!” That’s called parenting, to be honest.

        6. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          This was my take. OP, please stop comparing her interests in food and fashion to your hobbies.
          “I’d like to make a career out of my hobbies, too, but I prefer a paycheck.” can be rephrased into something like, “those are two very different interests. I think culinary school is the better option for cooking, but for fashion you should look at colleges with fashion programs and find out what kind of careers those degrees lead to.”

          1. Yavie*

            Except from OP’s comments here, her interests in food and fashion have NOT risen above the level of hobbies. Doing something occasionally and when you feel like it, according to your own personal standards, is very different than doing it 40+ hours a week (and 60+ is more realistic for both those fields), to professional standards, while trying to live on a very tight budget because salaries in the field are not what anyone would call generous and/or you’re in a high CoL area because that’s where the jobs are and it’s a highly competitive field.

            Getting some work experience (as OP has mentioned they are guiding her to do) is an excellent way to find out if she really wants to work in a particular field, or just wants to keep it at the level of a hobby with maybe eventual graduation to a side-hustle or similar. Exploring what careers are available in the field, and what the day-to-day reality of those careers looks like, will also be very helpful.

            I was a horse girl. I loved horses, and was fortunate enough to have parents who could support me in pursuing that. I actively pursued opportunities and contacts that would lead to a professional career, and essentially was training and competing full-time spring through fall throughout high school. I was in demand to train and show horses for other people in the community, including training for and giving lessons to women more than old enough to be my mother. I had multiple apprenticeship offers by the end of high school.

            I still walked away. I went to college and got a bachelors and now I’m an admin assistant with a plain old desk job. I don’t regret it. By the end of high school, I had been around enough professionals in the field to know that I did not want the kind of lifestyle it demanded. Similarly, fashion and restaurant work are both highly competitive fields with a lot of demands beyond just liking to cook or to design and sew. Until a teen has a better idea of just what kind of lifestyle they’re signing up for, they need to be encouraged to explore and keep their options open and not get too fixated on one course, with the understanding that they can pursue their interests as hobbies regardless of career field.

            My parents wisely encouraged me to keep my options open throughout it all, consider other fields, and required to me get a traditional bachelor’s degree if I wanted them to continue supporting me financially beyond housing me. They didn’t let my “passion” lock me into a specific career path that would leave me unprepared for any other field. They discussed the very real financial pitfalls of pursuing a career as a horse trainer. They didn’t tell me to “follow my dreams”. They encouraged me to think about what life would be like if I pursued a given career, and made sure I understood the risks and demands of that field.

            Many, many people like fashion and/or food. Very few people enjoy the demands of working in restaurants or fashion design.

            1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

              I agree. I’m saying that OP needs to help her daughter recognize it’s not all cookbook signings and red carpets. I’m just feel that the word hobby is going to make her daughter defensive and double down on something that she really doesn’t fully understand at this point in her life.

    2. Anon for this.*

      Also…like…For many people getting a B.A. is not going to vocational school for white collar jobs. It’s a time to learn how to think! Which is why liberal arts colleges with no major/minor course of studies turn out interesting, well-rounded graduates who go on to do anything from being pastry chefs and vintners to scientists and SAHM parents.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yes!! I can’t stand when people assume the point of a college degree is to come out the other end end regurgitating facts and following set processes taught in school.

        I’m obsessed with the Bon Appetit videos on Youtube. Half of those chefs got degrees in art history! It does make sense for part of their role because they do work for a magazine, but it may also be what makes them more well-rounded chefs.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        In theory, it’s learning how to think. In reality, it’s a document proving that you’re a nice upper-middle-class suburban white kid who will fit in nicely at the cubicle farm.

        1. Yavie*

          a) It’s pretty racist and classist to assume that all college students are upper-middle-class suburban white kids.

          b) …have you seen how weird college students are?

          You might want to get that chip on your shoulder checked out by a qualified professional.

          1. Anonapots*

            I’m not sure if your first comment is pointing out that a lot of POC go to college and it’s racist to assume otherwise or if you’re actually saying Junior Assistant Peon is being racist towards White people, but either way maybe take a deep breath.

            1. Junior Assistant Peon*

              To clarify, the point I was trying to make is that companies are using a requirement of a college degree as a socially acceptable way of keeping non-white and poor kids out of entry-level office jobs.

              1. Yavie*

                Except that’s neither universally true nor what you said.

                Colleges do, in fact, teach a lot of valuable skills that are relevant to a large number of career fields regardless of exactly what major someone got. Denigrating college graduates by saying that college doesn’t teach critical thinking skills and is just a piece of paper to show that someone’s white and middle-class (when it is a provably false statement) just communicates that you are bitter and judgmental about college graduates.

                1. Anonapots*

                  Junior Assistant Peon isn’t wrong. There is a lot to be gained from college, but it isn’t the only way to learn critical thinking skills. More importantly, however, is that there is something to be said about a college degree just being a box to check off rather than an investment of time and money into a vocation. In fact, the whole question proves that by being about a “back up” degree and the number of people saying she could just go get a business degree because you can do almost anything with it. Additionally, while there are a LOT of POC who go to school and get degrees, there’s a reason so many universities have programs set up for first generation college students and why so many of the students who participate in those programs are POC. It’s not because POC don’t or can’t go to college; it’s because we recognize there is an intersection of classism and racism in the US and where that intersection meets, there are people, frequently POC, who don’t have access to college or the cultural capital to pursue it.

            2. Yavie*

              I thought it was pretty clear that I was pointing out that both PoC and lower-income people do, in fact, go to college, and it’s pretty rude to denigrate people’s accomplishments in the way Junior Asst. Peon did, especially when someone does so by erasing the accomplishments of people in marginalized groups.

              Employer requirements of a college degree may not always be reasonable, but that doesn’t make it okay to take potshots at people for getting a college degree.

          2. cee*


            Also, if you find the right school for you and actually put something into your classes, then you can 100 percent learn how to think in practice, not just in theory.

    3. Linda Evangelista*

      I started in music performance (and was super adamant that That Was It), and now I’m in a completely different field. Super happy doing what I’m doing now! But my parents pushed me to consider bigger universities over small music conservatories, and I ended up at one of the big universities, extremely grateful that I did because it made my major switch a lot simpler.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        A friend’s daughter told everyone at her HS grad party that she was majoring in theater. 3 months later, she was majoring in pre-pharm. She ended up getting her pharmacy doctorate and an MS in biochem or something. These stories are why we parents do not trust the 17 y.o.’s passion pursuits.

        1. Viona*

          I know of only one person who ended up in the career they wanted at 18 for their entire life. Of course, they were killed in action in Iraq when they were in their 40s.

          Otherwise, it’s pretty much the norm now to have multiple career tracks during a lifetime. A flexible skill set and ability to transition from place to place and industry to industry is one of the key skills needed in the next 100 years.

          We don’t know yet what jobs will be disrupted, if not absolutely eliminated, by changes in technology and globalization. In 3010 there may be no pastry chefs, but pastry bots and machines.

          If you look at jus throw much has changed int he age of the iPhone, it’s difficult to say for certain what, if any, career path is guaranteed to remain viable. Even doctors and lawyers are being replaced with AI. So too are ditch diggers. It’s everywhere.

          One thing I’d warn LW and her daughter is: don’t assume anything she chooses is safe, constant, or the correct path. I dont’ think there is one anymore.

        2. Anonapots*

          So what? Most people don’t get a degree and work in that career their entire lives. It just doesn’t happen like that anymore.

          Seriously, I have worked with this age bracket for 7 years and the things you are all worried about aren’t really that big of a deal.

        3. Your friend's daughter's experience is common but you're approaching it wrong*

          I went into college for secondary ed, switched majors to journalism, and ended with an English degree. Talking about 17 year olds like they are universally idiots who don’t know how to pick a career track might be a safe bet, but I would advise the parents in question here to let their kids pick what they want to do rather than racking up tens of thousands in debt on a degree they will perhaps never use.

          1. Avasarala*

            Yesssss I see so many people here acting like 17 year olds are flighty idiots, instead of smart young people experimenting as they set the direction of their lives. Dog forbid someone with limited life experience outside of school structure try a few different things before settling on something they have to love and be good at for decades.

            If we could rewind and hear everyone here’s opinions at 17, they would have been “follow your passion” and “your parents should pay for you to experiment, how are you supposed to afford it on your own.” Not “do something useful or don’t go” and “you get four years and that’s IT”.

      2. ErinFromAccounting*

        Pretty much the same. I got a BFA in dance, realized that I’d rather have a stable living, and then was able to quickly get my masters in another field and make the switch. It would have been so much harder without that bachelors degree!

    4. Quill*

      I also know an ex chef who had to quit the business in her 20’s because of the physical toll it took on her body.

    5. another Hero*

      OP1 – I worked in pastry and transitioned out of it for similar reasons; I just didn’t want to be working under those conditions when I was much older.

      Also a hard yes to noting that pastry work in a professional kitchen is rarely creative work day-to-day. Most places serve largely the same things most of the time, and the bulk of the work is very repetitive. Some of us like that, but if your kid is drawn to baking as a creative outlet, she probably won’t find the pro baking experience everything she’d hoped.

      Finally, and hugely: consider this a strong vote against culinary school. I never went and always got jobs in that field easily based on my work experience; I know people who did go and regretted it. Your kid should get some work experience in a kitchen before deciding to go; either she’ll see a path forward without it or, perhaps, she’ll see where it’ll have value for what she hopes to do in the end. But work experience in a kitchen isn’t that hard to come by, and she should start there.

      1. JSPA*

        A stream of culinary schools in my area have sequentially been shut down or gone under while under investigation for mislead practices, fraud, etc. Ditto cosmetology. Read up on the sordid history of for – profit schools (including on this site) and resulting degrees that are actually an embarrassment to claim. Really impressive culinary schools are few and far between, and their requirements are stringent.

        1. JSPA*

          If it’s legal in your state, see how she does on an early morning French bakery shift in the summer (or something equally edifying but physically punishing). Per OSHA, I don’t see anything federal that would stop her working 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. “bakers hours” as soon as she’s 17. You can’t do pastry by designing colors and shapes, if you don’t know and control the quality and properties of your raw materials, and if you can’t produce to someone else’s standard. Worst case scenario, within a couple of weeks she will have some skills that serve just about anyone well… and a better sense of what she DOESN’T want to do.

    6. Junior Assistant Peon*

      A lot of foodies are clueless about running a business, which is why so many restaurants fail. A degree in business would give her a huge advantage if she ever manages a bakery.

      1. Viona*

        As a lawyer, I’d say that’s true for any business you run yourself. I know a lot of lawyers who kill in the courtroom, but don’t have very high take-home pay b/c they have no idea how to run the firm as a business.

        In her parents’ shoes, I’d require an undergrad degree in something business related. It could be accounting, economics, business, public relations, marketing. Doesn’t matter as long as the girl learns realistic, applicable skills.

        Then she can get a post-college course or grad degree in what she wants to try out.

        Also, I know several well-regarded and some famous chefs in Los Angeles. The toll that working in a food industry is massive and most of them don’t end up making bank. Most of them would be better off doing something else with their lives. There was a NYT article a few years ago about Mark Peel loosing his money, his restaurant, and his health all in a few short years. This is a man who was revered in the LA foodie scene then. Cautionary tale about the industry if ever there was one.

        If daughter is really serious about working in the food industry in any capacity, she needs to spend a summer working grunt work in a kitchen with an asshole for a boss. Because that’s often the norm, not the exception. If she still wants to do pastry or other food industry work after real world experience, then that’s something.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          You’re right that the activity/business conundrum is true across the board. It is very common for people to think: “I love baking; I’ll open a bakery!” or “I love yoga; I’ll open a yoga studio!” or “I love design; I’ll open an ad agency!” The problem is that when you open a business, your primary job is to run a business, not bake cookies, do yoga, or come up with ad slogans. Business skills can be learned in business school or on the job, but they do have to be learned. The alternative is a business that works suboptimally or not at all.

          1. Viona*

            I have a hobby I’m very good at that’s a form of art one can exhibit. I’ve been asked to do so, to sell myw work, to do commissions. I’m very, very picky about when I take up these offers. Why? It’s a hobby I enjoy, I don’t want to become a job I loathe.

            I have many friends who are creatives who are the same. They have a job they do for money, but pursue their passions as hobbies.

            That’s one thing I’d recommend to LW wrt to teaching their daughter. Learn to distinguish a hobby you love from an interest that can be turned into a career.

            1. Salamander*

              I’m reading a book now – it’s Cal Newport’s SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU. The gist of it is that research shows that people are happier if they pursue what they are good at, not what they are passionate about. It’s a huge revelation for me.

              1. Salamander*

                That should say: “pursue careers in what they are good at, not what they are passionate about.”

        2. Salamander*

          This, so much. It would be really ideal for her to spend some time working in a restaurant. Some people clearly love it, but I spent a lot of time working in restaurants when I was a teen, and I decided that it was not something I wanted to do long term. Heck, I don’t even want stainless steel appliances in my house because it reminds me too much of restaurant kitchens.

          I don’t know much about the industry, but perhaps LW1’s daughter might be able to get a part-time job doing alterations at a wedding dress retailer. It would allow her to get hands-on with sewing and meeting client needs.

          If she’s interested in fashion, perhaps she should look at the college trajectory one needs to take in order to become a retail fashion buyer. It might also help for her to work a part-time job retail in a place that sells garments so that she develops an understanding of what that end of the business is like. Working retail isn’t glamorous, but one does learn some interesting things about the life cycle of clothes, dealing with customers, etc.

          1. JSPA*

            See if Alterations Express (or similar) will hire under 18’s? Again, if you can’t pin, handle a sewing machine, hem, take in, let out, add snaps or buttons (etc) you simply don’t have the minimum knowledge to CONSIDER being a designer. These are not things you go to college – level classes (and pay college – equivalent tuition at some diploma mill) to learn!

      2. Laura*

        I agree. I know someone who wanted to be a plumber but his parents insisted he get an accounting degree first so he would understand the financials when he went into business for himself.
        I’ve told several people recently that understanding the financials is never going to hold you back and may help in unexpected ways.

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Sheeeet. I’m an English major who is now a statistician most of the time. And I came to it round about as an EMT to pay for college, and then discovered if you can do stats and write about them cogently you have the world at your feet (albeit not a super rich world). Life takes you funny places

      1. GGG*

        I’m an English major who has spent most of her career at a multi-national engineering firm. If you’re the only person in the building who can write a compelling paragraph, you get a lot of interesting opportunities.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Hrmph. I’m an engineer who can write a compelling paragraph. Still, coming at it from the other side, I do agree with you. Being technical, literate, and able to communicate offers a lot of opportunities. Over 20 years, I have had five different functional roles within engineering firms (a couple of them twice). I have some colleagues who have stayed on the engineering side for the same period of time. It’s good that they have a career that suits them, but I like being able to do lots of things.

        2. Serenata67*

          People thought I was weird getting a double major in English and Computer Science. I’m a technical writer now. The other people on my team are either hard-line writers who don’t get the tech, or tech-heads who can barely write. It’s good to have a unique skill set.

          If she’s good with food and writing, there’s a world of cookbook ghostwriting and co-writing she could feasibly get into. Michael Ruhlman has made quite a life for himself that way.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        ^^^ This. It’s a sufficiently rare skill-set (that you and I share :) ) that can lead to some interesting careers.

      3. sofar*

        Fellow English major here! Working in a marketing-ish role, currently (have had a round-about career that’s taken me through publishing, journalism and a few other detours).

        My degree taught me how to think critically and write clearly. Turns out, lots of roles need someone who can say, “This very important public-facing document is not accurate, and does NOT communicate what you think it does.”

        My minor in college also made my course load somewhat math-heavy, too. Being comfortable with analyzing data to tell a story and notice patterns (and communicate those results) is helpful in many careers. Even if you yourself can’t do all the nitty-gritty calculations, knowing what you want and how to ask an expert for it is invaluable.

    8. Arjay*

      I’m the cautionary tale here. I dropped out of college as a teenager and have struggled with going back. Dropping out was the right decision for my mental health at the time, but I should have gone back much sooner and finished. I still only have an AA, and that has held me back in my career. I hope to be one of those inspiring Yahoo! stories about walking the stage when I’m 70 to get my BA at last.

    9. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      My BIL is a pastry chef, and he had multiple repetitive stress injuries by his early 20s. But because restaurants often don’t have enough employees to make health insurance cost-effective, if he had a work-provided plan it was a bare-bones high deductible one, and if he didn’t, he was buying a high-deductible one off the ACA exchange. So he also lacked the medical care to get these injuries attended to in time, and they’ve kept getting worse.

    10. Serenata67*

      She can also get a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts, if that’s her dream. She’ll take a variety of general education courses and likely some hospitality classes on business management and finance, too. That way, if she goes into culinary arts and decides to go back to school and get another degree in something else, she will have gen eds that will likely transfer and can pull off that new bachelors in less time. Or, she’ll already have a bachelors and could go into a master’s program for something else. (You don’t need a bachelor’s in finance to get a master’s in finance. It helps, but it’s not 100% necessary.)

      1. Serenata67*

        BTW, I’m married to a man who has an associates degree in culinary arts. He loves being a chef, but it’s hard on his body and he doesn’t know if he’ll be physically able to do it until he’s old enough to retire. He wishes he had the bachelor’s degree in culinary arts so he’d have a clearer path to transition into something like inventory management, product sourcing, staff management, etc. But it’s definitely me that carries the family financially; pastry chef isn’t exactly a lucrative career, unless you get into that upper echelon. And having a bachelor’s in culinary arts will give her a leg up on her competition when she’s starting her career.

  3. DreamGiver*

    #1 The thing that strikes me here is that your daughter has a couple of different ideas of things that she might like to do for a living – she’s still exploring her options. I would gently tell her that university is the best place to explore your options and learn more about a wide range of subjects! I think I would come down on the side of you letting her eschew college, if for instance, she’d expressed for a long time that the food industry was the only industry she was interested in working in, and that it was the only career path she saw for herself. In such a case I’d probably suggest just fostering that enthusiasm and letting her enrol in culinary school (after all, the world will probably always needs chefs/bakers.) But that’s not the case here. In this case, it’s kinder to her to help her to understand that choosing one thing means saying goodbye to another dream, and that university gives her some time to work through what it is she actually wants. She can probably find a college program where she can work a hospitality job and also, as you say, do costuming as well. It’s going to be a lot harder for her to get any sort of costuming experience when she’s in culinary school.

    1. Pony tailed wonder*

      You could also see if you could introduce her to people in those professions to see what their day to day looks like, what they did to get to their career, what education would be handy, etc. I work at a university that has degrees in both fashion design and hotel / restaurant management. You can also page through the Occupational Outlook Handbook to see more information. I think it is online now.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        The friendly readable version of the OOH is Very useful. My students find it eye-opening.

      2. Viona*

        I’ve had so many high school kids shadow me for a week as a lawyer b/c they were 100% sure that’s what they wanted to do. Once they figure out it’s not courtroom fun, but a lot of drudgery and often very annoying clients, they choose something else quickly.

    2. Spoiler alert*

      I disagree that college/university is the best place to explore these options.

      The best place to explore these options is by actually trying these types of jobs! What about a gap year with a few short internships/volunteer positions, that type of thing. That way she can get a taste of what it’s actually like to do the things she is interested in, and then decide what she wants to pursue immediately.

        1. Helena*

          You would get “real design experience” at a university or art school studying Fashion Design with industry placements/internships (see LCF mentioned above).

          You certainly won’t get an internship with no qualifications. There are so many people chasing these jobs that employers can take their pick of candidates, and an unqualified 17yr old doesn’t have much to offer. I’d also wonder how competitive her portfolio is right now – unlikely to be as good as somebody who spent three years in Fashion school working on it. You might get a job as a receptionist or admin in the industry with no qualifications or experience, but again, these are competitive jobs because lots of people have that same idea.

          1. Aly_b*

            She could almost certainly get a job in a bakery or hotel kitchen though. Possibly not as a pastry chef per se, but she’d see the daily rhythms of working in that field, hear what people doing it think about it, etc. And she comes out a few bucks ahead instead of with thousands poured into it.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          University theater departments rely on students for design and execution. Before you can design well, you need to know how materials work when you try to fit them together. That’s going to be an option in pretty much any university, though one with a drama / theater major would have more options for a design student.
          Many universities have a food science major. One of the larger universities in my state has food science internships with local chefs, including a Beard award winner.

          Universities are not the *only* path for this experience (our local community college system’s got some good basic cooking classes, if you want to learn knifework, for example), but they are a valid option, if you pick one that’s got an industry program.

        3. Sunflower Sea Star*

          My daughter studying theater/costume design would disagree with you. She’s done lots of hands on design in her coursework, has done internships where she’s had real life experience, and is lead designer fully responsible for designing her own show as her capstone project.
          And that’s at the undergrad level.

      1. DreamGiver*

        I didn’t say college was the best place for her to explore these options independently, as in, if she wants to work in the food industry, obviously college isn’t the best place for that. What I meant was that college was a great place for her to explore ALL the things she wants to do, simultaneously. She can study art and food science and do costuming work, etc. Its a solid period of safety for figuring out what you love and who you want to me. Like I said, if she knew for a fact which of the things she wanted to do, I would encourage her to study/work in that area.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That’s a really, really expensive way to explore what you like, though. Honestly, I wouldn’t advise anyone to start a university degree without a solid idea of what they’re going to do – what major are they going to pursue, what they can do with it when they finish, and what options there are for changing direction mid-way through. Spending a couple of years taking a bunch of random courses that you think are interesting tends to lead to six year long degrees (because you actually need to finish enough courses in a major to get a degree), or having a degree on paper that has no particular practical application or direction.

          In the case of the OP’s daughter, she could do a major adjacent to her interest, (or do a design degree outright, with some attention to practical courses), do a double major with a practical side, or do a straight up practical degree while getting involved with theatre on campus.

          1. Cat*

            I think not starting a degree unless you know what you’re going to do is way way too narrow. The fact is it’s likely to further your career one way or another and teach you about what you want to do. That doesn’t mean you take random classes for six years either, of course. There’s a middle ground.

            1. Potsie*

              Yep. I think exploring what you want to do in college is very common. She has two potential careers in mind so she should think about what her end goal is. Does she want to own her own bakery? Maybe she should get a business degree so that she understands the costs and how to price her services. Take some fashion classes. Join clubs that involve baking and/or clothing design. If she were completely aimless then maybe a gap year would be a better idea or go to community college and start on general requirements while deciding your next move.. Also, her parents are paying for it. Exploring your options isn’t a good reason to go into debt, but if you can afford it I don’t see why it is a bad idea.

            2. SarahTheEntwife*

              Agree — there are all sorts of career paths I explored in college that I might not even have known existed if I hadn’t gone into them. And since most of what I was interested in before I went to college was pretty academic-focused, college really was the best way for me to decide, for example, that I really didn’t want to be a college professor.

              You could absolutely make a solid argument that I should have gone to a community college or state school for the first couple of years, but luckily I was privileged enough to be able to afford private college, and the community there was probably the best possible place for me to learn the social skills I was going to need for any job.

            3. JM60*

              I think the best approach is to go into college with a good idea of what you want to do, as well as a possible B and C plans, but remain open. There are some fields that are difficult to get into if you don’t plan on getting into them early in your college education.

          2. ugh*

            This is a very weird perspective to hear from someone calling themselves AcademiaNut. You think that nobody should go to college unless at age 17 they can tell you exactly how their chosen degree is going to help them make money? What do you mean a “degree on paper that has no practical application” – what’s an impractical degree? Everything but STEM? A university education isn’t a trade school.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I think it’s fair to caution against taking on six figures of debt if the product won’t be useful to you. Defining “useful” is totally personal, of course.

              If the LW is totally funding the four years of college, fine to insist. If she’s obliging her child to take on the equivalent of a whole-ass mortgage, then less fine.

              1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

                Six figures of debt is an outlier, though. Again with all things, there is middle ground.

                The state school I got my graduate degree from is currently $15k/year for in-state tuition. If LW1’s daughter is as academically gifted as stated she will get good scholarships to places like Northern _State_ University and it won’t even be that much.

                1. Valprehension*

                  But people also have living expenses while attending school. On top of $60k tuition, you’ll easily get up to six figures if you want to eat food during those 4 years, and y’know, have a place to live, and stuff.

                2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  Val got there first: tuition is only half the story. A demanding degree course will leave only minimal opportunities for paid work to make up the difference.

                3. Jen2*

                  Even in your example, that’s $60,000 for 4 years tuition alone (assuming the price is locked in). There’s probably a good chance that room and board, books, and fees would bring the total to $100,000.

                  Plus, academic talents alone aren’t enough to get scholarships. You typically have to have more unique talents or disadvantages.

                4. Risha*

                  Unless things have changed drastically since I was in college (which, to be fair, may be true), housing, food, books, supplies, and other non-optional expenses were easily 75% of my total cost. Unless Northern State University is just down the street from her house and has no on-campus living requirement, that’s not going to seem cheap for long.

            2. Veronica Mars*

              But… college is literally an investment. A very expensive investment. Its totally reasonable to suggest that people understand what their investment can give them before they take on debt (or spend their parent’s money).

              I’m not saying you have to know you want to be Senior TPS Generator at BigCorp before you start your degree. But understanding in practical terms how much you can make and what your job prospects are is incredibly reasonable and practical. So many people chose degrees because they liked the subject matter, and then learn the hard way that real life after college is nothing like they expected. By then, its usually too late.

            3. Dust Bunny*

              Side note: I know more than one person who went to a trade school, too, and then didn’t end up using the skills for whatever reason. Granted, it’s not the same level of tuition, but it’s not a guarantee that the outcome will be useful, either.

            4. Jules the 3rd*

              I’m currently researching colleges for my kid (ok, 5+ years in advance, but I’m making sure the $$ is there for him) and you can get a quality education for under 6 figures in most US states. You do have to accept compromises (eg graduate in 4 years, live at home instead of apt, maybe bring some community college credits), but average cost, US public in-state, is $25K / year. Someone’s paying under that average. And even for people being charged that much, there’s grants and scholarships, especially if the parents make under $60K.

              The student loan crisis is real – we won’t have our loans paid off before the kid’s in college – but we should not be discouraging people from going to college, we should be supporting them in finding paths that work for them once you look at the whole picture, including goals, dream, and ROI. (And, yeah, also working for free public undergrad, yes, please Bernie / Elizabeth, all the cool kids have it and it’s working great for them…)

              For OP – I’d recommend requiring college, program of their choice, but start this year with summer classes at a local community college (my local cc has an ‘Hospitality Event Coordinator’ certification, which has a lot of transferable skills), or some kind of ‘paid but in the environment’ job, even if it’s just working in a local restaurant kitchen. This takes your kid’s interest seriously, gives them real experience and a look at the work.

            5. AcademiaNut*

              You need *a* plan. It might change, but the days of going to university because getting a degree lets you walk into a good job are over. There are too many kids who come out after four (or five, or six) years of university with a degree and a load of debt and then say “Wait a moment. What do I do now?” And I know too many who did first year three times in different subjects – again, really expensive exploration.

              I do think that any degree can lead to interesting work, but some degrees are more focussed towards jobs than others. Engineering, for example, is very job oriented, so it’s reasonably clear what sort of work you can do after. If you’re doing a major in Art History, you should stop and think about the career options actually are, and what things other than straight up Art Historian it can lead to, otherwise leaving school is going to be a real shock. Then there are the focussed but hard to break into fields, like the OP’s daughter is interested in.

              So yes, at 17 years old, anyone starting a university degree should have a plan for what courses they are going to take, what sort of degree they can be the start of, and some idea of what kind of jobs the degrees they are considering can actually lead to. “Go to university and spend $20,000 a year figuring out what you like to do” is up there with “Do what you love and the money will take care of itself” in terms of practical advice. Great if money isn’t a concern, problematic if supporting yourself financially is a priority.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                And to add – deciding that you’re going to do a general liberal arts degree as a foundation for a variety of jobs, with the expectation that you may need a year or two of career specific training afterwards, is a reasonable plan. It means you’ve thought about what happens after graduation, and what sort of path you’re taking through university.

                I will also add that there are a lot of degrees where you can’t wait until part way through the degree to choose and still graduate in four years. STEM courses in particular can have a lot of pre-requisites, and fairly demanding sets of required courses. Switching from education to geography half way through, or English to history, can be a very different proposition than switching from education to physics – the latter means repeating most of the first two years of the degree to catch up.

                As a student I was also looking at things from the perspective of someone paying my own way through school. The sticker price of self-exploration through university would not have been something I was willing (or able) to pay.

          3. PhyllisB*

            I was going to suggest getting involved in college theater. If she goes to a university, there are probably classes in costume history and design, and the drama department is always needing people to work in these areas.

          4. Senor Montoya*

            That’s a good idea in theory, but many students think they know what they want to study — they’re sure! they’ve been focused on it for years, literally! They are smart and good at the relevant coursework!

            Then they get to college and start taking introductory courses and WHAM! Either they aren’t good at those courses *at the college level* or they don’t like doing them.

            Students who are undecided can in fact complete their degrees in four years (or close to it). They aren’t taking a bunch of unrelated, useless courses for years, unless they are not getting good advice from their school (quite possible, sadly) or they are self-advising.

            I’d say, find a school that offers opportunities in the areas the student says they are interested in AND that has a well-regarded advising program or first-year program or program for undecided students. Learn about the reputation, find out what the elements of the program are — don’t just go by the institution’s hype.

            Also, nothing wrong with taking a gap year or two for a student to explore interests and to work (= earn money, pay mom and dad rent even if it’s a token amount, etc.)

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              IS ME.
              At 16: Politics or Chemistry. Chemistry is cooooooool, but so is a Presidency
              At 17 – 20: Chemistry? Still cool, but wait, there’s linguistics, and history, and economics, and poli sci, and computers, and…
              At 21: Graduate with BA Poli Sci / Econ double major

              I spent a couple of years in retail mgmt (BA *very* useful), then went into computers – tech support, sys admin, internet developer (BA no use at all). Learned some on the job, some in community college classes.

              At 29: Grad school / MBA – I love project management and supply chain. BA useful.
              At 49: Taking Python / stats, looking at moving to data science / analytics.

              I am firmly on the side of ‘use school to check out things of interest’, though ‘school’ can be uni, high school, community college, employer training. The key to today is that you will never stop learning. A university degree gives a good base of general knowledge and deep practice in HOW to learn. My kid’s middle school is better at teaching how to learn than my middle school was, but I don’t know if that’s a universal ‘schools have gotten better’ or just that our current district is miles better than the one I grew up in.

            2. Quill*

              As someone who went into college with a double major and ended up in an industry I had no knowledge of in high school… and who also discovered in college that I can’t actually do the work in the fields I was interested in at 18, life happens and changes your course regardless of whether you were undecided or not.

              My primary argument against encouraging this girl to take a gap year (if in the US) is that a lot of scholarships and loans are only applicable if you go to college within a year of graduation, and tests that admissions require, like the ACT, may be ‘archived’ by the time she applies after the gap year.

              Internship and volunteering opportunities are going to vary wildly based on your location too, so the utility of a gap year is going to depend on that as well as finances.

              1. Meg Murry*

                But she CAN apply to colleges her senior year and then ask to defer admission for a year to take a gap year. Not every school offers this option, and it’s not always guaranteed that you’ll get in the next year – but it usually means you don’t have to start from scratch with the application process.

            3. Decima Dewey*

              That happened to my brother. He wanted to be a race car driver and went to college with automotive engineering as his major. Turned out he wasn’t suited for it, and the institution’s bureaucracy wouldn’t let him change his major until he brought up his grades in the area he was flunking in.

          5. WellRed*

            Well, most four year degrees have a core curriculum, don’t they? At least start knocking those out of the way.

            1. JM60*

              That’s certainly true for liberal arts degrees, but may not necessarily be true for others. There are some degrees (mostly in STEM) that are harder to switch into later in your college years.

          6. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think it’s safe to say that *most* kids are starting university without having a solid idea of what they’re going to do. That’s one of the main benefits of a liberal arts education. I would never for even a second in high school have thought that I would end up as an accountant but by taking my gen ed classes when I started college that’s where my path started taking me.

            And the point of both their question and Alison’s answer is that even if all you get is “a degree on paper that has no particular practical application or direction” that’s still an important thing to have because many, many jobs simply will not hire anyone without a bachelor’s degree.

            1. Fikly*

              Everyone doing something is not a good argument to do it, if what they are doing is a bad idea.

              I’m not saying she shouldn’t get a degree! I’m saying she should defer getting a degree until she has enough experience to get a degree that will be helpful in what she actually will want to do, so as not to spend upwards of 100k and then be back at square one.

          7. Socrates Johnson*

            If she has the money, why not? You learn so much by studying different subjects and having a variety of experiences at university. Study abroad was instrumental in making me who I am today – I loved a lot of the classes I took that weren’t in my major. They made me a better human, and a better employee because I learned how to LEARN and not just regurgitate facts.

          8. Anon4This*

            At 17, when I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do at all and chose a large, affordable state university with nearly 100 major options and a robust core curriculum that allowed me to sample classes without stalling out my graduation. I didn’t pick a major until I got a letter stating that I had to choose or couldn’t register for classes the next semester. I also live in a state with very generous acceptance and credit-transfer agreements between the statewide community college system and the public and private universities in the state and could have cut my college bill in half by doing two years there first.

            I have what my engineering and computer science classmates called “would you like fries with that?” degrees, and my degrees, while a bachelor’s is required for my job, have zero bearing on the professional career I’ve ended up in. I also know a LOT of IT professionals who majored in political science, English, and interdisciplinary studies, including my spouse (who’s major never fails to crack up his highly technical coworkers). All of us passed the six-figure mark between 5 to 10 years in the job.

            Unless you’re in a hard science or going into teaching, a lot of jobs don’t necessarily have a set major that prepares you for them. I hire new college grads – usually five to ten per year – in a well-paying professional position for which there is no requirement of major, nor do I find that the political science or chemistry majors are necessarily any better prepared for than the English and Women’s Studies majors (one of my best employees has the dreaded art history degree).

            I think it’s a lot to ask of a 17 or 18 year old to have their career and plan mapped out before they go to college. Having a cost/benefit conversation and one about possible careers? Sure. Not going into huge debt going to an out-of-state or private school without financial aid without a specific program that furthers a career? Absolutely. Looking to see if community college is a viable option? Yep. But my job didn’t exist at all when I was in college, and it’s only more recently, 20 years into the field’s existence, that academic programs specific to it are even available. If you’d told me in 1996 as a freshman that I was going to do what I do now, I’d have been either very confused or looking for your futuristic DeLorean. Very, very few people have their career path mapped out in their head at 18.

            1. Avasarala*

              Totally agree. My job nor my parents’ jobs existed when we respectively went to college, and colleges don’t train for our kinds of jobs. And how were we supposed to find out they existed by 17 years old, without being in the working world and seeing it firsthand? Between school itself, extracurriculars (which you need in order to get accepted to good schools nowadays), maybe a part-time job (again at something that will hire a minor, so maybe food service or babysitting), and hanging out with your friends and being 17–when are you supposed to map out your career?

              I think we are looking at the student debt crisis and getting tautological: because college is so expensive, kids need to know exactly what they want to do to justify this investment. That’s just not practical and is a weak workaround to the real problem. Instead I think it should be: college should be cheap so that kids don’t need to know exactly what they want to do, and can easily justify the investment.

        2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          She may also discover other career possibilities through study that she hadn’t really considered before. She’d likely be exposed to subjects that involve things like marketing, event management, graphic design… all fields that offer scope to get creative and open up more easily attainable jobs.

        3. Fikly*

          There are ways to explore all your options without spending tens of thousands of dollars in tuition though. Take a year, explore 4-5 things, for vastly lower sums of money.

          College doesn’t give you an idea of what it’s like to do anything. It gives you an idea of what it’s like to study many things, but that has little do with having a job in the field, unless you’re going into academia.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Assuming, the US for this OP, community college for her first two years. It’s cheaper than college and they have a variety of classes. She can take culinary classes while also taking English, history, etc. Most of the credits will transfer to a 4 year university.

            She can explore options while not accumulating debt. Going deeply into debt for a college degree means you have to take that office job, whether you want to or not, just to pay off the loans.

            1. OtterB*

              I was thinking community college also. Depends on what’s available, but it is a good way to explore some possibilities without much cost. Ours has student theater productions, a cafe run by hospitality students, etc.

              1. Fikly*

                But there’s still the effectiveness issue. Even if cost was equal, taking a class in something gives you essentially no idea of what it’s like to work in that field.

                You mention a theater production and a cafe, but the LW wants college for more “safe” fields. What on the job opportunities are there to explore those at a community college?

                1. Potsie*

                  The LW wants a four year degree since a lot of jobs require it even if it isn’t needed or related to the job. She specifically says she doesn’t care what major her daughter ends up pursuing. My sister has a job that has nothing to do with her college degree but she wouldn’t have gotten the job if she didn’t have a bachelors degree in something. It is a very stupid requirement in my opinion but it seems common.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  My local community college has internships in multiple fields, including hospitality and computers.

                  Separating ‘learning’ from ‘I need to keep this job in order to pay rent’ makes it easier to switch to new topics. I’d be… pretty shocked if OP’s 18yo kid could do a series of real jobs for 3mo outside of school-sponsored internships. Maybe a series of volunteer gigs (soup kitchen; local theater) in a gap year, but as a parent, I’d still be requiring them to supplement that with cc classes, and make a decision on uni in the spring.

                  In US society, the paper matters. We’re moving sloooowly towards a wider variety of paper being counted (ie, computer skills certifications), but that BA does still open doors, even doors in creative industries.

                3. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I did an associate’s degree (after earning my bachelor’s degrees) at the local community college (long story, short version is that I’m a nerd and would be a professional student, should I win the lottery – ask me about my for-fun master’s!).

                  My experience was that more community college classes were taught by adjuncts for whom this was a very part-time job. Many of them were industry professionals who took a much more practical approach to things than my four-year university professors and also invited other industry professionals to speak to us. I had a full-time job, so I did not pursue internships or career services, but I found the instructors/professors at community college to be better prepared to talk turkey about actually working in an industry and job opportunities than I did at university. Granted, these were subject-matter classes and not general education (I was waived out of English 101, freshman math, etc. by virtue of having completed them in undergrad).

            2. Shad*

              I obviously can’t speak to the quality of all programs, and I never took culinary classes at my local CC, only ate food. However, by that measure, my CC had a very good culinary program! They also addressed business aspects of the industry, running cafes on a couple of campuses where they sold their wares.
              It also provides a much cheaper way to explore not only careers that will require a 4-year degree, but also trades and paraprofessional careers in which a 2-year degree or professional certification may be sufficient. If she does go that route for a day job while pursuing her passion, those paraprofessional departments tend to have close ties with the local business community and work to connect students and graduates with work opportunities and (where applicable) continuing education.

            3. Senor Montoya*

              Just be aware that two years of community college does not always mean two years at a four year school to graduate. Even if everything transfers over, the four year school is going to have major requirements that may take more than two years to complete.

              Also, same issue I noted above re students coming straight from h.s. Students who think they know what they want to major in coming in with transfer credits from a cc, get to the four year school, discover they don’t actually like or can’t actually do the major coursework. Many cc’s will work with nearby universities or with the state system to establish a critical path of coursework to take at the cc. Students should ask their cc advisor about that.

              1. Jen2*

                Yeah, I think it takes incredibly careful planning and a good deal of luck to be able to translate 2 years of community college into 2 years of university. 2 years of cc + 3 years of university should still cost less than 4 years of university, but it’s not likely to be quite the savings you might expect, if you think you can do it in 4 years total.

              2. Yorick*

                Yeah, the major might have a number of class requirements that aren’t more than 60 hours (2 years full time), but you may not be able to take them in 2 years. For example, some upper-level courses are offered every other year in either Fall or Spring but not both.

                If you have an idea what you want to study and you can afford it, going to the 4-year institution from the beginning is probably best.

            4. Office Granola*

              +1 for community college.

              I was going to comment the same. A young friend of mine is doing this now. He’s 20 and started community college with a focus in creative writing while working at a restaurant. He found out right away what he liked and what he didn’t like, specifically that he liked his work and wanted to pursue culinary and dropped creative writing. All without getting into major debt.

              Also, it really depends on the kid. OP, will your daughter thrive more in community college setting where she puts together what she wants to do and working part-time vs. a 4-year school that often provides more structure? Helping her “try out” some of her dreams working in a bakery, volunteering at a community theater or interning with a tailor will give her more insight than just taking classes.

            5. J!*

              I came here to say this as well. A 4-year college/university is EXPENSIVE and a lot of time and work and stress invested. Community college would give her the opportunity to try out a bunch of different things at a much more reasonable cost, plus it’s possible to get an associate’s degree after 2 years and walk away with something for her effort. As opposed to leaving after a couple of years at a 4 year program and ending up with nothing but debt.

              My brother started out at a 4 year college because in my family that is the thing that you do, and he ended up failing out. He worked for several years, started over and got his associates at a community college, worked for a few years in that new field, moved on to a bachelor’s program, and was just accepted to a master’s program in his mid-30s. He’s happy now but it took a while to get there, and I wonder how it would have been for him if he’d started at the community college first and had time to figure out what he wanted without the pressure.

            6. Quill*

              Just be realistic about whether the credit hours will transfer, because that can be an issue if you decide to do two years in one spot, 2 years later.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                To address this issue, some states have created a cooperative agreement/partnership between the community colleges and universities. I live in Virginia, and there is a portal to show you what will transfer where (e.g., CC MATH 101 counts for MATH 1004 at Enormous State University and as MATH 115 at Smaller Liberal Arts College) as well as the admissions agreements for the four-years (e.g., complete a degree in teapot fabrication with Y.YY GPA and automatically be admitted to University A’s teapot design major). Here, the private universities (voluntarily) participate as well.

                This was really helpful to me, too, when I did an associate’s degree post-bac and had to cross-check my general education requirements. When I went to apply for the gen ed waiver for my AAS, I had a list of my completed undergrad classes that should count for each one of the community college’s gen ed requirements.

                This is definitely something to do your research on, though. I had a college friend lose a semester because he didn’t consult anyone on his CC class choices for his target transfer school and completed some that were at a lower level than what the university would accept – which was frustrating because the information was published on the internet.

                1. Quill*

                  I knew a bunch of people who were promised that a course at a local state school would be transferrable to the college I went to… Only to discover that because the state school thought a lab science was “three credit hours coursework, one credit hour lab” and our college called it “4 credit hours” and didn’t separate out the lab… it didn’t count properly.

          2. Sunflower Sea Star*

            Unfortunately, colleges are not set up for students to explore their interests any more. They push HARD for graduation in 4 years (probably because they are ranked on how many students do).
            This means that even the most basic, introductory classes in each major are only open to people who have committed to that major.
            When my oldest daughter went off to school, she had to choose a major *at orientation* and her classes were locked into that major.
            When my next went to a different college, she was “allowed” to be undeclared – but only for a single semester. I suggested she take a 101 level class from each of the three majors she was considering. That was not possible, as they were all limited to declared majors only.
            Sad thing is that these techniques actually made it take LONGER for her to graduate. She did general ed her first semester, declared major A for the second so she could take the introductory class, then switched to major B for a semester, then major C for a semester. Four semesters to explore her interests before she got to pick one.
            Then she decided on a major where you have to start with a cohort, so she had to wait ANOTHER semester.
            All in the name of “helping students graduate faster.”

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              hunh – thanks for letting me know about this, I’ll have to look into whether the schools here are doing that now. When I was in school, the first 2 years were pretty loose within large areas of interest (ie, humanities could take anything, but tech students needed to save at least one slot/semester for an extra math or tech class), and the second 2 years could complete a major / minor. You only had to go over 4 years if you flunked something, took less than a full load for multiple semesters, or switched major around y3.

            2. Yorick*

              I think it’s not too common for classes to only be available for students majoring in that area. At least, the 4 universities I’ve taught at had departments that were pretty desperate for more students to take classes, more students to be exposed to the material so they’d change majors, etc.

            3. NotAnotherManager!*

              The university I attended did not restrict intro level classes because a significant number of them could also be completed to satisfy core curriculum requirements. I checked with a cousin’s kid who is there now, that this has not changed and undecideds are strongly encouraged to take a sampling of intro classes to help pick a major. Other than engineering and architecture, it is only the junior- and senior-level classes tended to be restricted (or, at least, in-majors got registration priority).

              Of course, my university doesn’t even publish a four-year graduation statistic because (a) it has two large programs that are five years from point of acceptance to the major to graduation and (b) it has a really good cooperative program that places people in paid jobs for one or two semesters and enough students take advantage of that that it’s not uncommon to take five years to graduate.

            4. Cascadia*

              This is definitely not every college though. I graduated not too long ago and didn’t officially declare a major until my junior year. I also took classes outside of my major for all 4 years of school and never had any problem getting in or understanding the material in the introductory classes. I probably took classes in 20 different departments by the time I graduated.

          3. Socrates Johnson*

            Right, but that’s what makes college great. It’s just not going to get a job, it’s becoming a wellrounded person of the world.

            1. Fikly*

              There are vastly cheaper ways to become a well rounded person. Spending over a hundred grand to do so is either because you are incredibly priviledged, or so deceived as to think paying off debt for the rest of your life is worth that.

          4. Natalie*

            How are you envisioning an 18 year old with presumably limited job experience and a high school degree exploring a new career every 2-3 months? Outside of a structured program, I doubt a couple of months at entry level positions gives anyone any sense of what working long term in that field is like (assuming they can even get hired in the careers they’d like to explore).

            College is also, in my experience, about a lot more than just “studying the theory” from your ivory tower. Aside from coursework that more closely mimics career work, students generally have a ton of job opportunities in practically every department the college has (and at small colleges that involve a possibly surprising amount of responsibility), volunteer opportunities, and internships/J terms.

            1. Fikly*

              That’s exactly what I did, though. Volunteered at a variety of places for a couple months each, learned a lot about what it was actually like. Then made plans based on that.

              And given the masses of posts here from managers complaining about grads who have no career/work skills, I do not think your experience of college somehow teaching career skills is common. For example, college tests skills (the vast majority of the time) closed book. Jobs and life are open book. Whether you can memorize something is not relevant, the vast majority of the time. What matters is if you know how to find the information you need. But that’s not what you get graded or tested on.

          5. Yorick*

            She’s interested in 2 very different things. She could find a school that offers both, take some courses and join some clubs, and see what she likes best. And in the end, she’d have a BA or BS that will help her get all kinds of different jobs.

            The parents are paying, and they want her to do it, so in this case the money’s not a reason not to go.

      2. MsSolo*

        Yes – if you want to work in a restaurant, you need to start working in restaurants (especially if you’re thinking of becoming a chef, rather than, say, a baker). Kitchen hours are brutal, all the culinary school in the world won’t change the fact you’ll be starting out as a dishwasher, and you have to know if you can stick the culture (and, if you’re looking at working somewhere high end, you need someone bankrolling you while incredibly wealthy celebrity chefs have you ork two week ‘interviews’ for free). My BiL has worked as various levels of chef in several michelin starred restaurants, and he’s managed to save a fair whack towards opening his own restaurant because even though the pay is pretty scant the 100 hour weeks haven’t left him time to spend most of it.

        1. Amy Sly*

          I’ve mentioned this story before. The setting: 2011. I’m a licensed attorney, but I’m working at a shoe store for a former coworker who became a manager while I went to law school. A customer comes in asking for kitchen shoes, and in the course of building rapport, I accidentally trigger a rant about how he used to be a teacher where he was respected! And then he went to culinary school and they told him about how he was going to be such a great chef! And what’s the first job he gets in a kitchen? Chopping vegetables for $8/hr!

          I looked up from tying his shoes to explain, “Sir, I’m a lawyer.”

      3. Grey Coder*

        Agree, this sounds like a situation where a gap year would really help. So many jobs sound great but the day to day is not at all like what you would imagine from outside. And gap years are not that unusual (here in the UK at least) so it shouldn’t derail the standard timing for a bachelor’s degree.

      4. Derjungerludendorff*

        As someone who just finished college, I completely agree. College is not a magical land of experiences. And much the exploration is done through becoming independent, exploring your identity and just growing up in general.

        LW1 and daughter don’t seem to have a specific degree in mind, and in that case I’d be very hesitant to recommend college right now. It’s a pretty heavy investment of time and money. And like Allison said, most people don’t stick with the career path they chose at 17. So you’re probably better off not committing too hard to any one path right now.

        As for not putting it off too long: I think you’re still fine for a while. Daughter is still in her late teens when she graduates high school. She could easily spend several years doing other things and finding her path before college and still be well within the “normal” career trajectory.

      5. CupcakeCounter*

        The more people I talk to the stronger I believe in a gap year for HS graduates to either do some volunteer/travel on their own and/or work for a year. Essentially some “growing up” time especially for those who aren’t sure what they want to do. Career change is more and more common but it is difficult and, in some cases, expensive.
        I’ve posted a few times that when I graduated college during the recession I had more options than most of my classmates because, as an older grad, I had spent several years working. While my job had nothing to do with accounting, I had a work history showing 5 years of steadily increasing responsibility with the same company as well as several other multi-year jobs that showed progression. Compared to someone who’d never held a job in order to focus on their education and had only held one or two part-time internships I was the more attractive candidate. (BTW – not dissing internships as I think they are very valuable especially for certain fields)

        1. Colette*

          There’s a fine line. Some people will do better by working for a while – but others will get used to having money and free time and not want to go back (especially if they still figuring out what they want to do). That can make life a lot harder for them. Living on minimum wage is a lot easier when you’re 18 and living with your parents than when you’re 28 and have 2 kids.

        2. Quill*

          I feel like it would be a good thing, in an ideal world, but the current feasibility can vary wildly. Personally all of my ability to finance college depended on going immediately out of high school.

        3. BeckySuz*

          I really love the idea of a gap year as well. My little sister deferred for a year after high school, was an au pair in France, and absolutely loved that experience. She said it really helped mature her before taking on the responsibility of college. My little brother went straight to college and failed out of engineering school. Joined the marines and after a 5 year stint and a lot of growing up he’s back in school and killing it with a 4.0. Granted these are not universal experiences but definitely something I’ve mentioned to my 14 year old when she talks about what she wants to do with her life.

      6. Spreadsheets and Books*

        But there are a lot of jobs you simply can’t do without a college degree. Most accounting firms don’t want you unless you know how to read a P&L at a bare minimum. Sure, you can work in restaurants or volunteer in a museum or something but no one is going to let you wander around their engineering firm or try your hand at software development so you can see if that’s something you want to do.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              But being able to try out computer science or law as someone who has a high school degree and isn’t in college is a position of even more privilege. Being able to get ‘try out what you might want to do’ jobs straight out of high school generally depends on having parents who know someone who will let you clerk for them or something. (This isn’t necessarily the case for hospitality jobs, or if your desire is to work retail, but for a lot of jobs, yeah.)

      7. MatKnifeNinja*


        Two years out of her life working in the actual business, will give her a better heads up than sitting 4 years at any university. She’ll get to know very early hours, cranky bosses and even crankier clients. That may not be a deal breaker, Save the tuition money, until you are sure.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah and for what it’s worth, people change majors more often than you might think. My sister went into college thinking she’d do computer science, but lost interest, tried a few other things, and ended up with an undergrad degree in psychology and advanced degrees in speech pathology. If you go into culinary school and then realize you actually aren’t into this stuff as much as you thought, there’s more of a feeling of being stuck on that track, because switching majors requires switching schools.

    4. Allonge*

      This. If she were saying I want to be a pastry chef and only a pastry chef – culinary school would be the way to go. Chef or designer or [whatever] is absolutely normal at 17, but then please go to something more generic that will give you a broader view of what kinds of other options exist. Especially if you can afford it.

      Also: work as a passion can be great, but to have a job that you like and money and free time for your passion(s), is also a great way to live. For better or worse, a college degree usually helps with the money and job aspects.

    5. Mimosa Jones*

      Yes, and with two creative but very different career dreams, I see her as someone who could easily change her mind and so would benefit by attending a school where she has a chance to explore many career options. I’m part of a home family program for international students with our local university. One student had a blast exploring subjects she wasn’t able to pursue in her home country: German and music, among other things. She graduated in 4 years with a degree in finance. She spent a few years working and now she’s enrolled in a coding boot camp.

      I went to a small liberal arts college and my college experience coincidentally included dabbling in both costume design and culinary work. I liked the idea of costume and fashion design as a career and took a costume design class during a January term (a month long term where students take one class and are encouraged to explore different subjects) and got the chance to design the costumes for a lightly-staged choir production of a musical. And I worked in the food service bakery and could have established a relationship with the bakers and learned some things if that had been at all my dream. I did like the idea of food service management and was able to work in many different departments of the cafeteria and have an informational interview with the head of the food service. I majored in business with a music minor and work as a programmer.

      I also have a friend who had a very specific career dream that didn’t require a college degree. She was in college for an education vs job preparation; which I know is an opportunity not everyone has. She majored in something completely unrelated and then went to the specialty school and has that career.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Nesting fail… OP1 please look a long way down this page to my longer post about universities & colleges that offer 4-year bachelors in those subjects that thrill her.

    7. Veronica Mars*

      I actually wanted to push back strongly against LW’s advice. College is hard. People have to see the value in it for themselves if they are going to apply themselves, suffer through the really hard work, and actually get something out of it. Plainly put “just in case” isn’t good enough motivation for an expensive and long 4 year degree.

      Its not like this is the only time in her life she’ll be able to get a degree, so why not wait until she actually has a specific one she wants in mind and sees the value?

      My husband was forced to go to college “just in case”. 10 years later, he’s still hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for a degree he’s never used. Instead, he spent 5 years “finding himself” by working plenty of miserable jobs – food industry management, bike shop mechanic, etc etc. At least in that version of ‘finding himself’ he was getting practical experience and a paycheck.
      He ended up going to night school to get a welding certificate. Now he is happier than ever doing a job he loves every day, and is actually going back to college for management so that he can be a shop supervisor once the physical work gets to be too much for him.Which, bonus, his job is paying for!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        This is not the only time that she can get a degree, but it will be much much much easier now when she has no responsibilities and it sounds like her parents are planning to pay her way.

      2. Elliott Smith Song*

        Maybe community college for two years would be a happy (and more affordable) medium.
        There are also schools where she could take some design classes, business classes, and liberal arts classes and see what she likes before she declares a major. I actually know a number of people who went into design and other fashion careers but went to liberal arts colleges or universities where “fashion” was not a major. They studied art and business or were able to sort of create their own interdisciplinary major (would not recommend this to people who do not know exactly what they want to do and if you go down this path you also need a really good elevator pitch explaining what you studied). The people I know who didn’t go to design school also did internships to get their foot in the door. I would suggest looking at the specific classes that are offered at the schools she is looking at and trying to talk to current students with similar interests.

        As for culinary school, I know a lot less about this but I do have friends who were in the restaurant industry and did not have culinary degrees and climbed the latter in other ways. I definitely think that having some amount of experience in restaurants is important before committing to culinary school.

        1. Veronica Mars*

          Thats a good point. My brother ended up doing the community college path. Actually, I did too, as a more affordable way to get my general education requirements.

          My brother is not suited to a desk job but does realize that college degrees are pretty necessary for most things these days (we always thought he’d make a good warehouse manager or similar). So the happy medium for him was to work as a lot manager at a car dealership part time by day, and go part time for a 2 year community college degree by night. It was the right amount of studying time for him where he didn’t want to throw up his hands, and now he’s a pretty short put from a 4 year degree – if he ever decides he actually wants to go into a field that requires one.
          And bonus, because he was a student, it opened a lot more internship opportunities for him.

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        My husband went to college for geology, figured out he’s not suited to desk work, switched to a trade school, and is now a welder in the aerospace industry.

      4. Mockingdragon*

        It may be different if LW1 can bankroll college, though. I was a very Type-A kid, used to doing well, with anxiety issues and no real sense of the world. When my parents told me I was going to a 4-year college immediately after graduating high school and that was the only option….I went with it. I got a degree in Medieval Studies and worked retail for the next five years. But I didn’t have debt. There’s no way I could have kept at it if I were working my way through, but when I wasn’t the one putting the effort into making the money, it was easier to go along with what my parents wanted.

      5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I am also inclined to push back on this advice. I went to college with the intent of getting a white-collar”office” job, and due to the recession, ended up working in an unrelated field.

        When the economy picked up and I started applying for jobs that required a degree, I found that my unrelated experience put me out of the running, even though I had a degree. And that the degree requirements got hyper-specific in that time: you cannot be an administrative assistant for the HR department, without an HR degree. You cannot be the receptionist at an accounting firm, without an accounting degree. You cannot do entry-level medical coding, without a related degree.

        A degree is not a fallback option any more.

    8. Archaeopteryx*

      And make sure that before she super commits to something (and declines need to get a bachelor’s degree, even from a community college) that she really understands what the design are pastry jobs are like, both in the day today and in the overall career art and prospects. teenagers often have a great sense of what activities they like to be doing and a romantic determination to ignore any of the realities of what it takes to make money from doing that thing. i.e. “I want to be a Broadway actor but I refuse to work evenings and weekends and I hate instability between projects.” You have to be down for the whole package, or else the thing you love to do should just be your hobby. There’s a ton of pressure, particularly in the last 20 years or so, to validate the hobbies you love by making money off them. But If you’re not successful at your art as a career, that doesn’t mean you failed. Society bestowing you with money isn’t a direct measure of how good you are at something. So it’s not a defeat to consider the option of baking and fashion design as activities she likes to do on her own without going all in on them as jobs.

      1. JM60*

        This is why I think taking a year or two between high school and college to work makes sense. She should be able to find some job as a chef, and that may be enough for her to figure out that she doesn’t/does really want to make that her long term career. Unlike using college to figure out what careers you do/don’t like, this route is free (actually, better than free, as it pays)!

    9. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t understand how a degree in “apparel/costuming” helps the LW’s daughter get a fallback office job one day. This seems like the old fashioned idea that a college degree – any college degree – is better than a high school diploma and perhaps that’s still a tiny bit true especially if the LW and her husband foot the whole bill so the daughter graduates without any student loan debt. But recent college grads are struggling to find jobs in their fields. And entry level applicant with an apparel/costuming degree is not likely to beat out other applicants with degrees that included much more relevant education to the generic office job.

      I absolutely understand that its much easier to start college right after high school when your parents can help and you’re still in student mode and lifestyle. And the daughter might change her major 10 times while in college so getting her started could be the most important thing, but I am disappointed to see so much of the “college is great for everyone and it makes such a bright future” falsehood.

      Note: This is really situationally dependent. If the daughter is absolutely sure, college can be a waste of time and money. If the daughter is whimsical about her future, college can be a place for her to figure some things out given that it doesn’t sound like she will have to take out loans. But a gap year, understood to be only a gap year, where she works (not travels) could be a wonderful eye opening experience and good grounding allowing her to go into college with a better understanding of what the working world is like and what she wants to do for it.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        The idea that any college degree is better than a high school diploma is not at all old fashioned and is more true than ever.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yes. I know there’s a lot of advice that an expensive college degree isn’t worth it, but…. in many industries, they won’t even look at your resume if you can’t check that box. It sucks, it’s unfair, but it’s still true, and worth planning around. Heck, I know a few companies that help hook up freelancers/contractors with jobs and they don’t take applicants without a bachelor’s in something.

      2. Colette*

        The thing is, there are a lot of jobs that require a degree. They may not be “in their field”, but they’re not hiring people who don’t have degrees, even though the degree is not directly required for the work.

      3. Quill*

        Almost every job I’ve applied to in the last few years has not cared what you have a bachelor’s degree in, just that you have one… but it can be very industry specific. I’ve seen roles with very similar descriptions in similar industries (materials QC) require ‘high school diploma’ to ‘masters degree in any scientific field’

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        The US is highly dependent on a paper filling in a checkbox. We’re slooowly moving away from ‘that paper must be a BA/BS’ in some fields (eg computer certifications), but it’s hardening in others (eg BSN for nurses), and there’s really no other piece of paper that gatekeeps as many doors as a BA.

      5. Elsajeni*

        But it is, in general, true that an entry-level applicant with a degree in fashion design is likely to beat out applicants with no degree. And more to the point, I don’t think the OP, or most commenters, are suggesting that the daughter should get a 4-year degree in fashion/costuming, or in culinary arts — they’re suggesting that she get a 4-year degree in SOMETHING, in part so she can check off that “yes, I have a degree” box on future job applications and in part because it does sound like she’s undecided about her career and might benefit from exploring different fields of study (and for that same reason, I don’t think a gap year is a bad idea either!).

      6. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Apparel/fashion design programs also generally involve some business and retailing classes, btw – it’s got a practical component to it. There are quite a few employers who would consider that helpful – though IME, general entry-level office jobs rarely seem to care what the degree is in. You just need to check the college degree box.

    10. Rockin Takin*

      My parents paid for half of my college but told me I had to get a useful degree. I ended up deciding I wanted to be an ecologist, but got a basic BS in biology in case that didn’t work out. So glad I did, because now I work in manufacturing in the pharma/life science industry. If I had gotten a degree in just Ecology or Animal Behavior I would have boxed myself in.

      I would be careful about forcing someone to get a degree they don’t want though. She could burn out in college or resent you. Especially if she ended up with thousands of dollars of debt. Most of my friends are still clawing their way out of their loan debt.

    11. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Every chef I know (and yeah weird it is more than 1) started as server, buser, etc then made it to the kitchen, No one cares if you have a degree. They only care if you can cook

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Three people I know with culinary school degrees have failed to carve survivable careers out of the food industry. It is a highly competitive and unstable field, with low profit margins.

        For every chef you know, there’s 10 who tried to get there and had to go do something else in order to pay the rent.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          My SIL is a sous chef at a very high status restaurant. She regrets getting her degree (BS Psychology)* because to get into her dream field she pretty much had to start as server before she could be promoted to onion chopper. Could have done that at 16 without the debt.

          *She got her diploma, handed it to her folks and said, “Now I am doing what I want to do” and became a server to get her foot in the door

          1. Jen2*

            I think everyone who’s recommending that the daughter go to college is assuming the parents will be paying for it completely. It definitely wouldn’t be fair for the parents to require her to go into debt before they’d pay for culinary school.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I agree – this is mom asking what to do with her money, not mom forcing the daughter into debt for a degree she doesn’t want.

              Daughter also doesn’t appear to have a dream field, just things that she enjoys and would like to explore as career options. Different than wanting to be a chef and being forced to get a degree, I think, this is more of a hedging of bets on the parents’ dime.

      2. BeckySuz*

        Actually yes that’s pretty true. Most of the people I know in the industry don’t have a culinary degree. Including the Exec Chef. He started as like a dishwasher at 17 and worked his way up to his current position as the regional chef for a high end restaurant group

    12. Staja*

      I think it is excellent that you are helping your daughter think about her future, and what type of schooling or training she might need for her future career. It’s something I didn’t have, so I just have lots of debt and no degree. That being said, I’ve always made more money than my husband – who has a master’s in IT. I think a degree is overrated.

      That being said, Allison is right (as always) that most employers want to see them. My niece that went to Votech high school for culinary thought she wanted to be a baker by profession and started her Uni life in culinary. She graduated with 2 degrees in business and accounting. My sister’s degree is in theatre costume design from a prestigious 4 year school – after she left her last costume shop job, she worked in the design department at a tech firm.

      College can help you sort out what you want to do, but it is really good at helping you figure out what you don’t want to do.

    13. Cascadia*

      Yes to this! College is a great place to explore lots of different interests, and to also find out what you’re good at and what you need to work on. I thought about probably 20 different majors before settling on one, that has very little to do with my current job. But I learned so much, not just content wise, but also about myself, about what I like, about how I work, etc. A number of people have mentioned taking a gap year and I think that’s a wonderful idea too, and should be more commonly done. You learn soooo much about yourself and the world. The best part is you can apply to college through the normal channels your senior year, get in, and then just defer your spot for a year – so you don’t have to spend any part of your gap year worried about what will come next, it’s all just about learning and growing.

    1. Grand Mouse*

      LW 1- I would suggest getting a degree, but tentatively. A lot of people my age drop out or really struggle because of not being ready. The adjustment from high school to college is really hard and a lot of issues can pop up. Honestly I am for people taking a year between high school and college, to get experience and let things shake out. I crashed and burned real hard when I left high school so that’s just my experience making me wary!

      1. Allypopx*

        Yep I burned out hard when I first tried college, and did much better after having a few years of real life/work experience and a better idea of where I wanted to go. I also advocate people going at their own pace.

        BUT there have definitely been times when being able to check a BA box would have smoothed a path for me, and I did not have the family support described here, so I think LW does have a good plan. I would just encourage an open minded approach.

    2. Eng*

      Same, a relative is currently working on their 4 year degree as the Culinary Institute of America and loving it. Definitely an option!

    3. RS*

      Yes, and theatre schools at larger schools (e.g. Penn State and Michigan) will have costume/set design focuses in a four-year design degree.

      1. tinybutfierce*

        Seconding this. I majored in theatre at a liberal arts college that offered concentrations in costume/design/etc., but the general education requirements did a good job of giving me a pretty well-rounded education with exposure to other fields/potential careers outside my major.

      1. Natalie*

        Most of them are associates level (so 2 years) but there are some schools that offer a 4-year bachelors of arts.

    4. AJK*

      I had a friend who’s daughter did that too, at one of the big universities in our area. She is now working at a large food manufacturer. I know for a while she was working in the department that develops new recipes and formulas for their products, I think she’s moved into another area now, but she seems to be doing very well.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        My undergraduate institution offers a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management, and, as part of that, they own several hotel/restaurant/resort/conference center type establishments for hands-on learning experiences of all types, including kitchen staff.

    5. Yoya*

      Yeah I was very confused as to why OP thinks her daughter’s options are 4 yr degree OR culinary school or costume design program. I’ve seen 4 year degrees in both!

  4. Gleeze*

    LW#1, it could also be helpful to re-frame the conversation about college around the types of skills she will learn that could help her chosen career. I.e if she wants to be a pastry chef, she might consider a business / management / entrepreneurship degree which could help her to open her own pastry shop someday. This could work for fashion / costume design as well. She might be more receptive if you re-frame to show how a college degree could help her fulfil her goals, rather than being a fall back option.
    Specifically for fashion, unless she is extraordinary talented already, she is probably going to need to do internships / entry level roles to get her foot in the door. For those roles, she is going to be competing with a lot of applicants so they might screen people out based on degrees.

    1. MicrobioChic*

      That was my thinking as well.

      Especially if she ever decides to strike out on her own or as part of a small group, there’s a lot of stuff she’ll need to know that’s not directly culinary or fashion related.

      Even a business minor would help her out a lot, and she can be getting access to culinary and/or design classes at the same time.

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Yep, you can’t understate the importance of the rest of the skills she’ll need in order succeed in those areas! Even if she doesn’t want to strike out on her own there’s a lot she’ll need to know about the business world to do well in a creative field. You could be the most talented person out there, but if you don’t have the know-how to produce something people actually want, source the materials, manufacture it, market it, sell it and actually make money from it, talent alone won’t be enough.

    2. Prof. Space Cadet*

      Fleece gives great advice. College can be an opportunity to build repertoire of skills and to network professionally.

      With regard to fashion or costume design, most of the students I know who earned Fashion-related degrees end up working as buyers or promoters (even if their degree is a design emphasis). It’s a tough industry.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Even the designer I know spends at least 50% of her time on *selling* those designs, meeting buyers, reviewing trends and market research, etc.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yeah, that’s my understanding from the two designers I know. One of them flat out said, ‘if I’d had the accounting / budgeting course before I took the lease, I would never have tried that independent store front channel.’

    3. AcademiaNut*

      Yes. Fundamentally it comes down to the fact that she’s interested in pursuing careers that are hard to make a living in, don’t necessarily easily transition to other work, and in the first case, can be physically wearing (ie, you can end up unable to do the work).

      So, the questions to answer are 1) How will she support herself while pursuing her dream and 2) What will she do if she can’t get a job in her chosen field and 3) what sort of skills and training can be complimentary to her plans.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      I said in another thread that my son is doing just great without a college degree of any kind and when he finally realizes he wants one, it will be because he wants one. As others said, you won’t do well at university if you dont want to be there.

      If she sees the benefit of it, as a positive, not a backup, as others point out in this thread, she will do well.

      I’d go to her and say I asked my community, they said I was wrong, you won’t need college as a backup, you will need it to be successful in either career and as a way to figure out what you want. Whatever you choose, we will support you as much as we can.

      Support you means anything from paying to cheering you on as a 30 year old in college but not paying.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I have a university degree. Neither of my brothers do. My older brother bounced around a lot of (decently-paying) jobs in his 20s, went to trade school in his late 20s, now runs his own business that does very well. My younger brother pursued no post-secondary, but my older brother hired him on and he’s developed enough other connections to do general contracting work during the seasonal lay-off periods.

        I did the “right” thing and went to uni, even though I had zero idea what I wanted for a career (honestly, in my 30s I’m happy where I landed, but I never would have guessed landing here!) Graduated with a BA (liberal arts degree) in 2008, went overseas to teach English for a year… and returned in 2009, when the financial crisis was well underway. Ha! It was worse that not having a degree at all. I was either over- or under-qualified for everything, for YEARS. Everyone knows that liberal arts degrees are an uphill climb career-wise at the best of times, and those weren’t the best of times! I spent years bouncing between the occasional low-paying or contract gig in my field, with a lot of other low-paying/contract jobs outside my field. There was a longish period in my late 20s where I was making minimum wage at a temp agency. I didn’t crack “middle class” until I was 30. (My older brother, on the other hand? Even straight out of HS, he was getting jobs that paid better that that – he told me he’s literally never made minimum wage). I often considered going back to school, but I was STILL not sure what I really wanted to be doing, and I was terrified of paying more money for more schooling for jobs that would have no market when I graduated – and it felt like every person I spoke to had different ideas of how the job market would be a few years down the road. (My SIL, who my brother has been with since HS, had similar horror stories. She wanted to be a teacher, got her BA, went to teacher’s college – then never found teaching work, as that dried up during the recession too. She went back to college to become a legal assistant, did that for a couple years at a few bucks over minimum wage, then was a SAHM for a few years. Now she waitresses, and loves it! But it hasn’t exactly sold my brother on the value of a university education).

        Pardon the rant, but all this to say that not pursuing post-secondary by no means indicates a dead-end professional life. My two brothers, for a solid decade or so, did much better than I did career-wise with trade school or no post-secondary at all.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yeah, but it sounds like your brothers were in a relatively stable industry with a decent profit margin. While your younger bro had no post-HS, he did get an apprenticeship with your older bro, even if he didn’t call it that. The other aspect is that the trades can be hard on your body – think about being on your knees installing flooring or electrical systems at 55 – so I hope your bros are saving hard for their retirements.

          The OP’s kid’s choices are both unstable, slim-margin industries, incredibly hard to get into and to make a living wage in. If the kid’s dream was welder or electrician, I’d be totally, 100%, ‘don’t go to uni, you won’t need a backup’. But chef / fashion design are almost as hard as acting / singing.

          I hope things work out better for you than it has to date, 2009 was brutal.

          1. Jaybeetee*

            Oh, things have worked out for me in the end, I have a govt job today (actually connected to my degree) and I’m quite happy where I’m at now :). Though yeah, there were some tough years there post-2009.

      2. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        A degree in fine arts would be a huge benefit to a fashion designer. A business degree wouldn’t be off the mark either, and way one day be a huge benefit to a pastry chef who may one day own her own restaurant or pastry shop.
        Lastly everyone benefits from a degree in English IMO.

    5. Is it Friday yet?*

      Yes, this! I think a great use of her time would be to pursue a college degree in Business or Marketing — something that would help her if she did end up pursuing either one of those passions long-term and then try to get a part-time job at a bakery or somewhere where she can start to see what it is actually like to do that type of work full-time. I wanted to be a Veterinarian for the longest time until I shadowed one for a whole summer when I was 13 and discovered I had mostly romanticized the idea of working with animals all day, and it was not for me.

    6. Iris Eyes*

      #1 Was coming here to say this.

      While there is specific skill and knowledge to be efficient and successful in creative fields a love of those fields will lead you to much of that knowledge regardless.

      But as many many failed cupcakeries and recent downfall of Zac Posen’s company prove knowing the business side of things is vital to being able to have creative space and freedom.

      A degree, even if its an associates degree in accounting can give you needed skills in your desired field as well as providing great tools for wherever life takes you.

    7. Lilac36*

      My thoughts exactly!!! Even if she starts out at a large facility she could want to go out on her own and some business courses will make that significantly easier later on. I think trade schools (culinary school included) provide wonderful opportunities for a lot of people but I think they are failing their students by not offering some small business related training. Any trades person or pastry artist that works alone is essentially a small business and there are skills that are needed to run that business

  5. Pam*

    My state university has programs in Apparel Merchandising and in Hospitality Management. A student can back up their desire to create clothing or food with the knowledge to be successful in running their business.

    1. ATM*

      Yeah, I was just about to mention my state as well – Oregon, for what it’s worth. They have an apparel design program that’s part of the school of business, so even if she decides she doesn’t to go that route, she still has a business degree.

    2. Elemeno P.*

      Hospitality Management is what I thought of as well. I live in the hospitality hub of Orlando, and we have a full hospitality school and a community college that offers hospitality management courses as well. Students learn about the business side of different aspects of the industry and they have to do internships as part of their coursework…and since it’s Orlando, there are plenty of related businesses that recruit interns from those schools specifically. Does she want a culinary internship at a luxury resort? Does she want to work on costume design/alteration for a stage show? Those are options!

      She can try out different jobs and see what she likes, get a management degree, and then go on to a specialized school if she finds she likes one of her interests more than the others. She’ll have the degree AND the experience.

      1. BigLo*

        I went to UCF for hospitality management and cannot recommend it enough! I’m a lawyer now, but the business-related classes in the major were extremely helpful even with what I do.

    3. Tierrainney*

      I’ve seen college degrees in Hotel and Restaurant management. as others have said, knowing how the business is run can help you in the future.

    4. Pilcrow*

      I was thinking a degree program in her areas of interest would be the way to go.

      University of Wisconsin – Stout has a host of acclaimed Bachelor’s programs in this area:
      Apparel design and development
      Food science and technology
      Hotel restaurant and tourism management

      They also have several art and design programs and all the standard English and business degrees.

    5. McNally*

      Pam’s comment made me think of my nephew, who is finishing up a degree in music/business. He LOVES music, composes, plays, etc., but he also wants to be able to make more money than a lot of musicians are able to bring in (my ex is a professional musician, so I know how hard the job is for the money, even when you add teaching to the performing). With the dual degree, he’ll have options.

    6. SciDiver*

      I attended a school with a well-known business program for undergrads, one of my friends majored in business so she could open and run her own bakery after graduation. As others have mentioned, there are lots of programs that complement these interests besides business, like apparel merchandising, tourism & hospitality, nutrition science, or theatre (often costuming and design can be offered as concentrations).

  6. TexasThunder*

    re LW1: Definitely go to college. I work in a sales environment and a lot of my colleagues were athletes, writers, musicians, actors for whom the original plan did not work out (as it does not for most people)
    Also many employers wil, rightly or wrongly use a degree as a cutoff.
    I had one guy who dropped out of college to work as a programmer, made VP in a bank. Then got laid off. He joined a startup that didn’t work out, tried to join a consulting firm to have stability and medical insurance for a special needs child. Company wouldn’t even look at him without a degree.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Similar story with what seems like a happier ending. A friend’s summer job derailed his degree with a full-time job offer –hard to turn down in a recession when you’re already worrying about student loan interest. Years later he was laid off, the outplacement people mentioned that the state university factored in “displaced workers” for acceptance criteria, and his transfer application was expedited so he could start only a few months later. He rolled right into an MBA and totally camouflaged the gap.

  7. Prof. Space Cadet*

    College professor here. LW #1’s daughter might be well-served by a community college with a culinary program (there are a few in urban areas that have them, though they vary in quality). This could allow her to take classes that interest her while simultaneously earn credits that would count toward a four-year degree. I totally get the LW’s concern, but I can also say that college students do best when they “buy into” what they’re doing.

    1. Prof. Space Cadet*

      I hit “post” too soon above. The culinary classes themselves probably wouldn’t transfer to a 4-year degree program, but the point is that she could also take classes that would and position herself for a free in something like business or hospitality management.

      1. Amy Sly*

        And don’t worry about whether an associate’s degree would be prestigious enough on its own. My husband is on cheftalk, a major forum for food workers, and the managers there say they’re as happy with graduates of Johnson County Community College in Kansas as they are with grads from the CIA or other four year schools.

    2. Community College Is Terrific Too*

      I came here to say this as well. So many kids make poor use of their time in college because they DO treat it as checking off a box to get a 4 year degree, rather than the incredible opportunity it is to discover your interests, get exposure to so many topics, and network. They come out of it burnt out, with no work history, no idea what they like, and no connections, and then wonder why they can’t get jobs.

      I love the suggestions above of four year degrees that are related to the work she wants to do. You might also consider encouraging her to take a year off school and work in a commercial kitchen. She might be washing dishes, but she’ll learn a lot about what the day to day life of a pastry chef actually looks like, the experience and connections will stand her in very good stead if she does choose to pursue culinary school, and a one year break from academic work will only benefit her studies.

    3. Prof. Space Cadet*

      I hope I’m not talking about myself too much, but I’ll use myself as an example. At age 18, I thought I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and major in journalism (based on my experience writing for my HS newspaper). My parents thought that was a terrible idea, begged me not to do that, and wanted to me to major in business instead. I was stubborn and chose an unrelated major to either journalism or business, something which I’ve always regretted to some extent, even though my other major worked out in the end.

      With 20 years’ retrospect, I see my parents’ point. I think that dynamic would have gone better at the time if they had said, “That’s great that you want to be a reporter. Go ahead and major in journalism. But you should also take classes in business so that you can work on the business side and have a Plan B in case journalism doesn’t work out.”

      1. MK*

        I think the mistake most parents in this situation make, and I think yours made too, is that they are so afraid their child will fail at their dream career, they try to get them to completely drop it and do some totally unrelated “sensible” degree. Trying to convince a teenager who wants to be a journalist to get a business degree is both unrealistic and unwise; they won’t do it, and even if they do, they will likely be unsuccessful and/or unhappy. Trying to suggest a degree that sets the kid up to work in the field they love in some other capacity is a better course.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          I have had this conversation with parents MULTIPLE times during my career. For the parent who is freaked out about their kid not majoring in something “practical” and/or with a defined career path, it can be helpful to hear about other graduates doing well from that major. Or hearing about transferable skills. Or learning about internships, co-ops, job-shadowing, and alumni networking opportunities designed to get students experience and exposure to jobs they may be interested in. LW1 and the daughter should look for s schools with a robust experiential program (academic and/or co-curricular) that complements the degree.

          1. pentamom*

            My son is a freshman majoring in history, and I feel this. We told him he needs to spend the next four years not just studying history but figuring out what pay-the-rent career paths that degree would afford — and those do exist. But we knew (mostly from my own personal experience of taking a “safe” major and hating it) that it would be fruitless to hound him into something safer, when history (with some more specialized minors, still to be determined) was the only thing he could see himself majoring in.

    4. Stella*

      I’m a college instructor at a 2 year college and I wholeheartedly agree that students do best when they “buy into” what they are doing. And local two year schools often have articulation agreements with traditional college/universities as well as industry schools. (For example, an Apparel Construction program at a community or technical college may have an agreement with a major Fashion design school in New York City where the credits earned at the 2 year school then count towards the degree at the design school.) YMMV based on state/region but definitely something to look into.

    5. TechWorker*

      I agree this sounds like a better idea – I can’t imagine that LWs kid will be particularly engaged in a 4 year (that’s a really long time! Especially at 18) degree that they don’t see a future in or really enjoy.

      The route my parents took in this situation was to let me go do the course I wanted to (vocational course, similar to culinary in that it’s hard to break into/usually badly paid/has way more people who want to do it than jobs/limited career span). My mums suggestion was that I took distance learning classes (that she paid for) to get a degree on the side. I’m not sure how easy it would have been to get the full degree, in the end I got injured and quit the vocational course after a year and a half. (I went to do a full time course in the same subject as the distance learning.) – but another option if they would suit part time learning.

    6. Project Manager*

      Yes, I completely agree. If nothing else, she could get her basic required courses (English, history, etc.) out of the way at community college and save two years’ worth of full tuition. Even state schools are expensive if you can’t get scholarships*. I also second the idea of talking to people in the fields in question. My BFF is a fashion designer (several degrees, including FIT), and my next door neighbor is a chef. Assuming their experiences are typical, I will say at the very least that pursuing either of those fields will require a great deal of resilience.

      *The “just get a degree” advice is a huge pet peeve of mine for this reason. We’re not all in a financial position to take on five or six figures of debt, especially at the very start of our careers, without being very certain the investment will pan out. I was fortunate enough to get a ton of scholarships and then to get a well-paying co-op position that started just when the scholarships ran out (they weren’t all four-year awards), but without that, I’d have had to choose between digging myself in a financial hole or dropping out while I saved up money to finish. (I was not willing to accept money from my parents as they weren’t in a financial position to be helping me at that time.) And this was for an engineering degree that was what I wanted to do and that I knew would allow me to earn a good salary. Taking on debt – any debt – for a “just get a degree” degree makes no sense to me.

    7. ThatMarketingChick*

      Daughter of two college professors here. While I can empathize with LW1’s desire for their daughter to have an academic degree “just in case,” it’s these kinds of thoughts that push people into four year colleges, saddle them with debt, and ultimately don’t result in the desired effects. Yes, college degrees are required for many jobs. But Prof. Space Cadet is 100% on the money when they said that the student has to buy into what they’re doing. Otherwise, you – as a parent – are wasting your money and your child’s enthusiasm on nothing. Trade schools and the like are just as valid paths to a career as a traditional university, and are often the right answer that get overlooked.

      Let your daughter be the lead in her own story here. A community college or trade school is a great option and can help her figure out what she wants to do – while getting valuable experience and feeling supported.

    8. Elenna*

      +1 – I agree that LW1’s daughter should get a degree (assuming LW1 is willing to pay for it; adding extra student loan debt may or may not be worth it), but as a 23-year-old who graduated a few months ago I really feel their daughter won’t do very well in college if she feels like she just has to pass the courses because her parents say so. Better to have her invested and give her the opportunity to try out some of the things that interest her.

  8. Heidi*

    Hi LW1. It’s not really clear from the letter if your daughter has any experience in culinary arts or fashion. If not, she could start with individual classes to see if either field is what she really wants for a whole future career before committing to full time schooling. The fact that these fields are so different suggests that she’s still undecided, and college is a good time to work through those kinds of decisions. Plus, college can be so, so fun. I worked part time as an usher and saw so many great concerts and plays. My roommate and I still hang out. And I tried lox for the first time. Good times.

    1. Cassandra*

      I know someone who studied fashion because they thought it would be fun and they liked drawing pictures. They had not done sewing before. Turns out, they don’t like sewing and struggle with garment construction. The studies didn’t translate into a career, own business or even a job.

      I back learning what the daughter wants to do while studying. I also think she should speak to people in creative industries (or at least lecturers who offer the subject) to find out what the realities are of working in those fields.

    2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Finding a way to get some experience of what working in those fields would really be like before committing to full time schooling is a very good idea. I’m in what’s considered a highly creative field but in reality maybe only 2-5% of what I do on a daily basis is actually, in some way creative or fun. School/college tends to focus almost exclusively on the fun parts, so it’s easy to get a warped sense of what to expect from it as a job.

      1. kittymommy*

        That’s what I was thinking too. While working in a bakery (or even in a kitchen/restaurant that has a pastry chef) or volunteering in a costume division of a local theatre won’t be exactly what the student is looking at for a career, it can give an idea of the type of work that will be involved and sometimes an idea of the environment that they will be in as well.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Back in the day when I thought I wanted to go the culinary route, it was actually a requirement for application that you had some food-service experience. (mind you this was before there was a dedicated food channel, so maybe that’s changed?)

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Friend of mine is a chef and basically said that anyone who enjoys cooking at home and thinks they might make a job out of it *really* needs to work in a restaurant, because it’s just so drastically different.

  9. nnn*

    #1: I’m less confident than LW and Alison are that a degree would open up options for “traditional office work” as a fall-back.

    My experience was that when I got my degree, employers became reluctant to hire me for jobs that didn’t specifically require that degree. Even though I was completely qualified for, experienced in, and capable of this work, the degree eliminated options that had previously been available to me. It did open up other options, but basically the fields I’d worked in to date were closed to me.

    This was some time ago, and I can’t tell through the internet whether LW actually has more recent experience with entry-level hiring. But here are some things to think about and investigate:

    – Look at job postings for these corporate desk jobs that you have in mind. Do they require degrees? If so, what kinds of degrees and why? If they don’t require degrees, would a degree help or hinder? If they do require degrees, would an unrelated degree (for example, in design) help or hinder? If possible, talk to people doing this kind of hiring. Does it actually play out the way you think it does?
    – Would having an unnecessary degree hinder a career as a pastry chef?
    – How would a work history as a pastry chef affect ability to find traditional office work?
    – If you’re willing to pay for both culinary school and a degree, what if you adjusted the offer to pay for a degree at any point in her life? A four-year university program is expensive, and might be wasted on someone who doesn’t see its worth.
    – What does going to university as an adult look like compared with going right out of high school? At what age does one qualify for mature student status, and how does that affect things like admission requirements and scholarship availability?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A ton of employers require a bachelors (regardless of what it’s in) and won’t consider candidates without it. It’s silly, but that’s a very widespread thing — so not having a degree can close off a lot of options.

    2. Jackalope*

      Just a slight nit to pick here but most people who are post high school and going off to college ARE in fact adults. Someone who waits until later on may be an older adult, but 18 year olds are still legally able to do just about everything adultlike except buy alcohol and rent cars. As someone who went to college right after high school, I can attest to the fact that we made adult choices about things in our lives that had real-life consequences (most of them good), and that continue to affect us. This whole idea that college isn’t real life, just a playground for big kids, and that only when you start a full-time job/get married/have a baby are you a REAL adult drives me crazy.

      I will add that I never had anything bad come from my college degree (like getting turned down for jobs). Sometimes it was positive (I had at least one job where it was a prerequisite for being hired) and sometimes it was neutral, but never a negative.

      1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        18 may mean one is legally an adult, but the brain’s pre-frontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until age 25-28 in women, and closer to age 30 in men. This is the part of the brain that helps us make logical, reasoned decisions. It’s why adolescents and young adults have trouble judging the concept of consequences or looking logically at the long term picture. It’s also why so many people major in one subject in college but then go on to either never work in the same field or they change their interests after the fact (which is fine). (It’s also why postponing decisions of marriage and kids until 30+ is usually a good idea.) I agree with Allison that simply having the degree in and of itself is what will open doors in the future.

        1. Liz*

          Yes, I couldn’t agree more! Not to mention the life experience and vocational understanding required to make an informed choice. Even if we have a vague idea of a field and choose a degree accordingly, the details required to truly understand are far more complex. I’m talking about things like career paths and additional qualifications and over saturation of graduates and the need for experience. I struggled to understand all that at 30 when I went back to school. At 17, I didn’t have a clue! School just pushed me to university because “you’re bright” and my parents expected me to go because… that was what you did. So I did it. It was… not helpful, to say the least. I’m firmly in favour of gap year(s) to allow young people to learn and to grow before committing to years of study and a lifetime of debt, but also for there to be more education for those considering academia or vocational training to allow them to make an informed choice. This is something that is sorely lacking in a great many societies.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          1) Could you cite the source for those ages please? My understanding is that male prefrontal cortex development slows rapidly at 25, female before then, that’s usually what people mean when they say ‘fully develop’. I have never seen 28 or 30 cited as meaningful development stages.
          2) Brain development is a spectrum over time, not a single point. People’s brains change all their lives. People are able to assess long-term costs / benefits and make rational, reasonable decisions well below the age of 30.
          3) The rate of change is highly variable across individuals.

          For a recent discussion of this with neuroscientist’s references, check out Slate’s “How To Do It”, this week’s question on whether people aged under 25 can meaningfully consent to sex. It seems that ’25 is the Age of Reason!’ is gaining some popular support, but it’s not based in the science.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            And, in support of Jackalope: People are able to assess long-term costs / benefits and make rational, reasonable decisions below the age of 20, too. ‘Not finished’ is not equal to ‘non-existent.’

    3. Ferret*

      But if she does encounter jobs which don’t require a degree and she’s worried about it being a barrier she can just leave it off her CV?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Exactly. I’ve never worked somewhere that having a degree was a hindrance (whereas not having one was), but it’s quite easy to leave it off the resume submitted for that job, if that’s a concern.

    4. BRR*

      I don’t think it’s that a degree opens doors. It more that not having a degree closes doors. And I agree that a specific degree can turn employers off (I was a music major who has had to convince employers several times that I’m not going to quit to play an instrument) but I think the most common scenario is an employer requiring a degree (even when the job shouldn’t require it).

      1. J*

        This goes back to the idea that a degree is a minimum credential, rather than a first-class ticket, which seems to be a common refrain on this site.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          At least in my area, Panda Express is now saying “degree preferred” to scoop rice into a bowl. It’s not required yet, but…

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I think “having one doesn’t open doors, but not having one closes doors” is a good way to put it. Lots and lots and lots of employers use “has a bachelor’s degree in something” as a first-round filtering criterion. Do I think it’s silly? Yes. Do I think it’s effective? No. But it happens a lot.

    5. CheeryO*

      Just anecdotally, my dad went to college for the first time in his 40s and finished an associate’s program, and he has struggled in the ~20 years since then to break into more traditional office roles, despite being very smart and personable. This is in a field that value practical experience over education. It can absolutely be a barrier.

      I don’t think anyone should go into debt for a “just in case” degree, but if mom and dad are footing the bill… my only worry is whether the LW’s kid will be invested enough in the program to finish it and get a decent GPA.

  10. AdoraNY*

    I think there might be a misunderstanding on the part of LW #1 – Fashion Design is a 4 year college degree that usually leads to very regular corporate desk jobs. I’ve been a fashion designer for the past 15 years, I went to a university and I’ve always worked in an office (there’s just a lot of clothes around). It’s pretty difficult to get a job in fashion without a Bachelor’s (I’ve never hired someone without one) so if your daughter wants to go that route she should definitely go to school for it! If she’s unsure about the route she wants to take I’d encourage her to go to workshops at universities which offer both culinary and fashion degrees. Teachers are usually also working or retired professionals who can chat with her about her options for school and afterwards – I took my mom to one of these and it really helped her understand the reality of the industry and that it’s not a hobby once you make it your career.

    1. Curly sue*

      I came in here to say the same thing. I’m a professor at a costume studies program and while we have a two-year diploma option, that’s designed for returning students / those already with degrees in something. The majority of our students are doing the four-year BA, and a number are double-majoring in things like business.

      High school students and their families often reach out to us with questions and come in for tours, and we welcome the chance to explain options.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I was just about to say the same thing. I used to work at an art college, and it offered a regular 4-year college degree (BFA) that was in fashion design. I also know someone who went to a non-art college and got a 4-year degree in costume design (not the same thing but semi-related).

      It’s not an either/or thing.

    3. Reba*

      This is great advice (which also contains good info for the student, i.e. fashion jobs are perhaps not as glamorous as she imagines :) ).

      I’d also add a caution about for-profit colleges, which were big in this creative careers space. A lot of the Art Institutes have closed, for example, but I think there’s still a few kicking around.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Came here to say this. The school that my oldest went to (Kent State) is fairly well-known for their Fashion Design degrees, that apparently get a lot of rec0gnition in the industry. They are 4-year degrees that one can then also use to apply for jobs outside of fashion design that require a degree. And, if halfway into her major, she decides that it’s not for her, then she can transfer to another – KSU is a large school – or use her credits transfer to another school and another major (my son’s freshman-year roommate did that).

      1. AdoraNY*

        I really hope LW 1 sees the comment threads from people who have actually worked in the industries she mentioned because I’m seeing a LOT of people who seem to assume fashion designers don’t go to school, or that we will hire people with no degree if they’re talented. Typically it’s difficult to get an internship let alone a job in fashion without a degree. I have a friend that went to Kent, I went to Drexel, almost went to Syracuse. My advice for someone unsure about a creative field is to go to a well known university so you can switch if you change your mind, just like I Wrote This In The Bathroom said. 4 year Culinary degrees are also offered as part of Hotel & Hospitality schools (Drexel has one) where students learn culinary arts and hotel business.

  11. Dot Warner*

    re: #4, If I were in your shoes I’d just block this person. You don’t owe them anything and they’re being really annoying.

  12. Dan*


    nnn makes lots of good points, and I agree with pretty much all of them. I’ll preface my comments by saying that I work in a field that is more or less tied directly to my degree(s), and ahem, it’s actually my fallback career because my first careers didn’t pan out for medical reasons.

    Here’s what I would *not* do (Sorry for the double negatives here): I would *not* study something “just because” that has nothing to do with whatever field I’m trying to get into in the short term. Why? Because ten years down the road, if you need to “fall back” on your degree, it’s borderline useless at that point without any relevant work experience. Like I donno… don’t major in Computer Science if you’re going to go off and be a chef for a decade. Why? Because when you want to “fall back” on the CS degree, you’re going to show that you can do stuff. If it’s been ten years, that’s a hard nut to crack and TBH whatever you learned in school is way out of date.

    Study something that can be paired with the real world experience one gets with whatever career one is trying to break into, even if the degree isn’t specifically required.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ideally, yes. But lots of degrees don’t directly tie to a clear career path (you particularly see this in the liberal arts), and lots of people with those degrees end up doing things that have little to do what they studied in college. Like I noted above, an awful lot employers require a bachelors, period, and won’t consider candidates without it, but don’t much care what it’s in.

      1. Dan*

        I prefaced my comment with a note that my line of work *is* specific to my my degree, which is an admission that I know there is more than one way to skin a cat.

        OP was asking for advice about a fallback degree, knowing that her kid wants to get into a field that may not require a degree. I don’t know much about the career paths of liberal arts majors, but I wouldn’t advise dropping $200k on a degree that is wholly unrelated to a field that someone actually intends on pursuing. If OP’s kid wants to be a chef? Then that degree in hospitality management will be much more closely aligned to OP’s intended career path, gives her something to build on, and yet still checks that “any old degree” box if OP’s kid wants to get completely out of hospitality and into something that merely requires “just” a “check the box” degree. If OP’s kid wants to be a chef, I would not recommend, say, a philosophy degree.

        As I mentioned in my first post, I’m working in my “fallback” career. My primary interest was/is in a field where degrees are often preferred, if not required, but absolutely nobody actually cares what the degree is in. Hiring in my primary field of interest is extremely cyclical, and my preferred jobs require a semi-annual or annual physical that I ran a pretty high risk of failing. For both of those reasons, I very carefully chose my studies to provide an appropriate fallback if I needed to. And… it turns out I needed to.

        Point being, which I said in my first post, is that there are smart ways to choose a fallback degree.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I get that. And to be clear, I’m not advising dropping $200k on college, especially for a kid who isn’t sure she wants to go. State schools are averaging around $20k a year (or $10k if you’re in-state) — still a large amount of money for four years, but by no means must it be $200k. (Source)

          1. Dan*

            And likewise, I wasn’t advocating skipping college either.

            The irony with this conversation is that chef school ain’t cheap. I don’t know much about chef school, other than that tuition at the Culinary Institute of America does rival that $200k price tag. Whether or not it’s worth it for an aspiring chef, I have no idea.

            1. NerdyKris*

              The Culinary Institute of America is a top tier school. You don’t go there to learn to be a pastry chef, you go there to learn how to run a five star restaurant in NYC or Paris. There’s other, cheaper schools to learn how to be a baker or chef.

              Also hello fellow Hudson Valley person? I used to live a few miles from the CIA right on the Hudson River.

      2. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

        One of my sisters has a degree in religious studies. She’s an outstanding manager at a large insurance company. They didn’t care what her degree was in when she was hired as a claims adjuster, just that she had one. They trained her in the work specific to her job.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Same here. I’m an assistant in a historical archive, which required a Bachelor’s in something and the ability to lift and carry 50 pounds. My degree happens to be in history, but that wasn’t actually a requirement–I would have been a viable candidate just with any BA/BS and the training would have covered the rest.

          Actually, now that I’ve done this job for so long, I’m kind of appalled that my history major basically ignored archives and made no attempt to teach us to use them.

        2. AnotherSarah*

          Exactly! A good liberal arts education will ideally help people hone their critical reading, writing, and other communication skills–my BA (also in religious studies) didn’t “prepare” me for my first few jobs, in that they had precious little to do with religion, but they did prepare me to ask good questions, think about problems from multiple angles, etc.

        3. Raj*

          I got a degree in history (even went and got a master’s in history) and now work as an accountant. My history degree has very little to do with my work but I would not be here if I hadn’t had it. My degree got me an admin job, which got me a job in HR, which led to taking on accounting work, which led to a combo HR/accounting job, which led to a pure accounting job, and now I manage an accounting department.

          Granted, some of this was spurred by working in startups (which tend to have a more meritocratic “throw everything at you and you can specialize in whatever you want if you show an aptitude for it as the company grows” attitude), but it’s not uncommon for a bachelor’s degree in anything at all to get you in the door for office work and then to be able to advance along a couple different lines depending on what you turn out to be good at. And even if advancing is not open to you (I know some admin jobs are quite circumscribed), if getting a basic office job is ever going to be a fallback a lot of employers require a bachelor’s, in any subject.

    2. Kiki*

      I think the advice from people insinuating, “just get a degree, any degree— it will help you get a job” comes from the fact hiring (at least in the US) is really broken around this issue . Many jobs require college degrees when it really isn’t necessary, a lot of the time it is just a box to tick on an application, nobody even really cares what the degree is in or how you did in your classes: if you have a degree, your application gets looked at, if you don’t, your application is binned.
      Having a degree that relates in some way to the job you will eventually have is smart, but not always possible to plan for. I have an anthropology degree but now work as a software developer. Does this path make real sense? No! Did having a degree help me get the job I have now? Yes, my application made it on to hiring managers’ desks because I had a degree, even if other candidates had more software development skills.
      Should hiring work this way? No! But it is currently the way the world works and I see a lot of friends without degrees really struggling to get the jobs they want. It is silly and I hope this changes, but it’s the current way of the world.

    3. Anon 'cause family members*

      I knew people who told their children “you can study your chosen A, if you first get a degree in a practical field like B”. Never seen this work out. Never seen this result in a completed degree in B.

      A CS degree especially is worthless without current skills and work experience, because of how fast everything changes. Heck, a CS degree and 30 years of experience are not terribly marketable without new marketable skills (ask me how I know). Don’t know how quickly other STEM fields “age”, but there’s got to be some of that happening there too.

      1. Colette*

        Sure, degrees that directly lead to specific jobs (CS, engineering, medicine, etc.) will not lead to work in that field if you don’t use them for 20 years. But they’ll still let you check the box that says you have a degree, and in many companies, that matters.

        1. Anon 'cause family members**

          That brings me back to my first comment. At least in the examples I’ve seen, putting a high-school grad in a situation where they were told they had to “get a practical degree”, that had no relation to the one they wanted, in order to then get the one they wanted, just ended up leading to them failing multiple classes and eventually dropping out of the practical degree, or changing to the one they had wanted to begin with. Seriously, even I don’t think I could put in 4 years of hard work while being hungry and broke and short on cash, to get a degree I did not want and didn’t plan to use. I am all for delayed gratification, but this is too much of an ask in my opinion.

          1. Colette*

            But no one is saying “get a practical degree” – and, as someone in CS, I don’t want to work with people who don’t like the work. What we are saying is that there is value in getting a degree (any degree!) because there are tons of jobs that you can’t get if you don’t have one, even if it’s in an unrelated field.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I have a success story on this front, actually, shared upthread. One of my HS friends wanted to major in theater, which her parents would pay for only with a second, “practical” major – she doubled in business and theater and parlayed that into a successful career of theater and road show management, with a side of acting/understudying. (The other person whose parents gave them this speech ended up in music and English, neither of which I’d call “practical”, but she became a linguist and college professor, so actually using a major, at least?)

  13. Phil*

    #1 I can attest to the “not knowing what you want at 17” thing. I finished high school wanting to get into preschool teaching. Then I did a year of that and realised I do not want that at all! Next was film/TV production, and after spending three years at a creative arts school, I realised I’m terrible at that. However, it did also show me I have a passion and knack for the more technical side of film and TV, and I have enjoyed a career in broadcast for nearly a decade now.

    Having said that (and perhaps this is me not being American so there may be different norms here), I do wonder about the idea of spending four years at college as a default, when it’s not necessarily a study towards one’s career aspirations. I hear a lot about the obscenely high university prices in America, and crippling student debt. I just wonder if there might be alternate solutions. Eg, is it possible to intern/apprentice somewhere that can explore Junior’s career passions (again, I don’t know America, if this would require a degree). I know I probably could have got where I am now with a one year community college course rather than paying three years at a university.

    1. Liz*

      Yes, same here. I’m British and although we still have some expectation regarding university if you’re academically gifted, the idea of “just getting any old degree” in order to get a shoe in is considered bad advice, and schools are getting flak for it. Especially as its VERY hard to change majors here so kids are essentially being expected to pick their entire career path at 16/17 when they start the application process. I gather in the States people can swap partway through and take different classes, so that sounds like Junior could mix up classes in their arts subjects with broader and more practical subjects that may come in handy in the future, like marketing or hospitality. Also, I gather lots of degrees in the States have internships included, so they will be getting experience in a work setting too, I believe?

      Across the board though, I do highly recommend researching the different job roles to find out what is required and, where possible, what the actual job is like. Junior could get a part time job at a bakery or patisserie, or even a just a restaurant, and get a feel for the atmosphere. This will definitely be helpful later on, rather than putting all the onus on “degree or not degree”. I would hate to put in all that work only to find the work environment unbearable, which I think is something that can happen, especially with creative professions, because people fall in love with the idea of the job rather than the actuality.

      1. MK*

        I agree that getting ”any” degree is a bad idea, but getting ”a” degree, even when it’s not strictly required, is realistic in a jib market where a lot of people have one. The idea isn’t to pick a degree at random, but to find something that will, or at least might, help you in the long run.

        1. londonedit*

          I agree. English and Art were my two favourite subjects at A level, and I probably could have done either one as a degree. I looked into it, and decided that while doing a foundation year and a Fine Art degree would have been an incredible experience, and I’d still have ended up with a BA, the career opportunities it would have given me would have been much more limited than English (assuming that ‘becoming an actual artist’ wasn’t likely to happen). So I went down the English route. My career (publishing) is one that’s linked to my degree, because that’s how it worked out, but plenty of people in publishing don’t have degrees in English – I work with people who studied History, Politics, Philosophy, History of Art, Classics, etc etc. The subject of the degree doesn’t matter, but the fact that you have one does.

        2. Helena*

          The difference between UK and US job markets is that non-academic people in the UK who are told to “just get any degree” often end up on poorly-supported courses, with little face to face tuition, in institutions with poor academic reputations. A 3rd class degree in Business Studies from a very poorly-thought of university will probably mean you are making minimum wage in a shop or restaurant, or only just above it in an entry-level admin job, but it will saddle you with £60k of debt.

          There are alternatives like modern apprenticeships which give you three years of work experience, a small stipend, and no debt (you can get apprenticeships in lots of different industries, my husband worked at a software startup with two apprentices). Or you could do a trade, which pays far far better than minimum wage (I’m a physician, and my plumber earns similar money to me).

          Obviously that’s not the route to go if you want most white collar jobs, but the argument is about moving the advice to school-leavers on from the 1970s idea that any degree in any subject from anywhere would get you snapped up by a corporate graduate training scheme and earning a fortune in your 20s. That’s not really the case these days even if you have an excellent degree from Oxford/Cambridge. A lot of high school teachers and parents still remember the Days of Gumption though.

          1. Helena*

            Essentially a lot of our manufacturing and industrial sector collapsed/was eradicated in the 1970s and 80s, so people could no longer walk into a job in the local factory/down the local pit straight from school.

            The only alternative offered was “go to university and become an accountant/entrepreneur/doctor”, and for most people that is not a realistic plan (either because they don’t actually like that sort of work, aren’t very good at it, or because we don’t need 60m entrepreneurs). We need to give school leavers in economically under-resourced areas something else to aspire to, beyond “go work in an Amazon warehouse until you die”.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              yes, absolutely.

              One of the interesting things (to me) in the US’s “Green New Deal” is how Ocasio-Cortez worked with reputable scholars to highlight that need, and tie it into their program. These scholars (eg Mariana Mazzucato, Stephen Cohen, Brad DeLong) “argue that wealthy countries became wealthy in the first place by supporting, protecting, and investing in strategic industries “, usually physical manufacturing (The Atlantic, “A Centuries-Old Idea Could Revolutionize Climate Policy”). AOC / GND want to push green-power manufacturing as a key part of reviving the US middle class. I love it. It even gives a path for improving rural US employment, with remote installations / maintenance, and retrofitting careers.

    2. BasicWitch*

      It sounds like LW1’s daughter DOES know what she wants to do, which is part of what I found frustrating about the advice.

      1. Allonge*

        Well, she has ideas. Wildly different ones, mind. Which is ok, as she is 17, but it’s not like she wanted to be a fashion designer and only a fashion designer her whole life up this point.

        If we read the advice as “as daughter is not quite sure yet what she wants to do and she does well academically and you are willing to pay for it, a degree is a good idea” – what is wrong with that?

  14. Dan*


    Young people don’t know how to network if they haven’t been taught. You would be doing the person a kindness if you responded with the phrasing that AAM suggested in her last paragraph. Verbatim, it’s quite good — reasonably soft, but clear.

    Too often, there’s an expectation that people will hook you up with a job because they “know” you. “Know” as in, met once at a conference or something like that. Well, what the inexperienced people don’t realize is that’s not how it works. I can only “hook you up” if I can sell you, and that requires having a real professional relationship with you. If I have that relationship, my boss gets a nice long conversation from me about how well you’d do in the role and what a pleasure you are to work with. If I met you at a conference, my boss gets a brief, “I met this guy at a conference. Seems like he’s got some skills that would be relevant to us, it could be worth a conversation.”

  15. Blarg*

    I’m surprised at how much I disagree with the response to #1.

    People should not go to college if they don’t want to be there. Ir sucks for them. It’s not fun for classmates, it is a waste of money and a seat at the school.

    She will be an adult. And at some point she has to make and learn from her own decisions. It is generous that you are willing to fund her schooling, but ultimatums are unhelpful. You may pay tuition to the school, but the investment is in her.

    I started college in an expensive arts program (that I paid for 100% with loans and my own earnings). I didn’t end up in that field. But I am better at what I do now because I did that, and have zero regrets about pursuing it; 3 degrees and 20 years later, I make low six figures and get to help save and improve lives every day. At 17, your child has passion and things that bring her joy. Let her explore them, and find her own path. What success means to her is certainly different now than it is to you, and it may stay that way. Trust her, support her. You raised a child you clearly love; let her find herself in her own way.

    1. Dan*

      Yup. I had to pay my own way through school too (and have the near six-figure student loan debt to prove it). I don’t have kids, and probably won’t have any at this point, but there is no way I’d be yanking $200k out of my bank account and “forcing” a kid who doesn’t want to go to college to go.

      One reason I had (and still have) the student loan debt that I do is because my parents couldn’t bankroll me through college. The upshot to that is I got to call my own shots. While the debt kind of sucks, the freedom to do what I want (and make a few mistakes along the way) most certainly doesn’t.

    2. MK*

      I don’t think the OP is trying to force her daughter into anything, she is asking advice about how best to advise her. It’s great that things worked out for you, but many people who started out with passion and perhaps talent didn’t find their path and found themselves in the middle of their life with nothing to show for it and little prospects.

      I don’t think the OP should pressure her child to do to college. I do think she has a responsibility as a parent (which doesn’t stop at midnight on the daughter’s 18th birthday) to guide her into independence by giving her the tools to succeed. In this case, that means having conversations about how she perceives being a chef or a designer. Is she actually somewhat good at it now? Does she see herself opening a business at some point or does she want to work for famous restaurants/big labels? Is there a college/degree that might fit her, like fashion or design? Is there another form of education or a combination of business courses/classes and work expierience that might get her what she wants?

    3. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, I agree strongly. College in SOMETHING ANYTHING should not be the default. This is exactly a student for whom work experience, internships, etc. would be more valuable than a 4-year degree she picks out of a hat.

      My sister was an “I don’t know what I want to do” kind of teen. Her one semester at a college right after high school went badly south, because she didn’t want to be there and knew how much money it was costing – it really rocked her self esteem. She got jobs for a few years, realized she wanted to do more than make coffee, but then she had some broader experience and a little more maturity so she was ready to go on to make choices that really fit.

      And frankly, the attitude among employers than a bachelor’s degree is (insert any topic) is a must-have really needs to change. We as adults should not be fostering it in the next generation.

    4. Koala dreams*

      I also disagree with the advice.

      If you want to stick to your plan, it would be much better to do it the other way around. A vocational degree can be a good fall-back and help you find better part time jobs when going to university for a bachelor’s degree in the future. It’s also better to go to university when you are motivated and go there for a purpose. The university degree will be more valuable when it’s new. And so on. If you have enough money to support your daughter through both culinary school and a bachelor in costume design, it just doesn’t make sense to do the vocational school last.

      Also, as an aside, for some university degrees those extra years of work experience can really be helpful. I studied business and economics to become an accountant, and the students with previous work experience had an easier time with the course work. It’s not a given that it’s the easier to study the younger you are, even though some people have that experience, too.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      I came here to say this as well. It does sound to me like the OP is trying to force her daughter to go to college. I was in her shoes and my son interpreted, and still interprets, my views of college as forcing him to do something he does not want.

      He got some computer training, got a job, and quickly moved into a sysadmin role and is now interviewing for infosec work.

      Computers can be an area where degrees matter less than experience but I know at some point he will miss an opportunity bc he does not have a degree. He is going to have to figure that out on his own. Dad and I are planning how we can help when that happens (finances, temp room and board, etc) but I am pretty sure my kid will not want help if that time comes.

      1. ceiswyn*

        My experience of the software development world is that companies generally hire with the requirement of a relevant degree OR relevant experience. The longer your son is working in computing, the LESS it will matter that he doesn’t have a degree; not more.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          It depends on the area of computing. If he were programming and wanted to move up from programmer to architect, a BA would get him there a lot faster. My experience is that’s hardening as the comp sci field matures, and a BA is starting to become a regular gate to the higher level jobs.

          Sys admin / info sec use certifications rather than a BA. On the plus side, most employers will pay for those certifications and keeping him current. They also can usually be acquired in week-long chunks rather than 3mo classes. This area is *not* hardening the way general programming is, because the changes are still happening so fast that BAs can’t keep up with them.

      2. Kiki*

        If it’s helpful, a lot of companies that hire software developers will pay for your son to get a degree if he would need it for advancement. Doing it that way will be a bit slow (because most companies will only pay for a class or two every semester), but he probably will be able to advance to a degree-requiring role even if he doesn’t get a degree right now on his own..

    6. doreen*

      I disagree as well. I wouldn’t advise going to college and then culinary school. I know someone whose son did something similar, for reasons I don’t understand. He spent 4 years dorming at an inexpensive public college within commuting distance of his home. He did not get a degree there – my suspicion is that he stayed until his athletic eligibility ran out. He then transferred a whole 12 credits to a very expensive, degree-granting culinary school. It would have been cheaper and faster if he had just gone to the culinary school for a degree to begin with- after all, if a job is looking for a “degree, any degree” to check the box, a bachelor’s degree in culinary science will work, too.

      1. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

        My son — now in a BFA program — was torn between art school and STEM. He’s talented at both. I suggested starting with art school, assured him that he could transfer if he changed his mind, because he would know pretty quickly if he liked the kind of work, effort, commitment, and mindset required for art school. Also because creative work is an intrinsic part of who he is, and I was not sure he would get to really express or develop that part of himself if he were studying genetics or physics.

        Part of the deal is that he has to work with his school’s very good career office, get internships, network, and the like.

        He has the good fortune to have a pretty well-funded 529, lots of scholarships, and generous grandparents. He will have no debt when he graduates (my spouse and I together barely make six figures). Many students do not have this advantage, and if we did not, he likely would be at a state school, studying in a STEM field.

        1. Starbuck*

          I got the opposite advice from my parents – I had a lot of interest and passion for both science (biology) and art in high school; I got a lot of praise for my art (since it’s such a visible thing and easier to complement than a science project) and that felt nice so I thought I’d go to art school and make a living off drawing and painting full-time. I toured some tiny and not-so-tiny art schools one year; but my parents advice was to go to a liberal arts school where I could study either/both, or something entirely different if I changed my mind, so I toured the public schools next year. Since that was the path of least resistance, that’s where I ended up, and I am SO GLAD I ended up at a large public university with a Bio degree rather than an art degree and that I kept my hobby, a hobby.

          And I certainly had no lack of opportunity to put my creative interests to use during my science coursework and now during my STEM job – scientific illustration is a thing, after all! And it was so helpful to be able to make my own diagrams etc for note-taking purposes.

    7. Librariannie*

      Yes to all this.

      I knew of several people who went to a particular school because Grandma would only foot the bill if they went to this particular denominational school and subsequently floundered. Or other kids who are peers of my teenaged daughters who fell into college because the high school liked to be able to say “a huge % of our graduates go to college!” and were really ill-equipped and ill-advised, and also subsequently floundered. Our daughter is taking a gap year, and has really taken ownership of her investigation and applications to colleges she is considering (and she wants to study art). With her still at home, we can advise and routinely check-in, but I feel that she is starting out on surer footing then if she were just trying to ease our anxiety (and she’s too headstrong for that anyway!) My husband has been a successful musician for 20 years, and I have a liberal arts undergraduate, so I guess it’s just not has frightful for us, since we’ve made our way. We’ve never been super wealthy (though our income is pretty great right now, 20 years in!), but that’s the lifestyle we’ve chosen. Yeah, we made dumb mistakes along the way, but that’s how you learn in the long run.

    8. Fish Microwaver*

      I agree with you Blarg, and also had a strong disagreement with Sam’s advice. You make the very good point that offering to pay tuition is an investment in the young person who will soon be an adult with their own path to find. In the same situation, I would support my soon to be adult child in clarifying their choice of occupation, perhaps by encouraging them to seek work experience, to see where their interest and abilities lie. Then paying tuition for culinary school, fashion college etc. If after some years in the field they decide to pursue “traditional office work ” they have a job to support them as they study.
      Vocational education is a valid career path in it’s own right, not somehow inferior to academic education.

    9. Impska*

      I also disagree with the advice. I went back to school for Accounting at age 30. I was able to complete school more quickly, with better grades, and have now advanced much more quickly in my career than my peers because I had a decade more of experience behind me. I also cared more, because going to school was an intentional decision that has a purpose. While I was doing my Master’s, I was GTA. I got a first hand look at how many students go to school for a business degree because their parents thought it was a good degree to get, and not because the student had any particular interest or passion for business. They invariably struggled.

      You can always go to university when you’re older, and the opportunities for your degree are much better when the degree is fresh. Going to school just to warm the seat for 4 years and get a slip of paper in a field you have no interest in is a waste of time and money.

  16. Maria Lopez*

    #2- How is it discouraging and hurtful to the student to have someone tell you, “I don’t see the point of helping you with this if you aren’t going to take my feedback.” You, as the supervisor, are using your time and expertise and are being completely blown off by a someone junior to you who is totally disrespecting YOUR time and experience, after specifically asking you for that time and experience, over and over again. She really is not trying her best, as you seem to think, or perhaps she is in the wrong field.
    Better for this student to learn this NOW, in a low stakes situation, rather than in a job where the manager will not be so accommodating. She is showing that she doesn’t listen and cannot take repeated feedback or direction.

    1. Avasarala*

      Unfortunately that’s what I thought too. I guess it’s discouraging and hurtful, but it’s also frustrating and hurtful to have your advice ignored after you spend a lot of time giving it. Do they think your carefully acquired expertise is just like pressing a button and wisdom is dispensed? Do they think your advice is wrong, did they just ignore it? Are they offloading the hardest part of revising to you? Does your time mean nothing to them?

      It’s one thing if you can see the effort made to consider your advice, or understand the reasoning behind making a different choice. But I am comfortable saying “I don’t see the point of helping if you aren’t going to take my feedback.”

    2. The Other Dawn*

      This is what I came here to say. OP mentions feedback being hurtful and discouraging when she was a student, and she’s assuming her student feels the same way. As a result, she’s tiptoeing around her, hoping she just magically gets it. OP needs to tell the student that part of being in the working world is accepting and considering critical feedback. If the student doesn’t learn that, it’s going to make her working life difficult. Assuming the student even feels that way. We don’t know because OP apparently hasn’t talked to her about it.

      1. Helena*

        I wasn’t clear why the work is coming back for a second round of feedback – every place I’ve ever studied, you get one piece of feedback then you submit.

        I guess it is different if this is a research paper or something else with OP’s name on it, but if it’s just the student’s own work, review it once only, and tell her to implement your feedback or not, as she wishes.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree. I’m not sure I even understand the point of what she’s doing – so, she’s submitting a piece to OP for review, then completely ignoring the feedback and re-submitting it with either no changes or changes unrelated to the feedback? Literally what is the point? She may as well just not submit it at all as the feedback is making no difference. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

    4. MuseumChick*

      I have no idea of this is what is going on with the OP, but to add a different perspective:

      I grew up with a learning disability, one that back then not a lot of people understood well. My parents tried different methods with me that highly recommended only for it to be shown years laters that those methods were actually the worst way to deal with this learning disability. As a result, I became pretty traumatized around receiving feedback on any work I did. I still have terrible memories of classmates laughing at my work, my parents screaming at me, teachers getting frustrated, etc. It took *years* post highschool to finally be able to take in feedback and not cry while receiving it.

  17. TJW*

    OP 1: I suggest your daughter focus her studies on business and entrepreneurship so that she can RUN her business and make it profitable. I’ve known several successful people whose business degrees fueled their passion (baker, winemaking, even a physical therapist running her own practice)

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Correct. This is why I often tell students with entrepreneurial interests: “Are you more interested in doing the work OR running the business? Because it’s hard to do both well as a solo operation.” That said, having some of those classes would be decent background to know what the issues are, what you might look for in a business partner, etc.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Yeah, a restaurant management, business, health sciences, or food sciences degree would all be a really good fit for someone who wants to go into culinary school. There are a lot of options that could really help boost her dream.

  18. CM*

    #1 — I think that if this girl is passionate about culinary school, she should go to culinary school. We could all die tomorrow, and we need to spend our time going after the things we want.

    But, I also have another observation: the offer you’re making your daughter right now isn’t, “I’ll pay for you to go to school.” It’s “I’ll pay for you to do what I want you to do.”

    You get to make your own choices about what you want to pay for, but, if your daughter wants to go to culinary school and you don’t like that idea, the more supportive thing to do would be to help her find alternative sources of funding to make that dream come true. Don’t use “I’ll pay for it if…” as a way to control her.

    1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      LW#1 said that pastry chef is a “potential career she has identified”. That doesn’t read like passion to me, that reads like: “I don’t know, um, maybe pastry chef? Fashion designer?”. She seems quite unsure and uncommitted.
      The parents aren’t discouraging her from culinary school, I think they’re actually being very supportive of her choices. They’re offering her a path to do both, with financial support, that will give her give her room to explore other options in her areas of interest, and set her up for success more than just going to straight to culinary school would.
      If she were older, maybe this would seem overly controlling and condescending, like “you can’t have dessert until you eat ALL your dinner”. But she’s still a kid, and this is the kind of guidance that most at that age* need and expect from their parents as they prepare to step into adulthood.

      (*that come from healthy, functional families)

    2. Mr. Tyzik*

      I’m glad you said this. I also read this as a control tactic over the daughter to do something the parents want, not what she wants.

      I went to college right out of HS like my parents wanted and was miserable, later dropping out. I went back much later and appreciated the experience much more when *I* was solid on what I wanted to do, not pleasing my parents.

      I have a 15yo son and we’re discussing his options for gap year, community college, votech schools, trade schools, etc. just so he knows there is much more than college. I suspect he’ll choose to work a few years before going to school of some sort, and I support that. I want him to decide and not follow his parents’ wishes.

      Cooking is a young woman’s game. She should pursue that first and try to make a career and consider schooling later. Yes, circumstances are harder but not impossible, and distance schools and online classes make getting a later degree much easier than it used to be.

    3. Helena*

      OP 1, please do your homework before paying for culinary school! The world of culinary school is dominated by scummy for-profit diploma mills. My spouse worked in the hospitality industry for years. Many of his employers would outright reject job candidates fresh out of culinary school, because they’d just quit after a few weeks after their culinary school illusions were shattered by restaurant reality. A community college with a hospitality program is much cheaper and will usually include valuable work experience with local employers.

      1. Helena*

        Oh hey, another Helena on the thread! Hi, twin! I wonder if this happens often – something for the open thread maybe.

    4. Evergreen*

      My parents did this with me too: we’ll fund you only if you do a 4yr degree and only if you do it straight out of school.

      Now, I wanted to a 4yr degree and was only vaguely interested in a gap year, but that ultimatum very nearly cracked our relationship- even now (10 years into a successful career) I’m pretty resentful of that controlling behaviour.

      Which is to say: set aside a limited pot of funds, talk to your daughter about what you think she should do with it, but don’t use money to try and control her choices.

  19. Mr. Forklift*

    #1: I think what other commenters have said as far as getting a degree that’s related to her ideal jobs is a much better idea than just any degree- but ideally, I’d honestly err on the side of just letting her do culinary school now. You say she’s smart, so why not trust that she’s smart enough to know what she wants to do? It might be worth having a serious talk with her while keeping an open mind to the possibility that culinary school really is the best option.

    Also, it’s a little weird that this letter is treating ‘pastry chef’ like a wild dream. It’s not like she’s saying she wants to be the next Angelina Jolie. Sure, it’s not as common as some jobs, but it’s also not one of those fields where there’s maybe three jobs per city.

    1. Kiki*

      I think it is partially because the daughter isn’t actually settled on culinary school (the letter said she may also want to be in costume design).
      I don’t think people are responding the way they are because becoming a pastry chef is a wild dream, I think it’s just a very specific dream often with a very specific type of schooling that isn’t as transferable as other university degrees are. And maybe the daughter is more singular in her desire to be a pastry chef than this letter lets on, but it kind of seems like she needs time to explore her options. For some people that exploration is best in a university setting and for others a gap year might be most helpful. If LW 1’s daughter hasn’t actually worked in a bakery setting or the food service industry, I think that would be one of the best things to do before committing to culinary school. I know a lot of people who love to bake and fantasize about the idea of being a baker or working in a restaurant, but in actuality would hate the hours, lifestyle, and unglamorous aspects of the work.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        So much this. I bake a lot and my stuff is really good. I get comments all the time about opening my own bakery. Yeah…nope. I like my M-F 8-5 job with my weekends free and can bake what I want, when I want. If it becomes my job it might not be fun anymore.
        My aunt got a temporary gig at a bakery – busy season and she knew she was only going to be located in this town for 6 months. Its been 2 years since she left and she still refuses to make bread after making 200+ loaves/day for months.
        Baking is my stress relief and emotional balm – not turning that into a job.

    2. Lilo*

      I’d be really hesitant to send a kid to culinary school who hasn’t worked in the field.

      Pastry chef is really very different from making home desserts.

      1. Kiki*

        Yes, and especially if her parents work in fields with standard business hours/generous vacation policies/flexibility, I think making sure she is exposed to the realities of the pastry chef lifestyle before going to school for it is important.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      It’s not that it’s a wild dream exactly; for me it’s more that it’s one of two very different options, both of which are the kind of thing that a lot of people think would be cool and awesome things to do without necessarily thinking it through. Like, is this a case where the daughter wants to be a pastry chef because she works in a restaurant at weekends and loves the kitchen atmosphere, doesn’t mind the crazy hours, has talked to chefs about how they got their jobs, etc? Or is it that she really likes baking and thinks it would be cool to get paid to make cakes? From the info in the letter it’s hard to tell.

    4. Pommette!*

      Lots of very smart people aren’t smart enough to know what they want to do. That takes wisdom, self-awareness, and knowledge of the working world. Those are rare qualities, especially among 18 year olds!

      (Note that I’m biased: I’m 38 now, trying to reinvent myself after having made some terrible career choices at 18… and still not smart enough to know exactly what I want to do with my life).

  20. Myrin*

    #3, I really like this part of Alison’s advice: “But even though I can’t help going forward, I hope our coffee a while back was helpful, and I wish you all the best in whatever comes next.
    It’s very rhetorically sound and clever, because it spells out that you won’t be able to help the intern going forward but does so in a very kind way while closing the loop, so to speak, by referencing what you already have done for her in the past; add to that the sentence’s positive last part (good wishes for the future) and you should be all set!

  21. Poppy the Flower*

    I disagree with the advice for #1 too. Both culinary school and fashion design or costuming are highly specialised. Although fashion and costuming are offered as bachelor’s degrees, these are typically art school type programs, and not necessarily offered as electives or open to those outside the program (and therefore probably wouldn’t be something I’d advise committing to unless decently sure that’s what you want to do for a career, since art school is typically very intense). And culinary school is usually separate from university. Basically I don’t think university is the best setting to “explore” options related to these two careers. A gap year with work experience and/or community college might be a better starting point.

    1. Lilo*

      On the other hand, the most successful designer I know works for a ballet. Going thr arts route isn’t a terrible idea and getting a background in costuming can teach you structure fundamentals.

      1. Poppy the Flower*

        Oh I actually agree with this! It just sounded like the OP’s daughter didn’t know if she wanted to do culinary school or fashion or costume design school so I was suggesting maybe getting some practical experience before committing (and that maybe 4-year college isn’t the best setting to do so). Since it would be hard to do both degrees at once ;)

  22. TexasRose*

    LW #2: Have you explained to your student how you want her to handle your feedback? I mean, specifically stated that you want a check mark by each item she incorporates, a “stet” [leave as is] by the ones she rejects, and a ? by the ones she wants to discuss?
    How many comments are you giving at a time? A few big ones (organization needs work; tone is wrong; etc.) or dozens of small ones (“These sentences seem out of place.” “I don’t understand your reasoning here.” “Does this conclusion hold for white chocolate teapots as well as milk chocolate teapots?”) or scores and scores of copy editing?
    Many, many students do not know how to work with a reviewer / editor on how to revise their writing, and simply flail about. They also have no idea, once ONE example of an error has been marked, how to find (and correct) other errors of that type in their own work.
    It could be you need to train your student how to take feedback. Or, you might need to limit the amount of feedback you give at a time (and the amount of time you spend working on a specific draft). On the other hand, I have run across a few twerps who (a) can’t be bothered to self-edit, but who (b) are really good at wheedling for help, repeatedly.
    Use your words to explain your expectations on how to close the feedback loop, and see how the next round goes. Good luck!

  23. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


    I do not have a college degree. I have a high level executive job and a lucrative career. My answer to your question is:


    If a person has the aptitude for university and can obtain a degree without excessive financial hardship, yes yes yes yes yes yes.

    I was extremely lucky to be able to, in a world of severely narrowed options, make the path I made. Extremely lucky. And I’ve played the game the whole time with an asterix next to my name.

    It’s about options if nothing else. If nothing else, it is about making sure you haven’t boxed yourself in so you have as many choices as possible.

    1. jaime*

      I’ll echo this. I do not have a college degree, but thanks to timing and being fortunate enough to have some help (along with my own hard work), I have a job now that pays very well and has good upward mobility, which normally requires a specialized degree to get. I’m lucky, and I don’t recommend my path – especially now, because I’m Gen X and was just the right age to start my upward climb right before the bottom fell out of the job market after 2000. While I’m very, very grateful I have no student debt to work off, if I had to go back and do it all over again, I’d get the degree when I was 18-22.

      But along with other commenters, I’ll encourager LW1 to find a good compromise with their daughter – a 2 year college might be a good place to start, or it would be good to find a 4 year university that has a culinary or fashion degree program. And if there’s a good way to tell her without her getting defensive, it would be good to remind her that no matter what job she wants to get, there are skills you can learn at college that will help you – how to write professionally and persuasively, how to deal with business expectations and how to manage your own accounts are just some examples. It’s important to listen to her, though, and make sure you’re clearly acknowledging that you support her eventual career plans, whatever they may be. Good luck!

  24. Johanna*

    Writer 1–you mentioned she’s academically gifted, I’d check if she’s not burned out. I was in an accelerated program, taking the hardest classes possible and spending every waking moment on schoolwork. I never would have admitted it to my parents that I was burned out because that would have been failure. So, at the end of high school, art school was extra attractive. Not that it was easy, but part of it came from the appeal of actually creating and making something rather than studying. I’m not saying I made the wrong decision, but I might have made a different one otherwise.

    1. Julia*

      Good point. Also, academically gifted doesn’t mean she has to do academia. Aren’t there things you’re good at but hate? (Or things you’re good at but were still discouraged from for *reasons*?)
      When I dropped out of grad school temporarily, my professor told me his twin brother was very smart, but much happier as an auto mechanic (not saying auto mechanics aren’t smart, but probably not what a family of academics expected from a smart guy). I am much happier out of grad school (I did go back and get my master’s though) because academic environments can be brutal for your mental health, wchich is just as important as physical health if you’re worried about a pastry chef burning out due to physical labor.
      Maybe your daughter wants to do something with her hands and skip college for now so she can get out of the “she’s academically gifted but doesn’t know the real world” stereotype some people have mentioned here?

      In any case, it seems like asking her if she would like to take a gap year and explore some options might be a good idea.

      1. Poppy the Flower*

        Yep, I actually have a family member currently getting a bachelor’s in costume design. She is very smart and was in gifted classes. She also never flourished in a traditional academic setting as it just doesn’t fit her personality. I honestly can’t picture her having gone to college for a more traditional degree. I also, personally, am “smart” and have made decisions based on lifestyle and interests more than my “potential” — although I followed a more traditional path in general.

        Ok so yes, costume design is a 4 year degree at many places. However I think you’ll find this degree and fashion degrees are often going to be art school/conservatory type programs that don’t have a lot of flexibility. So I’d really recommend OP’s daughter take time to explore her options otherwise first. Also she’ll probably have to build up a portfolio. For any type of clothing design, I would highly recommend starting with sewing classes. You need to be able to sew to design. (And my family member met her teacher just asking around at church. Just a generation ago, sewing was a really common skill.) After that I would recommend drawing/art skills, seeing if there is a community or school project where you can be involved with design, and possibly community college classes.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Yes! My parents struggled mightily to get my brother to graduate high school with a high enough GPA (3 point something) to get a college scholarship. They succeeded. He spectacularly flunked out his first semester. He came home, got his own apartment, found minimum wage job, and took 3 classes at local college which he also quit attending before the end of his second semester. College was not for him. He eventually worked his way up to head chef in a fancy restaurant and is well respected around town. This was without culinary school; although, there’s a well-respected culinary school in his town now so he has interns from it working for him every year.

      But even for me who wanted to go to college just to learn for learnings sake and wanted a career that requires a specific STEM degree, I look back on my adolescent poor study habits and late night cram sessions and wonder how much better I could have done with the better study habits I have now. And I say that as a person who still a procrastinator about some things, but a few years back I went to school for some certificates and had the most amazing study habits in comparison to my undergraduate self.

      #1 Don’t force a kid who doesn’t want to go to college to go to college (or for a field they do not want)
      #2 A gap year is not terrible and could really help clarify some things for your daughter. Even if little changes a year out of high school, she’s will still fit in to be a traditional college student
      #3 Part time jobs or volunteer work in the field (community/high school plays for costuming) can be really helpful

  25. Betty*

    #1: My parents did exactly this to me…in a really shitty way. I wanted to go into fashion and they said “We won’t pay for you to study fashion but we want you to get a proper BA first which we’ll pay for 100% and then we can talk again.” I’m sure they had the best of intentions, but what I heard was “You are too stupid to know what you want to do with your own life, money is the only thing that matters to us, your wants and dreams are not important, and you won’t succeed at your chosen career anyway.”

    And guess what? I did the “proper degree” and then did go on to study fashion and had a great few years working in it (yeah, turns out someone CAN know what they like) before taking a break to have children. The only thing I got out of my proper degree was meeting my now-husband – which I’ll admit was pretty great! I did well academically but it soured my relationship with my parents – perhaps forever. I am still resentful that they apparently didn’t feel like I could be in control of my own life.

    Why do you want your daughter to get a degree NOW? If you have the money all lined up, why don’t you leave the offer on the table for later in her life rather than insisting she spend four years of her life doing something she doesn’t want to do? Other people have said that the most successful college students are invested in what they’re doing. Won’t she be more invested if she actually wants a degree?

    At the very least I would suggest she take a gap year and try working in any kind of fashion or cooking environment.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Your point about how if they could have the money now, they could also set it aside for later, is a really good one! OP, I hope you’ll consider that. Bank the cost of that 4-year degree to use when she’s not just picking one because you want her to do that first. If she needs it later, you can fund it; if she doesn’t, you’ll have an awesome chunk of cash to travel/do home renos/pursue your own passions.

    2. Kiki*

      Out of curiosity, do you think if your parents had found a different way to phrase their concerns and insistence on a “proper” degree, it wouldn’t have had such a damaging affect on you and your relationship? I’m wondering because occasionally young people ask me for advice on stuff like this and I don’t want to poopoo their dreams, but I do want to encourage them to have some more “practical” skills in their back pocket. I see a lot of my friends struggling and kind of regretting not building some other options when it would have been easier to. A lot of specialized schools for things like fashion and culinary arts cost just as much as expensive, private schools but have average graduate salaries lower than what tuition is each year. I wouldn’t want to make someone feel as if they could never succeed in their passion because I’ve felt like that and it is shitty. I guess I just want more young people to know that things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. For example, being a software developer could be a perfect day job for aspiring actors or singers (there‘s often a lot more time flexibility than other jobs and it actually pays consistently well).

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’d also be interested in answers to this question – my eldest child has a very aspirational career plan (sports) which isn’t out of the question given his current flight path, but is statistically unlikely, so we’re encouraging him to think about what his entire career would look like (play then coach? play then commentate? play then manage?) and what he needs to be doing at school now to support that longer-term goal. Aaaaaaaand if that supporting work would also support a variety of other careers, so much the better.

        But it’s really hard to balance “FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, MY BELOVED” with “welp, those dreams are long shots”.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Specific follow-up to you based on real life questions that were helpful to me in music!

          -how long does an athlete’s career last on average? (He can probably find stats online and that will give him an idea of how much time he’d be doing his secondary career in a best-case scenario.)

          -What careers around athletics interest him? Is he fascinated by sports medicine? Did he love coaching a junior team?

          -if he found out tomorrow he couldn’t play, what would he enjoy doing instead? Would he even want it to still be sports-related or would he want to make a break from the field and go on to something different?

          I found these three questions really helped me (although in the end I left music anyway.)

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Thank you!

            The career timing isn’t hideously short – say mid to late thirties – but it would mean twice as long in the second career as the first. He’s pretty adamant about a sports-adjacent fallback and is lined up for junior coaching and umpiring. He’s definitely too squeamish to be a medic or physio, though, ha ha!

            Only time will tell, I guess. Most young people haven’t even heard of the job they end up in, I find.

            1. Harper the Other One*

              100% agree. In fact, I left music after taking a job in music retail, realizing that I didn’t want to audition all over the world but I actually found this strategic business stuff interesting. Stayed in retail until I had our kids, have been doing an unrelated job while they’ve been younger, and I’m currently retraining in accounting. I had no idea in high school I would find business/accounting so interesting.

        2. PriorSportsClerk*

          Sports business specific thoughts for you GvK:
          -All sports jobs are extremely competitive to land and require hard work, but pay varies depending on the position. I’ve found that the sports jobs that do not pay poverty wages are those where an employee has a skill translatable to the real world (e.g. law, medicine). Entry level positions that tend to pay below poverty level are assistant coaching, ticket sales, and operations. Instead of trying to talk him out of these fields, you can steer him to learn the issues with these positions on his own. As mentioned by AnotherAlison earlier, asst. college coaches get paid nothing ($20k in her experience, a $12k stipend for my friend in 2010). If you encourage your son to ask his assistant coaches about their salary, extra duties, and travel (yay recruiting trips!) he should be able to make a good assessment about that option. The second thing I would do is really encourage him to take an intern/externship in his off season with the ticket sales/account exec dept of any pro sports team. It’ll be a wakeup call where he’ll experience cold calling, grunt work, and witness the low pay and crazy hours of the staffers. Chances are, he’ll decide to find a more stable fallback career plan and he’ll pick up sales experience that can translate to many fields.

          -Another thought, the economy has really changed the classic “school before sports” advice and I think you should look into that with his sport in mind. The captain of my hs lax team played lax at Cornell and with his killer grades he made the practical decision to work on wall street instead of going pro. He made that decision in…2008. He lost his i banking job in the recession and couldn’t get a white collar job just like every other grad. So, he ended up playing pro lax! All this to say, entry level white collar jobs don’t pay what they used to and are harder to obtain then ever before. There’s something to be said for your son leveraging his specialized knowledge and skills in a sport over joining every other business major applicant.
          Some sports have minor leagues and overseas leagues that pay very well (into the six figures) like ice hockey. Some sports pay their minor league players below poverty level, like baseball. I suggest researching where your son’s sport lands. If a minor league is unionized, look at the mandatory minimum salary in their collective bargaining agreement online. In some circumstances, it might make sense to go “all-in” on your son’s dreams. (Did you know that NFL practice squad players make $136k minimum for a season?!?)
          For example, let’s say I’m a college sophomore soccer player and I’ve got a chance to go pro, but it’s not clear that I’m the next Messi. Old school logic would say, stay in school and get your degree. But, that leaves 2 years where I’m not getting paid and I could face a career ending injury AND every MLS contract and most overseas contracts include a guaranteed clause paying for my tuition if I desire to get my degree remotely. I would arguably be better off if I was drafted by an MLS team and made the minimum $56k salary as a reserves team player than if I stayed in school. I’d have a higher starting salary than many recent grads, which might spark my interest in taking fully funded remote classes on how to manage my money. The CBA requires certain pay raises every year and a ~$15k bump when I turn 24 and become “senior”. So even if I don’t ever become an all star, I can leave a career in my 30s having earned a solid nest egg, with my education paid for, and could take advantage of league/union career transition programs that provide internships, financial counseling, and other resources for locking down a second career. If I get cut from the team or get injured early, I still have a fully funded bachelor’s degree, some earnings that I wouldn’t have gotten before (+ workers comp if I was injured in the US), and contacts in the professional sports world (on top of the NCAA contacts I made) if I want a sports-related second career.

          It requires a certain level of maturity and financial responsibility, but I think that parents and student athletes don’t realize how athlete compensation has changed for “journeyman” level players. There was a “2nd string” professional athlete at my law school on full scholarship from the NFLPA, who had clearly made great life choices, but you don’t tend to hear about those stories because the bankruptcies and scandals make for better tv. Anyways, I hope my long tangent made some sense! Best of luck to your son!

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Thanks for your detailed comment!

            He’s currently middle-school age, but his sport skews young (someone recently got his professional debut in the equivalent of 10th grade) so we would know before college applications if he definitely wasn’t going to have a playing career.

            For what it’s worth, I was roommates with a sports player when I was a student. He was sponsored by a top-flight team during his degree, and trained hard for the university team for three years alongside his studies (er, minus the odd weekend captaining a national team). At that point he had the option to cash his degree out at an honours bachelor’s 4.0 equivalent so he went full time pro instead of a fourth year, and he had a comfortable career for fifteen years or so. I keep him in mind here, although the sports are different so the pathways are different.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        I went into music (but ended up leaving the field) and I think there are ways to ask these questions. Asking things like “what do you know about a career in [blank]” or “what does a job in [interest] look like?” would be a good way to start them thinking. Ideally you could point them to resources they could consult.

        I think it’s also safe to say “what makes you interested in that career?” For example, if they’re talking about fashion design and the answer is “I love shopping!” that leads naturally into saying that fashion design may require garment construction, business acumen, and other skills that they haven’t thought of.

        Primarily I think the main goal should be to encourage them to find out the realities of the job themselves. For one, I think kids respond better, but for another, it’s an excellent chance to practice the process of adult decision making.

      3. Betty*

        YES, absolutely. The message was absolutely delivered as “we know better than you – both about how careers work, and about what will make you happy in the future”. I was pretty sheltered and hadn’t been allowed to work during school and had no idea how adult life worked or how much it cost, so even though I had my head screwed on pretty well I couldn’t see how I could find a job and support myself straight out of school so I felt like I “had” to take them up on their “offer” or be living on the streets. They told me if I went into fashion I would never make enough money (subtext: to live an upper middle class lifestyle involving private school and ostentatious trappings of success) and so I “had” to get a proper degree to fall back on *when* fashion didn’t work out.

        What would have been better would have been a conversation which allowed me to articulate what exactly I was interested in and pointed out some of the factors other than “passion” which can affect one’s career enjoyment. Mostly questions like:

        1. What do you like most about fashion? Is there a reason you’d like to make it your full-time career rather than something you pursue on the side? (Making sure not to use the word “hobby” in a disparaging tone of voice.)
        2. What other goals do you have for your life? Family? Home ownership? Travel? Other hobbies? How might a career in fashion support or impede those?
        3. What sort of entry-level job do you imagine you would start off doing? How much do people usually earn? That sounds interesting. Can you show me a job listing so I can understand more about the prerequisites, duties and salary?
        4. What sort of hours do people usually work in that job?
        5. How do you think you would budget on that entry-level income? Shall I show you our household budget? (Ideally the latter should not come for the first time at 18!)
        6. Freelance work means you’re running a business as well as doing the work you enjoy. Do you think it would be helpful to do a course (even a short course) in business administration or something like that to ensure you have the training to be successful?
        7. What kind of help does [fashion course] give to its students to help make industry connections and find jobs?
        8. Shall we go to an open day together at [fashion course]? I’d love to know more about what you’d be studying.
        9. I bought you a biography of [fashion designer] for your birthday. Wow, they had a tough start! It says they mowed lawns for three years during the day while making clothes at night. What do you think you might do while you’re waiting for your design career to take off?

        Basically, the most helpful tone is “It’s great that you love fashion and want to make it your career. Let me help you find the resources you’ll need to be successful. I’m sure you’ll make a great career out of this if you want to, but it’s well-known it can take a bit of time for artists to build up a following and you’ll need to make sure you can earn money while you’re making a name for yourself. Let’s see if we can figure out something you can do for money that won’t interfere with your fashion goals. It’s also OK if you decide it’s not for you – that won’t make you a failure or sellout.” Assume they DO know what they like and that they ARE thinking this through properly, but offer yourself as an enthusiastic resource to help them with the practicalities.

        And OBVIOUSLY the thing-you-do-for-money can be parlayed into a full-time career if fashion doesn’t work out, but the messaging is totally different.

        Swinging back to the LW’s question, this is a particularly good approach to take if the daughter is choosing between fashion and cooking. “Let me help you figure out which you’d rather do and facilitate access to the information you need to decide.”

        1. Kiki*

          Thank you so much for this! This is a really great guide for me to use!
          I’m in a situation where I’ve just been extraordinarily lucky. I studied something a lot of people would consider “impractical” (anthropology) and tried to make it work as a career, but found the low pay unsustainable, so I “sold out” and moved to something I’m not as passionate about but don’t hate, pays well, and give awesome perks (software development). I felt really guilty about this transition (I also got a lot of weird/mean commentary from peers and former colleagues) and want to help people feel less guilty for pursuing super practical jobs in lieu of their passion BUT don’t want to make people pursuing their passions even if it might be financially riskier than, like accounting.

    3. BasicWitch*

      100% this!

      LW1, I know you want to do what’s best for your daughter, but part of that is letting her make her own choices… and mistakes. Making her squash her passion for the sake of “security” (which, let’s face it, is a shaky premise these days) won’t have the effect you’re hoping for. Not having a bachelors in business or whatever might have consequences, but so will her living under pressure to please her parents at the expense of forming her own identity. She could just as easily get her bachelors AFTER culinary school, and she may even actually *want* to do it by then! Lots of people go to college later and we shouldn’t act like it’s wrong or shameful to do so.

      For what it’s worth, I’m a college dropout (turns out trying to force myself through a degree I had zero passion for didn’t work out, go figure. Plus, the recession wasn’t exactly a friendly time for new grads). I have a solid admin job making over $60k a year, a retirement plan, savings, etc., and I’m building a freelance writing business on the side. Not having a degree hasn’t held me back – if anything, it’s made me a more responsible, harder working person.

      Your daughter actually has a sense of direction and loving parents, and that gives her a real advantage over many others her age. She’ll be ok.

    4. RecoveringSWO*

      LW1, I think this thread really nails the emotional aspects of this situation that could really impact your relationship with your daughter and her future career/financial success. I think that you could use Betty and everyone else’s input to have a conversation about her choices and what you’re willing to bankroll. Since it sounds like your daughter is feeling slightly defensive about her educational plans, I personally would lay everything out and then say that you’ve heard her concerns and because of that, you’re offering another option: if she takes a gap year (or 2) working in the culinary or fashion industry (or both) and it solidifies her decision for a specialty school in that field instead of a bachelors, you’ll bankroll it without an undergrad requirement. Hopefully, she’ll also interpret this conversation as you saying, “we respect your autonomy and don’t want to belittle your dreams” which will help with both your longterm relationship and her decision making process.

      I’d also gently and briefly remind her that if she’s like me and the many other “good at hs, but dosen’t love math/science” students, getting back up to speed on study habits and math fundamentals will be much harder after taking time off from high school. So there’s a potential tradeoff in her effort level if she takes the gap year option and decides to go to college after. If your discussion prioritizes her autonomy over your opinion, I think that there’s a good chance that she would put more weight into the “pro” section of getting a degree first instead of letting her defensive emotions cause her to skip over the logic of getting a fully funded degree first. If you think that making this point against taking a gap year will bring her defensiveness right back up, I would hold off on mentioning it for another time. Best of luck!

  26. Fellow Boot Fancier*

    OP#1: My dream job was considered highly unlikely and low ROI, so I found a sideways business degree that could be done in tandem. Best decision ever! I was able to use my degree & profession to pay off student loans while continuing to pursue ‘apprenticeships’ in my ideal career in my free time. Got to do different iterations of my dream job, eventually hit some rough times and had that degree and experience to fall back on and was able to bounce back-& closer to what I really wanted to do. I am now doing the job that everyone told me was unlikely. Ha! But…my boss did the same, and she also got there via a business and finance degree with the ideal career on the side. Both of us having that business background has positioned us to be more successful than most in a job that is notorious for ‘making a small fortune out of a large one.’ Many, many talented people do great in the act of the profession but their lack of business acumen often sees them belly up. Her partner is the one with the incredible talent who has picked up the viable business elements due to their relationship. Both of your daughter’s career ideas would benefit from a knowledge/degree in business, if only to have a basic understanding of finance, marketing, budgets, basic HR, etc. Additionally, as others have said, there really is a glass ceiling for those lacking a degree. Any degree (as ling as it’s not from one of those for profit ones.) Heck, she could even get a degree in fashion design/business WHILE working in a pastry kitchen. Why limit her options, especially if she could follow that up with culinary school?

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      My dream job (writer) was also low ROI. My parents tried to talk me out of it, but too gently probably. And I got the dumb creative writing degree anyhow.

      Unfortunately for me, I was not as smart as you and ended up going back for an accounting degree after graduation. It was the best choice I ever made. Writing definitely didn’t work out and I really love what I do now. And the stability of a finance career is way better than any passion project ever could have been.

      My husband and I have talked about and if we ever have kids, we will more than happily foot the bill for college because the “traditional college experience” of four years on campus living and studying and partying with friends was an experience I wholeheartedly enjoyed and would never want to deprive from my child. By if they want a degree like theater or English, they’ll have to double major in something more practical, like accounting, econ, comp sci, etc. That passion for the arts can go away quickly when you end up working in a restaurant like I did after college because your field barely exists.

  27. MsSolo*

    #1 Honestly, I think with the careers the daughter is looking at, taking a year out before university and getting a job at a local restaurant and/or making her own clothes for a year will give her a much better idea of whether she wants to go into either career than bribing her to put her dreams on hold. Both careers suggested are highly practical – there are degrees that will be very useful in terms of supporting those (as mentioned above, Fashion Design is a degree, and you can’t get into that side of the industry without it – but you still need to be able to sew!) and giving a path out if she chooses to enter a secondary career – but ultimately, only practical experience can show her if she has the temperament for the career. Frankly, both fashion and cooking are long hours, low pay jobs in all but the highest levels, so she may well need that financial support more when she’s actually working in them than she will in preparing to.

  28. atma*

    #1 I think it’s hard to give a general answer, it depends so much on the student. If she’s at a point where academic studies is not where she wants to spend her time, giving her 4 more years of it just in case isn’t doing her any favours. If she’s able to get started on developing her skills of choice you can always support her in changing that later. Many of these more craft related jobs are just as secure, people will always eat cake. Maybe advice her to complement with learning the business side of things, etc, but it’s a lot easier to knuckle down and work on something you’re passionate about or at least interested in than something you do just in case.
    For the record, this may be the first time I disagree with Alison here, so , of course I had to respond :)

    1. Amairch*

      People will always eat cake, but most cake-makers will never make 60k a year. I think she should get work experience now and go back to school if and when she knows it’s applicable to how she wants to move forward in her career. Right now she has a passion for an idealized version job but no experience of it’s gritty reality. Much better to get paid while gaining experience than pay for experience that may not turn out relevant.

        1. BasicWitch*

          Frankly, I’m seeing a lot of rank classism in these comments that seem to assume A) if it’s not an office job it isn’t skilled/doesn’t require an education and B) people who work these jobs will forever be struggling (like office workers don’t face insecurity?). My experience has been the exact opposite, and it’s gross seeing how many people are so ignorant of what it actually takes to do jobs that don’t fit the white-collar stereotype.

          1. Pescadero*

            I think it’s just basic statistical analysis –

            The average income with a HS diploma is ~$35K… about $20K below household median income.
            The average income with a BS is ~$60K… about $5K above household median.

            Unemployment rate HS diploma: 4.1%
            Unemployment rate BS: 2.2%

            While anyone, at any educational level can face insecurity – strong evidence shows the likelihood falls off dramatically with increased education.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            I think that most of the caution is specific to *these* industries. Food and fashion are unstable, low profit margin industries. If the OP’s kid’s interests were in more stable (eg, hairdressing) or higher margin (eg, electricians) industries, the answers would be different.

            1. Harper the Other One*

              I don’t know, there’s still a shocking amount of stigma towards anything that doesn’t involve a 4 year degree. My parents’ neighbours are currently discouraging their daughter from further training in hairdressing because it’s not a “real” job. A former classmate who’s an electrician (and owns his own business, employing 15 people) still gets the comment that he was “so smart” like that somehow changed because he didn’t opt for a bachelor’s.

        2. Amairch*

          How many of them are there, and how long does it take to work your way up to those jobs? I’m not saying she shouldn’t go into it. I’m saying she should get work experience first so she knows if she really wants to commit to the struggle, before committing to years of expensive schooling. And it *is* a struggle.

        3. Helena1*

          That doesn’t seem to be the norm – definitely wasn’t the case when I worked in restaurants in the UK (frankly most were earning just above min wage for 60-70hr weeks).

          Looking at some job adverts/glass door reviews, I’m seeing salaries of $55000 for a standard pastry chef, and $80000 for executive chefs managing desserts across a chain of hotels. Neither of which are bad salaries, but nothing close to “many multiples of $60k”.

    2. Poppy the Flower*

      Yep and if you go into fashion or costuming people are always going to need a tailor (eg wedding dress stores). Sometimes it’s also about looking outside major markets for your first job. Of course, business skills are useful. But I wouldn’t dismiss these fields just because they are not traditional desk jobs. I agree with the other commenters about encouraging her to do her own research/networking about potential career paths and the job market.

  29. Kiki*

    LW #1: I think one of the best things you can do for your daughter right now is have her talk to a lot of people about the path they took to get where they are now. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re 17/18 to know what your plan is and launch right onto that path. And especially for young people, there can be an impatience about getting to your dream job. But most people meander. There isn’t a wrong way to get somewhere and most people will retrospectively look back and wish they had done something differently, but it’s never possible to know in the moment what exactly the best thing to do is. I went to college and majored in anthropology. I am now a software developer. Sometimes I wish I had “just gone to college for computer science” but that doesn’t make sense based on who I was in high school/college. I didn’t care a lick about computer science until I was working and saw how I could use programming to make my job easier.
    I think going to college and getting a degree would be a prudent choice for your daughter because, as you said, it will make it easier to get a corporate office job if she ever wants/ needs one. But there’s nothing that says she has to get that degree immediately. Would she be interested in taking a gap semester or year? I don’t know what opportunities are available in costume design in your area for those who don’t have a background in it, but your daughter could almost definitely get a job in a bakery or something of that sort. She could probably even take a class or two online or from a community college as well.

    1. Amairch*

      I strongly agree with you. I think the most toxic attitude is the idea that you must go to university right out of high school or you’re somehow a failure (not smart enough, or too poor, or not ambitious or “driven” enough).

      For one thing, the rising cost of university tuition means it’s economically impossible — or at the very least, highly irresponsible — for an increasing number of families. (As a side note: Community college is *free* in many states, and if you plan your program right and talk to the 4-year school ahead of time you can complete 1/2 your degree for *free*!!!).

      For another thing, expecting an 18 year old to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives and back to that decision with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt is flat-out irresponsible. They have limited information (many teens have little to no work experience in their chosen field, and don’t even know all potential jobs that exist in the world), limited decision-making ability (they’re 18!), and huge, life-altering consequences for years to come (Massive debt that’s dictates where you can live, what job you have to take, and whether you can start a family). That’s pretty sadistic if you think about it.

      People talk about college being a place to “find yourself”. That’s middle-class aspirational bs. If you need to spend 10-20k a year to find *anything*, it better be because someone’s offering a million dollar reward for it. You can figure out what you want to do in life or what you believe in or what kind of person you want to be, all without buying the equivalent of a house for the privilege of playing beer pong.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I really wish all high school graduates would take a gap year or two. It might give them some idea of where they’d like their career to go, and also open their eyes to ones they haven’t thought about or didn’t even know existed. There’s no way I would have been able to go to college right out of high school. I mean I could have, but I didn’t want to and I wouldn’t have had the focus I had when I eventually decided to go when I was in my 30s. As a HS graduate, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Plus going to college wasn’t a thing in my family, which meant no financial assistance from my parents. I was the last and fifth child, so after raising four other kids, they didn’t have the financial resources to send me to college even if I’d wanted to go.

  30. Ruth (UK)*

    I’m slightly torn on number 1… On one hand, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to get a degree for the sake of having a degree if it’s not something you want to do (other than feeling like you should probably have one). It’s quite a long amount of time (at that point in your life if you’re school-leaving age) and a lot of work, and a lot of money.

    On the other hand, in the specific case of LW1, it seems funding isn’t an issue – the LW seems to have enough money to pay for their daughter’s education. Also, they have noted that they would help her find a course that relates to what she’s interested in. So in this case, I am inclined to agree that a degree route does seem like a good plan.

    I think if funds were an issue, or if the parents were suggesting that the daughter studies something she’s not interested in (even if she’s ‘good at’ it) such as science, or maths, then I’d say it’s not a good idea – as commenters above have noted, many students do drop out of university programmes.

  31. Amairch*

    #1 – I agree with Alison but I have some caveats. I would certainly not pay for an expensive specialized school right off the bat. But telling your kid to go to college for a degree “just in case” is a route to major debt and a waste of time. Going back to school at 20 or 22 or 25 is not that much harder than going at 18, assuming she doesn’t get saddled with major obligations like kids (practice safe sex!).

    University is too expensive to study something that doesn’t have direct application in the marketplace. A degree history or philosophy is not going to help her get anything more than a generic file clerk job making $15/hr. Or, god forbid, communications. That’s the undergrad equivalent of “a JD is applicable in many fields!” Yes, people get all sorts of jobs with degrees that don’t match. But that doesn’t mean it’s good advice to tell someone starting out to just get any degree and figure out the job part later. That’s the difference between heading to a destination and making adjustments along the way vs walking around blindfolded and hoping you don’t walk off a cliff. Just because the fall won’t kill you doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, or that it was wise to walk without looking where you were going.

    If she wants to work in a competitive, low-paying, “passion” field, she should go work in the field now. She can do the specialized schooling after she’s worked at the bottom and is certain that she really wants to struggle to the top. And if it turns out that the reality of the field takes some of the shine off her passion, she can go back to school and pick a degree that is directly related to a job she might actually want to do.

    1. Czhorat*

      This comment highlights everything wrong with capitalism and how it has made us look at college. Philosophy, history, and literature may not be what make life possible, but they’re a big part of what makes it worth living.

      The idea that education is only valuable for what salary it can bring us is such a tragic one.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        But you don’t need to take expensive college classes to study philosophy, history, and literature. and frankly a lot of college students aren’t really that interested in those topics. They are there to get a college degree so that they can get a good job. Or they’re there to party, live off their parent’s for a bit longer, and put off having to get a real job as long as possible.

        A college education is not free in the US and if you’re going to pay for it you need to understand what you’re left with after you graduate – both a degree and college loan debt. That degree had better help you pay of the college loan.

        BTW I love history and reading (although not always “literature”).

      2. Amairch*

        If you look at the history of college, I think you’ll find that it has its own complicated roots. It’s only recently that we even had a middle class, separate from the working class/nobility dichotomy. Academia has always been the refuge of the wealthy. The fact that it recently became more accessible to people was not out of a desire for a more educated population. It’s because middle class people wanted something that would make them look cultured enough to fit in with upper class jobs, and they could finally afford it.

        And if you want to talk capitalism, how about the fact that tuition has outpaced inflation by multiples for the past several years? And how that’s directly correlated with the federal government choosing to back private student loans? Giving young people free access to money was supposed to make it easier for them to get educated. All it’s done is make universities and banks rich.

        The real tragedy is allowing private interests to dominate the public good. But that’s kind of a recurring theme in the US, isn’t it? Just look at your healthcare system.

      3. Quickbeam*

        I’m in my 60’s and I don’t know a single one of my peers who would say that they regretted going to college. I no longer am in the field I studied in 1974 but I was able to use those credits towards a new degree and new profession. I *do* know a lot of people my age who wish they had a degree.

        1. Amairch*

          Yes, but college was a lot cheaper 40 years ago. And fewer people went, so it made you more competitive for higher level jobs. Studying anything just to learn “critical thinking skills” doesn’t have the ROI that it did before. And when the average student is graduating with 30k in student loans, and it’s higher for people who are the first in their family to go to college (the very people that the student loan program was supposed to help), ROI is a necessary consideration that gets brushed aside too easily.

          1. Quickbeam*

            I get that…..I still see value in the education and maturation. In my state you can get to the associates level under 5K a year.

            1. Amairch*

              Of course there’s value in it, but that doesn’t mean it’s commensurate with the price you pay for it. I’m objecting to the statement that no one regrets going to college. There are tons of millenials putting off major life decisions (moving out, buying a house, getting married, starting a family) because of the burden of student loans. And again, it affects people disproportionately according to race and income class.

              So going to school for the sake of education, maturity and “finding yourself” is dangerous advice to give without caveats. And assuming that those caveats don’t matter, or will be implicitly understood by the reciever, is a reflection of privilege that should be carefully examined.

  32. QCI*

    #1 should recommend a business degree. It’s useful in a lot of jobs, and if she does pursue a creative job after she would have the skills/knowledge to make it profitable. Hopefully.

    1. Hello It's Me*

      I studied music in school and the business/contracts class were by far the most helpful ones to me!

  33. Sara_H*

    OP2 – If I need to give someone fairly substantial corrections / suggestions for a report or article, I usually sit down with them and go through the rationale for all the corrections and proposed changes. It means I can explain why I think, for example, a graph would be better than a table of results, or why their explanation of how a magnetometer works is potentially misleading. I generally approach it as a discussion, as sometimes there’s a good reason why my proposed changes won’t work that I hadn’t considered. Yes, it’s (initially) more time-intensive, but, particularly for students, it’s a thought-provoking exercise for them. In a lot of universities students aren’t taught how to write (and certainly not taught how to receive feedback on their work, as a couple of other commenters have mentioned above). So learning not just that the way something was written was wrong, but why it was wrong, can be hugely helpful.

  34. frinn*

    #1 – College prof here. If Daughter does not want to start with college, she could work for a year or two to save some money for culinary school (or college if she decides to take that route). Bonus points if it’s in a kitchen, because she can see what that work might be like. If she’s not excited about/interested in/invested in going to college, DO NOT send her to what could turn into a miserable several years of college only to be saddled with never-ending debt which, even with a degree, will take decades to pay off.

    All this is to say: Let her figure things out by taking some gap time. College isn’t a decision to be made lightly, nor is culinary or fashion school. Maybe she could enroll part-time in a class or two at community college (some may even have hospitality programs which could be a nice start if she were to decide to go the culinary route). Don’t push full-time college on an undecided kid.

  35. Lilo*

    Re culinary school: my brother was a decently successful chef but recently went back to school to go into IT.

    One: culinary school can be very expensive. It’s also a crowded field and so the investment doesn’t necessarily pay off either. You still have to work your way up in a very crowded and brutal industry.

    Two: the job is physically very tough. My brother was plagued with back issues from carrying heavy loads and stooping. I worked in a bakery and one of my first jobs was shap9ng rolls. By the end of the day my hands would ache.

    Three: the hours are awful. My brother quit in part to spend more time with his kids.

    I would assume fashion designer has the similar entry and cost issues. Those are dream jobs for a lot of people in a crowded field. And anyone who strikes it out solo should have a strong understanding of business and finance because that’s a HUGE part of it.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      All of this. I’ve worked many restaurant jobs and at the end of the day I was too exhausted and worn out to do anything. It’s grueling work.

  36. Tai*

    #1, it sounds like she might want to start her own business one day. If that is the case, a degree in business or something related would be an excellent help. These skills aren’t taught in other majors. When I started my business, I was caught off guard.

  37. Lilo*

    I provide writing feedback as part of my job (particularly for new hires) and I will just be explicit. “You haven’t incorporated my previous edits. Did you have any questions about those edits?” I make the expectations clear from the beginning.

    If this is a repeated problem, I will just send right it back stating “Please do not send me a new draft without incorporating my last edits or discussing them with me.”

    Now a couple missed edits isn’t a big deal but if it’s a big pattern I do get harsher. Providing edits like this takes an enormous amount of time and I am not going to do repetitive work.

  38. Ana Gram*

    OP 1- I completely agree with you. I’m a cop and I recruit and hire cops. It’s traditionally a field where no college was needed though that’s been changing in recent years. I’ve watched really smart, experienced, hardworking officers getting ready to retire and getting zero calls from applications they’ve sent out. Why? Because they can’t check that degree box on the application. These days, not having a degree really has the potential to hold you back. Get the degree in anything! Heck, I studied medieval British liturgical drama in college but it’s a degree and I’ll be ok when I retire in a few years.

  39. Retail not Retail*

    Question related to OP4 – when job applications ask when you can start, what answer are they expecting?

    The only time I had a concrete date was when I was graduating!

    I bet “two weeks after you hire me” is not what they’re looking for. I just leave it blank.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I guess that would be where you’d put “full-time student until (date)” or “will need to give two weeks’ notice” or “can start immediately” but unless you have an unusually long notice period or they are hiring unusually urgently it shouldn’t be used to eliminate or favour candidates, surely?

    2. Antilles*

      From a hiring perspective, the purpose of this question usually isn’t intended to quibble over a few days here nor to nail you down to an exact date. Instead, it’s intended to identify candidates with an unusually long timeline – you’re in school until May, you have a contract that keeps you for three months, etc.
      So as long as your timeline is somewhere along the usual lines of “2-3 weeks after I receive an offer, so I can provide proper notice and wrap things up”, most companies won’t take any offense to that answer. If anything, many hiring managers would consider it a negative if you *didn’t* seem concerned about giving proper notice to your current company.

  40. Fall of the House of Gushers*

    For LW#1: You might check out Zoe Hong’s YouTube channel for the realities of going to fashion design school. The fashion industry is HUGE, with lots of different careers /niches, and it’s probably not the bad career bet it might originally seem to be.

  41. Random Commenter*

    I’m not in love with the idea that office jobs are the only fallback options. There are stable jobs that aren’t office jobs, and I worry that there may be a bit of bias against other options such as more blue collar positions.

    1. Hello It's Me*

      YES YES YES. I know people in the restaurant industry that made more than I did in my “office” job. Heck, I made more in the restaurant industry than I did the first 5 years in my “office” career!!!

      Especially if you don’t have debt from a stupid college degree, this can be the best option.

      I know people WITH college degrees that ended up in the restaurant industry (because it was the highest-paying option) AND have to pay their student loans too.

      I hope she sees your comment!

    2. Lana Kane*

      I agree.

      And on the flip-side: I manage a team of office workers in a role that many could easily see as a fallback option. This means that I 1) get a lot of resumes from people who are clearly thinking of the job as a fallback, and have no actual experience, 2) I inherited employees who had that attitude coming in, and their performance is not great. The thing is, this job requires a certain skillset even if it seems like a second-tier role, and I’m not about to hire anyone who doesn’t. have it or isn’t cognizant of the fact that they will need to acquire it.

  42. Hello It's Me*

    #1 — I don’t completely agree with Alison’s advice.

    If she’s a junior and she’s interested in culinary arts and fashion design, she can go try those things — now! Set up informational interviews with people in the industry. Get a job at a restaurant. If she *might* be interested, but doesn’t know anything about it, then go do that thing! Don’t wait for, gosh, 6 years until she’s out of college to try it!

    Having studied fashion design or culinary arts doesn’t mean you will be successful in it, just like even studying coding doesn’t mean you’ll be successful at it, so it’s important to get information about it now. Let her find out what kind of career paths are available.

    Second, student loans are TERRIBLE. They can literally ruin your life. It is 10000% not worth it in my opinion to go to college for a degree that you don’t want to end up with debt. ONLY go if it’s free.

    Third, many office jobs don’t require degrees anyway, and many people in my office are surprised that I have one.

    1. Shramps*

      I agree with the first part of this advice (she doesn’t need to wait to gain the experience) but strongly disagree with the second.

      She should get a job as a line cook somewhere or volunteer with her community theatre or historic center to build costume experience.

      But every desk job I’ve ever had requires a degree. At the non profit I worked at in DC, and the temp job I took when I moved back home, then the contractor role after it, and finally the permanent role right now. My degree was only a perfect fit for the temp role.

      Degrees matter, and they set you apart. As much as I hate my student loans, and now that I’m 10 years out of college I regret my major (even though it’s a STEM major), I’m still grateful I got it. I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

      1. Hello It's Me*

        In PA and CO my temp jobs did not require a degree. The only job I’ve had that required one was the first one out of college when I worked in financial analysis.

        I also know a lot of people with degrees who went back into the restaurant industry because it paid more than the office jobs.

        1. Shramps*

          IMO, this is why this question is so polarizing. We both have evidence for our arguments and our arguments are due to life experience. There’s no way for any of us to have a sure bet for the daughter.

          I hope OP gives us an update in a year or five!

  43. Czhorat*

    I think OP#1 is right, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. “Go to college in addition to culinary school in case you want an office job instead of a cooking job” treats college and culinary school as the same kind of thing – pre-employment education and preparation. The bigger value of college (and one on which I missed out for various reasons) lies in learning how to learn. It’s the one part of your life when you can easily put aside time to study literature, philosophy, and culture. It’s access to both a broad array of ideas and a chance to learn how better to think. THAT is what she’d be missing if she goes straight to culinary school and skips traditional college – not a chance at the glamorous life of spending 40 hours a week in a cube farm, but a chance to be a pastry chef, fashion designer or, yes, office worker with a richer inner life and better connection to the wider culture.

    Not only is this what I see as the deeper value, but perhaps framing it that way – as a chance for personal enrichment – is a better sell than “maybe if your dream job doesn’t pan out you can fall back into a mundane office gig”.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Depends. 20 years ago I thought I’d have all this opportunity to study history and literature in addition the classes in my major. Basically, though, my major and many others are already realistically a 5 year program and there were not a lot of opportunities for electives. I went to summer school so I graduated in 4 and half years, but I certainly could not afford to extend my time in college in order to take classes just for fun.

      College – traditional college – is way more expensive than it should be, but that’s just a fact that needs to be factored in when answering questions like this.

      1. No College Rant*

        Not only is college expensive, this idea it somehow makes people more enlightened is simply not true. I’m better read, a better writer, and more informed about civic issues than the rich faux-liberals I live around because my working class backgroud gives me knowledge of stuff they only read about in journals. Also, you know that poor people and people without degrees can read, right? Like you know that I can take a book out of the library and read it and learn from it without spending a few thousand dollars so an HR rep can see I read it on my resume?

        In community college I took a few classes at cost at a well-known prestigious four-year public school, and it convinced me to not transfer. The students were coddled, whiny, entitled and lazy. They did less with their vast resources and free time than folks in my CC classes did while raising kids and holding down full-time jobs. My industry in our city has been recruiting heavily from our CC program because you simply can’t find a trade-school work ethic in most four-year students. It doesn’t matter that we have less education, we are better candidates. But it’s good to jump on a blog for a morning read and have it confirmed that people who don’t work as hard as me still think I’m beneath them!

        I don’t think this woman is really concerned about her daughter’s employability. There are loads of options to address that if she were, including cheap and job-centered junior colleges, most of which have programs in both culinary arts and textiles, and most of which have articulation agreements with four-year schools for people who want to continue school. I think that if she has the mindset that at least four years and tens of thousands of dollars is a ‘just in case’ investment, she’s worried about the appearences of her child not pursuing a traditional degree, the same way people think I’m ‘wasting’ my talent in the workforce rather than stuffed in a classroom with a bunch of kids I’m already more qualified than. And I’m sad but not surprised to see Allison reinforce this deeply classist stereotype rather than calling her on it.

        Staying in high school and going to a liberal arts school I left after two semesters are the only regrets I have about my life, and the idea that I should have stuck it out to be good enough to discuss literature at parties is effed up. This has been happening more and more in recent years and it’s caused me to pull away from society because I’m sick of the bigotry. Yeah, your degree is worthless. I learned all this stuff for free. But you need to tell yourself you’re better, because deep down you know you coukd never hack it at a blue collar job. The amount time I spend coddling the egos of very educated people is astounding. Please don’t encourage other people to think this way, unless you really do believe that art and science and beauty should only belong to the select few who have jumped through enough hoops to be deemed worthy.

        End rant.

        1. Czhorat*

          Not going to a liberal arts college is one my my regrets.

          Some people learn very well on their own. Some learn better in an academic environment. The experience of learning along with peers is one you’re not likely to get again.

          There are things in the experience AND in the formal education which have value. And yes, there are perhaps other ways to capture some of that value. It doesn’t mean that education is meaningless.

          1. No College Rant*

            Do people not have peers in other places? Do they not have friends? I certainly don’t have many peers in a college environment, and the time I’ve spent there has left me with the distinct impression that it’s an environment that actively discourages critical thought, and this is only reinforced when I have to pick up the slack for people who can quote Homer but not function in an entry-level job. A fair number of them aren’t put together enough to clean their own kitchens, which is good for me, because I get to charge them exorbiant amounts of money to do it for them.

            I think you have a really romantic idea of what college would be like. I was blocked from pursuing independent research because I needed gen eds not remotely related to my field. I was told I couldn’t pursue creative projects because they were of a more advance class level than the classes I was cleared to take. Not that wasn’t COMPETENT enough to take, I just didn’t have the pre-reqs. I was told I had to dumb myself down because my ‘peers’ couldn’t keep up with me , that I couldn’t do my best because it wasn’t fair to other students to have to critique above their level. It’s only a place of learning and insight if you came to it a blank canvas. If you’re already the sort of person who values learning, an education is often the worst thing you can do for yourself. Learning is never meaningless, but often the piece of paper thats says you sat in a desk is. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have access to the same knowledge. Even my best friend whose doing his doctoral work right now knows that’s nothing but a really nice flyer he needs to be able to teach. He’s been in school for 15 years and doesn’t think it has ultimately made him a better thinker or citizen. He doesn’t have any peers in school either, and most of his friends are sort of judgmental of his friendship with blue collar people like me. And everything about how our society functions reinforces that idea, because white collar workers have engineered a society in which they never interact with a blue collar person who isn’t performing a service for them.

            You can actually learn alongside your peers wherever you are. My peers have been farmers, defense contractors, dishwashers, engineers, truck drivers, grocery workers, professional boxers, religious leaders and stay at home parents. You don’t nees to have someone hold your hand through a workshop to have these experiences, you just have to greet every person you interact with with the expectation that they have something to teach you. It makes me sad you feel like that’s an option that’s closed to you, or that only exists in certain environments and situations, because there’s so much joy in having people surprise you. You don’t ‘miss’ the oppurtunity to have a rich inner life because you don’t check a box, but you do if you decide that because you never did that one thing, you just don’t need to bother.

            1. Czhorat*

              You have a weird hostility on this, and are either deliberately misunderstanding my points or so blinding by your own hatred that you refuse to even look at another side.

              I’ll gently add that the romanticism of the less educated is every bit as corrosive as the assumption that everyone needs a lengthy post-secondary formal education. Perhaps more so.


              1. No College Rant*

                I will forgive calling people lacking a degree ‘corrosive’, which I can only guess comes from the sterotype that all wage workers are radically right-wing. If this young woman was excited about the prospect of the education her parents have proposed, I would be very happy for her. She would surely get something out an experience she is looking forward to and lucky to have. But she isn’t, and college, especially away from home, is difficult enough without the added weight of arriving unhappy and resentful, a state in which she stands to learn nothing. It will take a toll on not only her happiness but her physical and mental health, not to mention her relationship to her parents. Maybe if she took some time before school to study at a trade school or enter the workforce she may learn that what she wanted wasn’t what she thought and be happy with a steady office job. Who knows! But her parents aren’t willing to give her that option. They believe damaging their child’s well-being and their relationship with her, possibly beyond repair, is a risk worth taking to fulfill their idea of an acceptable life’s journey, and that makes me deeply sad for them and her, because it’s sad when famikies fall apart. But Allison agrees with them that that risk is worth it, and because it’s a conversation I have with various people several times a month with people who believe it’s more important to be a certain kind of outwardly successful than fulfilled, content, or a good person, I want to know why.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Glad it worked for you. Your experience is not universal.

          Most blue collar jobs are dominated by men, and until recently, by white men. A big reason is that most of them require apprenticeships to get a career started, and there’s tremendous push-back from people already in these industries against diversity and opening up opportunities. Union and federal govt diversity hire requirements have helped racially, but not gender-wise.

          Colleges have been integral to helping women join the workforce and get jobs in which they can support themselves. Though, yes, a gender pay gap does exist, it’s nowhere near as big as the *job* gender gap in blue collar industries. And no, it doesn’t take a man’s strength to un-shingle a roof, drive a fork lift or even a construction digger – I’ve done all of these.

          There’s pluses and minuses to *all* education and career paths; no one is better or worse than any other human because of their education / career choices. We are better or worse because of the respect and compassion we show to ourselves and our fellow human beings, not because of the money we earn.

          1. No College Rant*

            I mean, I am a woman, going to a trade school, whose work ethic is respected leaps and bounds beyond what it’s been in the white collar working world. My industry straddles the divide: sometimes it’s very physical and union-oriented, sometimes it’s more office. Offices have sexist dress codes and they hate my tattooes. The more hands-on jobs are like “can you lift this thing? Good, here’s the same wage we start everyone at”. That’s not even a new concept, there’s a rich history of queer women in skilled trades because they were good household-supporting jobs. Of course there are minuses. It’s often physical work, if you get hurt you may be screwed, and you have to take responsibility for your own personal growth; the urge to go home after twelve hours of receiving trucks to just veg on the couch is strong. But I’m really having a problem with Czhort’s inital claim that if you don’t develop those skills in college, you lose the oppurtunity forever. I’d like to think everyone knows that the person who makes their coffee or picks up their trash has a life beyond that, and then sometimes I’m reminded that nope, I am a literal piece of machinery to some people. Which doesn’t bother me on a personal level, but how do you expect to engage people on a civically if you’ve already decided their inner selves can’t possibly be as developed as yours? How do you build community when you’ve already written off whole communities as intellectually inferior? Or are these not things other people care about?

    2. Tinker*

      I’ve been musing lately that it seems to do people well to have some sort of initiatory experience in the years right after attaining adulthood — something that is in some way an intense experience and that breaks them in to acting independently. For me this was college; the military is also traditional.

      It might be something where the subject of the experience isn’t terribly lofty and high minded — I think that engineering worked just fine for me despite being very career oriented, though I did it out of interest in the material rather than solely because my parents said so.

      The thing is, the actual subject of the initiatory experience might or might not be practical, but the benefit is learning to think and learning how say no to one’s parents. It’s not completely ineffective learning that through a process of being pressured by said parents to do a thing they lack intrinsic motivation for, but it’s likely less efficient.

      Looking back, there are some things I think would have gone better for me if I had told my parents to keep their money and made my own decision, even when the decision I would have made then would have had drawbacks that I’d have to address later.

      1. Tinker*

        I’m kind of meandering around this point but a thing I want to convey is that I don’t know about the notion that it’s specifically liberal arts that have the effect of teaching one how to think and you don’t learn that in the process of studying something less academic.

        I’ve gotten quite a lot of personal growth over the years out of being a martial artist, for instance — like, being punched by people, which is not typically seen as an extra intellectual activity, taught me things about life. Granted being punched by people and then going home to read books about Stoicism, but as No College Rant notes it is entirely possible just to go buy those books.

        1. Lora*

          I think of it like this: There is no field in any college anywhere that the faculty will describe as, “yeah, we’re just making the kids memorize things long enough to regurgitate them in a few months’ time, it’s all rote and they’ll never use it again.” Every field is 100% certain they are teaching students how to think. In real life, both TA-ing while I was in grad school and at work, most of the people really do just memorize and regurgitate, hardly any actually use their precious thinking or learning skills. Maybe 1/20 – 1/10 actually think and analyze and all that. The hard part is…you don’t know if you’re going to be in the 90-95% or the 5-10% any way other than by doing it.

          1. No College Rant*

            I’ve had loads of wonderful conversations and friendships with my professors. All outside of class. Because I was thinking, and they were intelligent and thoughtful people, but they have to teach their class to the weakest student. More than one encouraged me to stick it out for an MFA. One told me I was wasting my time in the program, for which I am grateful. I think it depends on where the student came from. An engaged and active learner in high school is going to be bored with a lot of 100 and 200 level classes. I’ve been told I was too good a student, because I read up on a topic before class started just to have a good knowledge base. But then it would turn out the entire class was nothing but that knowledge base I had spent an hour on, and now I’m bored.

            1. No College Rant*

              Also, Tinker, from another recreational fighter, you ALWAYS learn something getting punched in the face. Maybe it’s that what you said wasn’t cool, maybe it’s that somebody you liked is actually an asshat, maybe it’s just to keep your hands up. But if you don’t think you’ve learned anything, you should repeat the class a few times until it sinks in. :)

              1. No College Rant*

                I haven’t formed my opinions based on one school. I’ve taken classes at four different schools, from junior colleges to world-renowned research institutions, and found the class quality to be much the same. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my professors or fellow students, but the help I got from them didn’t come in the classroom, and it was just as frustrating for my professors who wanted me to charge ahead into the great unknown to have me held up by red tape. I was told as an eighteen-year-old freshman that I couldn’t write a novel in my creative writing program (!) Because even though I was ready other students were not and it wasn’t fair to them. Several years later another school told me my research into how to prevent mass shootings in the planning stage would have to wait because I had to take a class about the weather to fulfill my degree requirements. Two advisors going to bat for me didn’t help, and I left and never bothered to publish my research. I did everything I could at multiple institutions to make the experience engaging, challenging, and insightful. The burocracy of most schools don’t seem to want to build that experience. I may have been happier elsewhere-a friend’s kid is looking at Warren Wilson, which seems like a great move for them-but those kinds of schools weren’t options for me, so I got what I got. And for what it’s worth, my friend who teaches at the University level shares my experience, as he’s had the same experiences from the other end.

  44. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW1 — These are not either/or situations! Why don’t you & she read up on the 4-year bachelor’s degrees that include her passions? They exist in B.Arts as well as B.Science. Offhand I can suggest a few that friends have attended.
    For cooking&hospitality look up Culinary Institute of America, Johnson&Wales, and the Cornell Hotel School.
    For clothing try Fashion Institute of NY, Pratt, Cornell’s College of Human Ecology (Fiber Science & Apparel Design).
    There are also incredible programs in both at local colleges across the country — a friend growing up in a restaurant family is accelerating her high school education by taking college classes at a nearby community college with a strong culinary arts & hospitality management program. She’s thinking about getting to the Associates level and then transferring to University of $State — smart kid, that gets her an immediate degree at lower cost AND the state bachelors.

  45. Dr. AK*

    LW 2–college professor here. When I give feedback, I have students explicitly fill out a sheet stating how they incorporated each piece of feedback or why they chose not to. This 1) ensures I’m not wasting my time and 2) trains students for the paper writing / peer review process. When I write a journal article, I HAVE to respond to feedback from coauthors or the referee. Best to teach her now that responding to feedback is mandatory.

  46. Shramps*

    Love how the responses to #1 are so different. College is so polarizing- and it’s not always a guarantee success no matter what. She could regret what she’s doing in 10 years no matter what choice.

  47. RecentAAMfan*

    #1: You might have more success discussing this with your daughter if you refrained from using the term “desk job” which, least to me conjures up images of Dunder Miflin et al.
    Maybe, for instance, if you emphasized how even if she chooses her passion pursuits, business knowledge would be immensely helpful (the other kind of dough).

  48. Dana Lynne*

    I rarely disagree with Alison, but this time I have to — about the parents of the high school student who wanted fashion design or culinary school.

    This student is going to be miserable in some kind of plain vanilla bachelor’s degree like business or English, plus if they follow this plan they will be stuck doing what they DON’T want for four years, which is eternity to a 17 year old, before they get to the GOOD PART. Recipe for disaster.

    There are four-year degrees in hotel and restaurant management that include a major chef/culinary component — my sister has one from Oklahoma State University. It includes a bunch of business courses too.

    That same university also has a four-year degree in fashion design that has a great job placement record.

    And that’s just one example. There are many reputable two-year degrees in culinary school as well.

    Also many chefs got their basic training at chain restaurants and took an apprencticeship route. The New York Times just did a feature story about this.

    I teach at a two-year technical school that grants fully accredited associate’s degrees and has a great track record in placing people in lucrative jobs. Plus if someone later wants to finish a bachelor’s, the two year A.S. or A.A. degree can be used as the platform and the person can start with the junior level. Bachelor’s degrees can be done online while working, as well.

    This obsession with “bachelor’s degrees for all” is just not necessary. There are many paths to a good career. I believe if this family follows Alison’s advice, the student will be extremely unmotivated and possibly unhappy.

    1. Hello It's Me*

      Yeahhhhh. 4 years is a reeeeeeeally long time to do something you hate.

      I know someone who studied hospitality management who ended up with a job in Hawaii working for the Disney resort so it’s possible to have a “desk job” even in culinary arts! I also agree that you don’t need a degree to be a chef. I have a friend who’s a chef worked his way up and he said everyone has to work their way up from the bottom, whether you have a degree or not.

  49. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I’m just going to remind OP1 that Elle Woods majored in Fashion Merchandising before she went to Harvard Law School…

  50. Foreign Octopus*

    LW1 when I was seventeen I told my parents I didn’t want to go to university. I was sat down and had the facts laid out that people who go to university earn more on average than people who don’t. I went and then graduate during a pretty horrible recession and am now living with my parents whilst I teach ESL. Now, the recession couldn’t be helped by my parents but I do feel that I was heavily pressured into going to university when I didn’t want to and to study something that I didn’t want to. I’m the only one of my parents’ children to go to university so I don’t know why I was the one who was pressured, but it is what it is.

    I often mention how I wish I had the opportunity to do my undergraduate’s degree now, at the age of 30, rather than as an 18-year-old who didn’t want to be there. I feel that I would get so much more out of my degree and the experience as an adult like life experience under her belt than I did as a teenager with vague ideas of joining the foreign office because I liked travel.

    It sounds to me like your daughter is toying with a number of ideas and that’s great! That’s what she’s supposed to be doing at her age. No one is supposed to have it figured out by then, and the trend of going to university straight after school is one that I think is particularly damaging.

    It’s a sensible idea to have a back-up option for things like culinary school and design school, but does she need to do that now? She might benefit from some time outside of the academic environment in order to discover what it is that she really wants to do. As mentioned, I wanted to work for the foreign office but I also wanted to be a journalist, teacher, actress, doctor, and astronaut when I was 17. It’s only now at 30 that I’ve realised that my true passion lies in languages and history and teaching. I never would have considered that properly as a teen setting off for university because I hadn’t experienced any of life to know any better.

    You sound like a very supportive parent so sit down with your daughter and ask her if she wants to go to university straight away or if she wants to take a gap year (two, three, or five) off. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to university as a mature student. The only caveat to this option that I would apply is that she has to do something with her time be it join the Peace Corps or teach English in Mexico or wait tables at the local diner. The important thing is that she’s experiencing real life so that when it does come the time to make a decision on what to study she’ll have more knowledge and experience to make a sensible, informed choice. And if that choice happens to be culinary school? Then she already knows the risks of such a career and has decided that it’s what she wants to do anyway.

  51. anonymous 5*

    LW1: Community college prof here to chime in an umpteenth vote for *any* combo of gap year/work in a restaurant/take CC courses. My ultimate vote is actually to do all three: in addition to the cost advantages and transferability to 4-year schools that many people have already mentioned, CC’s offer the immense advantage of not requiring students to commit to a program–or even to being a full-time student. Every semester, I have several students who are taking only my class, or possibly mine plus one other, even though I teach in a field that’s a pretty popular one for full-time students who eventually hope to transfer to finish a BA/BS. Course credits are typically valid for degrees at our school and for transfer elsewhere for several years.
    Anecdotally, I will say this: the students who were “academically gifted” in HS often struggle mightily when they get to my courses (I’m in the physical sciences) if they were able to make it through school without ever having to figure out how to work and learn efficiently outside of class. But we have plenty of ultimate success stories that started out with students struggling and sometimes failing multiple classes. What makes the difference is clarity of purpose: once a student can work out what they’re hoping to do and what the various paths look like, they are much more likely to be able to deal with the setbacks that come along the way. If your daughter takes a gap year or two in order to work/explore what the career options actually are in the fields that interest her, she can absolutely get the start on some basic coursework too, and ultimately be much better prepared to succeed on whatever path ends up appealing the most for her.

    1. AccountantWendy*

      +1 to anonymous 5
      I went to college at 18 because It’s What You Do. I even had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do – I was focused! Driven! And then I decided I didn’t want to work all that hard, dropped my International Relations degree, got a Creative Writing degree, graduated with a bunch of debt and NO idea how to get a job, ZERO professional skills, and not the least idea of how to exist in the world as a working adult. As result I worked crappy retail and service jobs, doubled my debt going to graduate school because I LITERALLY did not understand that you can *find a new job* when you current one is making you unhappy (instead of going to graduate school), and basically wandered dazed and confused and broke through my 20s. I was in my 30s when I decided what I wanted to be, went back to community college, got a degree, and now work in happily in my field.

      You sound like loving and supportive parents! And I agree, a college degree IS important just for its own sake. But on it’s own, it’s still not enough. Community college would be a HUGE asset to you daughter, and actually working in the world – in ANY capacity – would also help expose her to other careers and working professionals.

      All that said, I REALLY loved my experience at a small, midwestern liberal arts college and as a human being, I grew tremendously by leaps and bounds and had wonderful experiences broadening my mind and my horizons. I don’t regret it, I just wish I’d had slightly better guidance post-graduation. 40 year old me is pretty annoyed that if I hadn’t gone to grad school and had just…gotten a new job….I’d be done with student loans by now.

  52. CoffeeLover*

    #1 I disagree with the advice for 1. In North America, we push people to get the 4 year college degree right after highschool and I don’t think that’s always the best idea. I now live in a country where people typically do other things after highschool for a few years before going back to study. Those people seem to have a much better idea of what they want to study and are much more serious about their studies compared to me when I went to college at 18 and picked a random degree. Luckily, the degree I picked is actually relevant for the real world and did help me get money (even if it didn’t necessarily help me find fulfilling work), but I know plenty of people with fairly useless college degrees that ended up in jobs that don’t require a degree. I would question how a useful a 4 year apparel program would be as compared to the more hands-on 2-year trade program.

    Of course, you’re just offering to pay for the college. If your daughter really wants to go to culinary school, she can find ways to do it without you. If she chooses to take you up on your offer to get the 4 year degree, then that’s her choice (though she may feel like you strong armed her into it – that may or may not be worth it to you).

  53. Thankful for AAM*

    Re #1 and college.
    Our counselor told us that we were putting our son in the position of fighting with us for his future. At 17, he needed to be fighting with himself for his future.

    Does that make sense? He was putting his energy into pushing back against us instead of working things out inside his own head and heart.

    You gave her a good foundation, let her use that to figure things out now.

  54. Senor Montoya*

    OP #4, if you’re looking at jobs in higher ed, especially at large public institutions: the start date is when we wanted to have someone, but because the process is so slow (partly because every step has to be blessed by HR, partly because searches are almost always by committee and that means scheduling a number of extremely busy people, sometimes because people in academia don’t know how to run an efficient search).

    You are right, there is no way to run a halfway decent search process before the start date. It almost never has anything to do with internal candidates. Even if we did have an internal candidate, we still have to run a real search and the internal candidate has to endure it as well.

    Application deadline: Get your application in by the deadline. We can’t look at late applications. Literally, we cannot see them because you cannot submit them online.

  55. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I disagree with Alison on #1. A 4 year college degree is not the ultimate answer for everyone. There are several paths your daughter could take, and forcing her to get a college degree is not the right thing to do. Unless you have the money to waste, let her explore her options, and don’t give her the ultimatum of paying for culinary school IF she goes to college for 4 years first. If she isn’t sure what she wants to do, community college is a good option to start. She could try out different things and see what appeals to her. She could also get a full time job and get a degree (if she wants) later. There’s not one clear path for all HS grads, and forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to do is not the answer.

  56. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Have her do a culinary program at your local community college. She’ll earn a degree but also get the culinary training.

  57. Fashion Tech Designer*

    #1 I work in the apparel industry for a large company (but have worked for a smaller companies as well) I do what’s called Technical design which is an offshoot of Design. This position generally requires a degree – as do most fashion jobs. It’s a HUGE industry with tons of different facets and options as far as your career goes. She should get a degree at the least in business, but there are many many apparel programs in the country – maybe even at her state school. 10 years in I make a little over $100k and I would consider it a ‘cool desk job’. Lots of creativity but also lots of time at a desk/staring at a screen. Look into apparel programs. They’re really diverse and you don’t have to stick with them if you change your mind- classes are generally transferable.
    If she can get her foot in the door in a good internship and stick it out she can MAYBE get hired with just that experience. But generally we only look at resumes with at least 5 years industry experience or a degree for entry level. Good luck to her (and you! Parenting is hard.)

  58. lkr209*

    College Mom: No, No, no, no. Please do NOT sign her up for a lifetime of crippling debt for “a” degree. Now, if she’s getting a STEM degree, where she can find a job that helps her actually pay off that debt and pay her bills and not live a life as a (literal) starving artist before she goes to culinary school, great! But please do not encourage her to sign her life and credit away for a degree in Sociology, or Psychology, or a “well, that sounds interesting) degree because she needs “a” degree. She doesn’t need “a” degree, she needs a degree that will enable her to actually find a well paying job with benefits to pay off all that debt! My parents made that argument too and I got a BA in Sociology. Now I’m going back for a second BA in Accounting because my degree only qualifies me for dispensable, generic positions. Suggest she go to a trade school, but don’t encourage her to take this route. Please!

      1. Amairch*

        That sometimes means co-signing on loans. Or paying for part. Or taking on parent plus loans. I think emphasizing the cost of university is not a bad thing. If OP can truly afford to cash flow all of that without impacting their own financial future, that’s great. But taking out loans is so popular that if, by any chance, part of the cost would have to be financed, it’s worth pointing out the risks.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I have a degree in Psychology and have had a great career and make good money in high-demand, hugely specialized positions. Your experience isn’t everyone’s.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Agreed. Probably half the people in my field have degrees in psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy or English. They are paid very well for their understanding of how people think and behave, and ability to express big ideas.

        1. Lkr209*

          Yes, but the vast majority of viable careers utilizing the humanities degrees require a minimum of a Master’s, if not a PhD, especially in Psychology. Many, many young students sign up for Soc or Psych because they don’t know what else they want to do and they are genuinely interesting degrees for those who aren’t “math” people, but don’t want the work of actually pursuing a Master’s in Psych.

  59. Alex*

    I’ve got to somewhat disagree with the answer to #1. College is totally worthless if the student isn’t engaged and motivated. I was that unengaged and unmotivated student who went to college because it was expected/required by my parents, not because I wanted to or had any interest, or even had developed any interests or sense of who I was or what I wanted to do. I picked a major because it was what other people told me I was good at, not because it was something I was interested in or wanted to do (because I had no idea what I was interested in or what I wanted to do). Therefore, I learned pretty much nothing, and my lackluster GPA really didn’t get me far in the working world.

    It used to be that a college degree was fairly good ticket to a comfortable life, but that really isn’t the case anymore. It’s VERY hard to get some rando job that you don’t care about with a vague college degree (ask me how I know!). Those jobs don’t bring a comfortable living the way they used to. Sure, a college degree can open doors, but not magically so, and what is on the other side of those doors isn’t a guaranteed good life.

    Let your daughter figure herself out before forcing an expensive but potentially worthless education on her. I wish every day my parents had let me take a gap year or two–it would have dramatically changed my life for the better. Now I’m stuck in a miserable job I hate because I studied something I hate, but I’m too busy trying to make rent to be able to go back and fix things. I wish I’d had time to figure out something I love, but I know I’ll never find it now.

  60. Cucumberzucchini*

    My Dad was willing to pay for my college but not for a Fine Arts degree. I’m a pretty practical person and while art was always my passion I also didn’t want the financial risk that comes with being an artist. I also had an interest in coding/programming so I started off with the intention of doing Computer Science at Community College while taking art classes as electives. I realized pretty quickly I would be miserable doing just coding all day. So I switched to Graphic Deisgn and got a Fine Arts degree. Now I have a job making low six-figures in Marketing. I still wish I was an illustrator or fine artist but I can afford a nice home and my other expensive hobby (horses). . I think your daughter should explore her interest in a low stakes way, if she’s truly passionate about it she’ll flourish, if it wasn’t what she thought it would be she can find something else. Someone else suggested a gap year working in a bakery and making her own clothes/sewing. That’s a great idea. She’ll find out quickly if she really wants to pursue one or the other than can earn a degree in that career path (culinary degree or fashion degree).

    1. Filosofickle*

      I majored in graphic design as an undergrad. At the time, my mom nudged me to choose a school where I’d get a BA and not a BFA. She felt a BA was better if I ever wanted to switch fields. I rolled my eyes at the time, but in retrospect it was pretty good advice! I still got the creative degree I wanted, with a well-rounded curriculum that has indeed supported me throughout my career. Happily, I never actually wanted to be an artist so we never had to have that discussion.

  61. Sarah*

    OP#1, I just want to applaud you and your husband for being really great parents in my opinion. It really sounds like you’re trying to do right by your daughter. I completely agree with everything Allison said. Especially the student loan debt part, if you can avoid it. Unfortunately my parents were of the opinion that I absolutely had to go to college. My parents also could not afford to send me to college. So I wound up signing away tons of paperwork at age 18 and I’m still under a mountain of student loan debt at age 32. Looking back, I should have gone to a an affordable local community college. I would have obtained the same piece of paper that I received from big-name school, at a fraction of the cost. I’m also one of those people who went to college for one thing, and I’m now working a typical office desk job because the office job pays much more than the creative career I went to school for! Best wishes for your daughter :)

  62. Rock Prof*

    OP #2, you might be able to really use the processes of academia to your advantage here! Particularly, if the student wants to go on into research (academic or otherwise), being able to respond to edits (or peer review) of their writing is necessary skill. Perhaps if you have had any papers go through the peer review process, you could show her the response to reviewers you made. If you haven’t gotten to that stage yet, ask your PI/supervising professor, as I’m sure they have a billion examples they’d be happy to share.
    I don’t think it’s a great idea to have her do this type of response to every single comment like typos or make it super formal, but I think you’d help her gain good skills by not offering to further review materials until she has commented on substantial ones. Of course, you will need to carefully designate what substantial means in this case, like typos don’t need to be addressed but if you made a comment of, “I don’t understand your reasoning here; could you elaborate?” she’d need to respond to that. You might even designate review comments you make in different colored highlighter or with different symbols to show which ones you think are more important.

  63. Noticeable as me*

    LW1: So I’m in agreement with Alison, college is so much more than prep for a specific career. My parents did much the same to me. I insisted on a major in Metal and Jewelry Arts and their response was “what’s your day job?” I also had an interest in math so I double-majored in Theoretical Mathmatics (still no day job…). By the time I left college, I had the math degree and a minor in the Metals (my interest was more than my skill). It took a few years after that but I ended up going back to grad school for architecture and found my niche. I hadn’t even considered architecture in undergrad, no one had recommended it, I didn’t even really know it existed as something to do or what it entailed. But it’s perfect for me.

    All this to say, she’ll find her way, but arranging for the widest exposure to various fields will help her find it sooner. Look for summer programs in the fields she’s interested in. When I was finally considering architecture I discovered that quite a few architecture schools offered an exploratory summer program. The programs were tailored to anyone from junior year of HS on up. There’s probably some for fashion and baking out there. (RISD might have a fashion one)

    I know many people are saying community college and that may be an option, but do a lot of research on the reputation of the specific program first. I’ve taken some supplementary courses at CC and found they were almost remedial level teaching, I was seriously bored. I’m sure that’s not the case for every school or program though, so just make sure you talk to people who took that route first.

  64. Rando*

    OP1 – Apologies if this is repetitive, but I considered going into costume design and have numerous friends in theater (and some in fashion). The costumers I know all have a MFA in addition to their 4-year,

  65. PhillyRedhead*

    #1 — I would strongly recommend your daughter seek out an internship in the culinary field before going to school for it. I *loved* baking all through my teen years. I was the family baker of birthday cakes, holiday desserts, etc. I had gotten a B.A. in graphic design and worked in that for a few years, but then came the recession and jobs dried up. I went to culinary school (a for-profit one at that, because I didn’t know that for-profit schools were a thing, and I was the first in my family to go to college, so no one knew to steer me away from them).

    I *hated* working in professional kitchens. It’s one thing to bake a cake or a decorate a batch of cookies. It’s quite another to decorate rolling rack after rolling rack (8 to 12 industrial-sized baking sheets per rack) of gingerbread men, all the exact-same way. And having NOT worked in a kitchen before going to culinary school, I had no idea that that industry almost never provides PTO or benefits, and that the pay was so low, I couldn’t afford to pay back my loans.

    Thankfully, I had that degree in graphic design, and it took a few years of freelance work and contract jobs, but I’m back in a full-time, permanent corporate position with PTO and benefits.

    1. Antilles*

      Yes, yes, yes and yes. Being a professional chef is *dramatically* different from what you’d envision if you’ve never worked in the industry.
      Theory: I enjoy baking! I enjoy cooking! I love hosting dinner parties! It’s great getting to try new recipes! Why not make this into a career?
      Reality: Long hours, regularly missing social events because you have to work weekends and Friday nights, hot environments, being on your feet for hours on end, mediocre pay, angry customers, repeatedly making the same dish, casual sexual harassment by customers, etc.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      This. Almost every restaurant I’ve worked in has been constantly hiring for pastry chefs because people often don’t last long. Pastry is a tough station – there’s even less variety than usual because dessert menus are very limited, you’re often doing really finicky but also repetitive work that screws up your eyes, you spend half your life in the freezer, etc. The upside of this is that if the OP’s daughter does want to do this and is good at it then there’s a lot of demand! But if she doesn’t have direct experience of it, she should get some ASAP.

  66. tinybutfierce*

    OP#1: I just want to firmly second Alison’s final note about avoiding student loan debt as much as possible. I graduated in 2012 from a private college and still have debt in the tens of thousands that I’ll be paying off for the next forty years, at least (zero exaggeration here, seriously). It took me several years post-graduation to find a job that paid me decently enough to do more than just barely break even with my monthly payments, and I’m honestly luckier than many folks I know; a friend of mine who graduated the year before me is virtually trapped living with her parents still, because her monthly payments exceed $1000 (and that’s the lowest she’s been able to negotiate/consolidate/etc. it down to). I don’t regret my education, but I absolutely didn’t understand the gravity of the financial burden I was taking on at 18 years old, or the impact it would have on my life in the future.

  67. 4Sina*

    So there’s a lot of classism around encouraging community college or a vocational college – but honestly, these may be great options for her as well. Especially since so many vocational colleges are ~literally~ hands-on experiential working, with career paths that provide job security and union memberships, it’s not really a big jump in lateral thinking.

    Just wanted to provide an alternative opinion. 4 year college is not suitable for everyone, and presenting any deviation to that decision is steeped in a disdain for traditionally “blue-collar” careers. I’d suggest exploring it.

    1. Asenath*

      As my parents said when I was a teen – “You have to get some qualification in something you can use to earn a living Just In Case (various, usually unvoiced, dire situations I might end up in that would make things impossible if I stuck with my initial hopes). They were also financially sensible – one more than the other, but as a couple went over what I could afford, what they could contribute, the importance of minimizing loans. And although they wanted university for all of us, I think they would have agreed with something more blue-collar, as long as I could use it to support myself. There are certainly people who are far more suited to blue collar than white collar work.

      On the other hand, it sounds like in the US (as in Canada, where I am), there’s an increasing tendency for potential employers to require unnecessary and irrelevant pieces of paper before even looking at applications. I’ve seen this when they require high school graduation for unskilled labourers with work experience, and a university degree – in anything – for office jobs that require nothing more than basic literacy and the ability to pick up (or already use) basic computer software. So this student needs to plan for a world in which she will need some kind of educational certificate. Since her current interests are both practical and quite different, she could try them out with summer or part-time jobs in them just to see if they’re what she thinks they are. And she should consider some kind of post-secondary program that will give her a degree or diploma in something at a price that won’t break the bank. Nowadays, it’s also easier to get information on the kinds of jobs she might get and how much she might be paid and from that and student loan data information on how long she’ll be paying it back (assuming her parents can’t or won’t pay 100%). But she should go for some kind of educational program – whether blue or white collar depends on her interests and abilities.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I did a couple years at community college and it was great! The classes were smaller so for things that were on the more difficult side, such as chemistry and physics, I was able to get more lab time and 1:1 with the professor. Also saved THOUSANDS per semester – 2 years at CC was about the same as 1 semester at my 4-year university.
      Community college is a great way to save some $$ and try a few areas of interest. Heck…my friend and I took karate there when we were still in high school and another friends took SCUBA as her PE credit. And pertinent to LW#1, the CC where I grew up had some culinary and design/sewing classes.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I have done community college, university (4 year & graduate), and independent study, and my personal opinion is it all depends on whether you want to look at the forest or the trees:
        – CCs are the best for practical skills: accounting, specific computer programming languages, skilled trades. Great for counting the trees.
        – CCs are ok for analytical skills, but are slightly more likely to be card-punchers – put in your time, hit the required # of words, and you’ll get a good grade. My uni classes were graded harder.
        – Unis are the best for ‘big picture’ strategy and analysis – seeing how the practical / analytical skills can be best used. At their best, their broader, interdisciplinary viewpoints train people to look at the forest.
        – Independent study requires a lot of either passion or self-discipline. It is not a character flaw if you do better with external motivations, different people are just different.
        – Independent study misses the opportunity for feedback on your understanding from experts.
        – In the forest / trees analogy, I think independent study is best for experiencing the forest, though that is probably stretching the analogy to the breaking point.

        All the modes have their own value, which one someone should pick depends on their goals, personality, and motivation.

        The one other thing about the debate, for me: Unis have more room for social / intellectual experimentation (I was a Libertarian, for about a week). 16 – 20 were the years where I started to think about Adult Stuff (ie, do I like boys or girls? how much am I willing to compromise ethics for money?), and it was really helpful to do that with feedback from others asking similar questions. Those 3am rambling conversations were, looking back, incredibly useful, and they’ve been hard to replicate since.

  68. Brooke*

    OP 1 – your daughter could have just as well been me, minus the culinary part! I started out going for an apparel degree, because I didn’t fully research the industry/market, but once I realized that the market was not going to be great, degree or no degree, I ended up switching to business. I LOVE apparel and my classes and professors were fantastic, but the anxiety of not knowing if I’d be able to support myself after college was too much for me. I’d really encourage her to look at careers that may be fashion adjacent – for me, the lure of a higher paycheck and a growing market was worth the switch. I went from merchandising to supply chain management, and it may not be as glamorous, but I wish I had taken this path from the start instead of following my under-researched dream on paper. The occupational outlook handbook by the BLS was really helpful for me. Caveat: I’m a first gen student and while my parents tried hard to guide me in a good direction, none of us really knew what we were doing and “any degree is great” – but you sound a lot more prepared to guide her in a strong direction, and I hope she listens! Good luck!

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Yay supply chain! I’m glad you found it in undergrad, I didn’t even know it existed then.

  69. MuseumChick*

    OP 2, I can understand why this would be frustrating for you. I don’t know if this is what is going on with the student but let me share my story. I was traumatized basically from elementary school through high school when it came to feedback on any work I did. I have a learning disability that very few teachers, parents, etc knew how to handle at that time that to me, getting feedback = being laughed at (when another student was looking at my work) or being yelled at (when an adult would get frustrated that I wasn’t “getting” something) I became so sensitive about it that I stopped reading or taking in any comments teachers would put on my papers. It took me years get finally be able to accept feedback without coming to the brink of tears. And that was only because of some very kind friends I meet who recognized what I was going through.

    1. Old Biddy*

      It may also be helpful to let her know that it’s totally normal to have lots of changes/corrections on scientific writing. When I wrote my first paper in grad school my advisor returned it to me with what seemed like lots of changes. I was so upset until someone told me that is totally normal, especially for a first paper. Each paper after that needed fewer and fewer changes.

  70. Harriet*

    OP#2 – There’s been lots of good advice from Allison and the other commentators.
    But I wonder if part of the problem might be that the student can’t read your feedback? I teach high school. A few years ago I realized that most of my students could not read cursive (since it is no longer taught) and therefore could not read my comments on their papers. Now I print my comments and more students are actually incorporating my feedback.

  71. CupcakeCounter*

    I have 2 pieces of advice.
    1) Work WITH your daughter to look at degrees that compliment her passions while also encouraging those passions. For example, look at the background of certain designers she particularly likes and find out a it more about them and what they actually do. Look behind the scenes of their brand and find some positions that work with the designer that would have a creative bent but also have more stable job options. Marketing and graphic design come to mind. Find a school that has the more traditional 4-year program but offers those degrees in an area she is passionate about. Fashion merchandising, graphic design, marketing, restaurant management, hospitality, etc… Even if she gets a degree in fashion design a minor (or double major) in business management will check that “degree” box you want and let her explore her passions.
    2) Defer her college start date by a year. Encourage her to take a year and work in a bakery/restaurant/theatre/etc… wherever will give her a chance to explore her interests and actually experience what that type of work might look like. I also know that a lot of community colleges offer culinary classes. Look into that and have her take a couple over a summer or in that gap time. Just keep in mind the goal isn’t to show her how hard it is going to be and guide her to a “stable office job”, but to give her opportunities to explore her options starting with the things she is already expressing an interest in.

    I would also think about the financial impact. Alison mentioned the student loans. If the 4-year degree is super important to you, pay for it and don’t saddle her with excessive debt to make yourself feel better.

  72. KMC12191219*

    Wow. I really disagree with Alison. Her heart is in the culinary industry, so the answer is to force her to a 4 year commitment to something she doesn’t want to do and only THEN allow her to maybe go to culinary school, because sorry, I don’t buy that mom and dad will actually cough up the cash if and when she returns with her diploma and says ok, I’m ready. I think they’ll say, oh wait, you just spent 4 years, why waste that? Why don’t you work in your field for a few years and then we’ll pay for school if you really want it. And after those years, it will be the same thing different excuse.

    Look, I get it, they want her to go into an “easier” industry. Working in restaurants and food is difficult, demanding, and comes with a high risk of being devalued or discriminated against on the basis of her sex. But tricking her into another field is a bad idea. Mom and dad should pay for culinary school FIRST. It’s an 18-month (I think?) degree. Number one, it will make her happy. Number two, once she graduates, she can start working in her field and go to college too as the backup plan (there are a lot of online programs or part-time programs). This allows her to find out if she really loves the food industry and the requirements to succeed while also satisfying mom and dad’s backup plan requirement at the same time.

    My musician grandfather’s father did the same thing to him. Forced him to take a class for clerks (shorthand, typing, correspondence, etc.). My grandfather took the class per his father’s demand, handed his certificate over to his dad, and walked off to a successful musical career (never touched a typewriter again for decades after that by choice). He also was in a tough industry to succeed. I don’t fault his dad, but you have to understand that forcing someone into your backup plan is not going to work.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I think that is a really ungenerous reading of the situation. ALL of the people I know who have gone into creative fields have said to they wish they had gotten another degree as a fallback. There is nothing here to indicate that the OP won’t keep her word.

      If the daughter expects her parents to pay for her schooling, then sorry, but they get some say in it. If she doesn’t want to do the 4-year degree first then she can always get loans etc to pay for it herself.

      OP 1, maybe split the difference, pay for the culinary school if she is also taking other classes for a degree even if its part-time. There are a lot of other degrees that could be super useful to someone in the culinary industry, a Business degree comes to mind, or maybe nutritional science. Even a psychology degree, there has been a long of academic study on the relationship between food and human psychology.

      Another option would be to have her take a gap year to work in the industry to see if she like the reality as much as the theory.

    2. Mimi Me*

      BUT – if your grandfather had never had a successful career he would have had that certificate to fall back on as a means to support his family. For every success story out there, there are at least 3 or 4 stories where the person tried to make it, failed, and the struggled to pay the bills. And what happens if she goes to culinary school, works there for a few years, decides it’s not for her and then wants to go back to school…except now she’s in her late 20’s and going to school full time isn’t as easy so what would have taken 4 years now takes 6 or 8 years and she’s stuck working at a job she doesn’t care for anymore but needs to pay bills.
      We can go back and forth like that for hours…the What-if scenarios are limitless. Ultimately it’s up to the LW’s daughter to make the decision on what to do. I’m in my mid-40’s now, a mother of teens, and I have a lot of stupid education related decisions behind me that I regret so I agree with the LW here. LW should insist on the 4 year college.

    3. JustKnope*

      The daughter’s “heart” isn’t necessarily in the culinary industry though. She might be interested in culinary, but she also might be interested in fashion. These are just ideas to her at this point, not a life-long passion. And the parents aren’t being un-supportive, just realistic. Good for your grandfather that he was successful in the music industry, but that’s not a guarantee, and also the world is a hell of a lot different than when your grandfather was in school.

    4. WellRed*

      Well it doesn’t say her heart is in the culinary industry, it says she has identified culinary OR fashion design. Two different animals.

    5. Smithy*

      There are certainly people who at a young age are spending lots of hours on one very specific endeavor – creative or otherwise. But having a passion for a thing and automatically translating that into a life long profession are not always the same thing.

      I am really into vintage clothing – but the idea of being a small business owner is very unappealing. I initially went to undergrad thinking I’d major in creative writing – but really hated the classes and what the feedback process of creative writing looked like. I also liked other things. Lots of things. And university was a great way to tease out what I liked, what I wanted to do, and what the doing actually looked like.

      If the OP’s parents can afford it, the undergrad experience when you’re of a similar age to your classmates is pretty unique. There are universities where you can major in the topics the OP’s child is excited about. Or cities where it’s easier to go to college while getting an internship or job in one of those sectors. If there is money to work with, lots of compromises can be made while giving a young person more time to make a decision.

    6. Decima Dewey*

      I’m torn. The parents are paying for it, so they have some say. On the other hand, it’s the daughter’s education.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Replying to myself. I’ve never worked in a restaurant. But from my experience as an eater of food, a lot of culinary work isn’t creating a kick ass dish. It’s making the meatloaf or gingerbread today the same way you made it yesterday. And the day before yesterday. And last week….

  73. Mimi Me*

    #1 – I think your plan is a good one. My best friend opted to go to culinary school first, hated it (she said it was the early morning classes in a meat freezer that did her in!) and dropped out. Her parents were furious and told her that all future schooling would be paid out of her pocket. It took her 20 years to get back to school because the jobs she was able to get with only a high school diploma and no special skills paid only enough to pay the bills with very little left over.

  74. Phillip*

    OP1: I have no degree, and once was flown in to interview for a (creative!) job I was very well qualified for, nailed the interview, only to be offered a more junior position based solely on the company’s arbitrary requirement that the more senior position must be held by someone with a degree.

  75. Pie Scientist*

    Regarding #1, my parents made me this exact deal and they were right to do so. I got my degree in food science and then an associates in culinary. I use both degrees in my research and development career, designing and commercializing new food products. It’s a great option for anyone who loves food, design, and problem solving but wouldn’t necessarily thrive in the monotony of a production kitchen. Having both degrees has made me more marketable in this industry.

    I would advise any young person not to go to culinary school without another degree if they plan on working in the industry and need to borrow money for school. Most programs are enormously expensive in comparison to your earning potential. Outside of the culinary industry, many of the for-profit schools that offer culinary are not respected.

    I met my husband in my culinary program. He intended to be a chef and achieved that goal, but eventually he got burnt out on the 80 hour weeks. Now he works half the hours for the same pay, in a profession using his undergraduate degree. We are still paying loans for his culinary school.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That seems like good middle ground – getting a degree in something that is close to the chosen field. I understood OP1’s plan as them telling their daughter “OK we will pay for your culinary school, but first you must get a degree in accounting” or something of that nature. And that’s just not practical in my opinion.

    2. BadWolf*

      I was going to post a similar warning about culinary degrees at not-for-profit schools (in the US at least) — look very carefully at the cost/accreditation/etc.

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Yup, I know quite a few people who went this route. A formal AA program in culinary arts can easily transfer into a 4 year BA/BS program in something like hospitality management.

  76. Socrates Johnson*

    OP1: I think something that makes this more of a no-brainer is the fact that she can excel in college, as well as your ability to pay.

    I my line of work, I don’t care if someone didn’t major in my specialty, because I can teach them what I need them to know, and actually I like a diverse background – I want someone who can research, analyze, and think, and that’s why a degree is essential to show me that (also it’s just a standard requirement basically)

  77. DarnTheMan*

    OP#1 I 100% agree with Alison’s advice. A friend of mine is a professional actress (as in, has had significant roles in a number of major film and TV shows) but her mom made an agreement with her when she was about 14 that in exchange for acting lessons, taking her to auditions, etc etc, my friend would promise to complete either an undergrad university or college degree. And now while she is still getting a lot of roles, she also works in between with the local actors union – a job which her undergrad degree helped her get. It’s not crushing someone’s dreams or being unsupportive to say “we absolutely support you but we’d also like for you to have a Plan B, just in case”

    1. Mimi Me*

      I read an interview with Emma Watson once where she was asked why she continued to go to University when she was such a successful actress. She said that he parents had sacrificed to send her to good schools so she could further her education and she was going to follow it through all the way to the end to honor their sacrifices. I really admired that.

  78. bex*

    re: L2 –
    reminds me of how, in the Homecoming documentary, when Beyonce was prepping for her Coachella performance and wasn’t happy with the lighting/set, she went through a long list of changes she wanted with her crew and then concluded: “until I see some of my notes applied, it doesn’t make sense for me to make more.”

  79. AndersonDarling*

    #1 I wanted to be a costume designer, and 20 years later I’m a Data Analyst. Here’s the thing, when you are a teenager, the “dream” is all you can think about doing. But as an adult and get exposed to more and more jobs, you discover that you have more talent than you knew and there are many things that you love as much as your “dream.”
    Costume design is now my hobby…which is not to make it sounds like JUST a hobby…but I get to take my awesome skills and use them on just the projects I want, and I can charge whatever I want for my rare free time. If I wanted to be a pro costume designer, I would still be trying to make a living. 20 years ago, I didn’t even know what an analyst was and the software I’m using didn’t even exist.
    I am 100% behind going to college and getting exposed to more skills and experiences. Your talents don’t expire. And you need time just to grow up and get the hang of business transactions and having complex discussions with clients…which I completely failed at until I had an office job and gained solid experience.
    The only exception to this is if the student is exceptionally talented and already producing a professional fashion line and has a shot at getting a full scholarship to FIT. I’d consider FIT, but I still couldn’t really recommend that because the fashion industry is actually really boring, and as someone mentioned earlier, it’s mainly a desk job. It is not at all like the movies, TV make it look.

  80. UpsideDown*

    #1 If your daughter is not convinced she wants to go to college, inform her but support her. When I decided not to go to college, my Ivy League educated mother was extremely unsupportive and it damaged our relationship for quite some time.

    I don’t know how many intelligent, talented and driven high school classmates of mine dropped out of college because that environment was not right for them but they felt they “had to go”. You can always go back to school but your can’t always get back a time in your life when you had a passion and wanted to pursue it. For some, college is a part of that pursuit but for others it isn’t.

    I took two years off after high school to figure out what I wanted to do. I traveled for most of that time but I got lucky and got a couple jobs with great bosses who saw that I had potential and mentored me. I found something I was good at, learned on the job and created a really great career out of it and am launching my own company this summer. It wasn’t always easy but I found a way to make it work and I have zero regret about doing things the way I did. Not having any college debt has also allowed me a lot of freedom.

    I’m glad your daughter has a passion for what she wants to do and I wish her all the best.

  81. Jedi Squirrel*

    OP #1: I think you (and your daughter) are over-valuing culinary school. It looks fun on television, but if she’s never done restaurant work, she needs to do that first. Six months in any restaurant environment (even fast food) will tell her if she’s cut out for being on her feet all day, not getting to take breaks when you want, waiting to pee because it’s the rush hour, and dealing with extraordinarily rude customers (because people get funky about food). It’s grueling, back-breaking work.

  82. Daniel*

    For #1 – This might have been posted already, but you could encourage her to study culinary history during undergrad, or something related. There are plenty of different things she could study that would give her a leg up in the culinary world. Business would also be great, because culinary operations are businesses and need to function as one. It would be extremely valuable if she could bring that to the table as well.

  83. bedabop*

    #1 – You can get a 4-year degree from a culinary school! Many offer degrees in hospitality, food science and business management! Food service work is HARD work – it’s hard on your body and many traditional food jobs in kitchens have crazy hours. I know many that did that for a few years and transitioned to other more traditional desk jobs related to food (HR, finance, admin work in restaurants or big name food companies), help develop new recipes for companies and/or food television, run their own businesses or do really cool stuff with growing food that is better for us! Some even work totally outside the culinary world in normal desk jobs because they have a business degree… they also just happen to be trained chefs!
    If she has a passion for the culinary arts there is so much more than just slaving away in a kitchen or being up before dawn to make bread and pastry!

  84. Chronic Overthinker*

    LW # 1 You do have the right idea. Having a degree to fall back on is good as so many entry level jobs do seem to require some sort of degree. I would definitely go the route of a business degree or something of that nature, something that aligns with her passions but would be broad enough to apply to multiple fields.
    It’s funny. I went to traditional college what seems to be a LONG time ago and ended up changing majors twice before falling into a depression and flunking out. Then, years later went to tech school to get an associate’s degree and that really opened up possibilities! I’m in an entry level job with potential to move up, but in my field of study, so I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

    On the other end of the spectrum my spouse did the traditional four year program and had a passion that was not really in line with his degree. Though he’s satisfied with the education, he ended up working in retail in his passion and LOVES it. And honestly the degree helped a bit as he’s able to assist with the business end of things, rather than just the retail/sales side of things. The only thing he doesn’t like is the fact that he still has student loan debt.

    So degrees are good overall. Bachelor degrees are good but I’ve seen success with associate degrees as well! A solid two year program with an intense focus can really help. Plus it’s much kinder on the wallet. You can have success with both!

    1. Red 5*

      That is a great point! Even though both of my parents had associate’s degrees (and then bachelor’s degrees later) I always forget about those.

      An associate’s degree is a GREAT foundation, and community colleges are actually often more prepared and focused on getting their graduates into jobs and finding a place in the workforce than four years can be. I know people who have done both (some got their BA first even) and universally agree that the experience earning their associate’s was much more useful in the real world, even if they appreciated what they learned getting their BA and BS degrees.

    2. Smithy*

      My brother got his BA music, and then ended up going to community college for a two year degree in computer stuff which is now his career. While his job is entirely based on his AA and all that, his pay band and the types of jobs he’s considered for are based on having a BA.

      My caveat to all of this is being aware of what kind of financial reality a student or the student’s family has. Reality speaking – some families can absorb paying for a 4 year degree followed by further education. Others have more limited financial realities. Just because Path J worked really well for one person most likely does not warrant going into debt to mirror it.

  85. Kate*

    You get a lot more out of college when you have a few years of real life under your belt. You can always go back – there are more and more options for adults these days, whether its online, commuter schools, or residential colleges focused on older students.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I totally agree with this. I have met a lot of recent college graduates who have never had a job. I often wonder how they adapt to the workplace, because school is all about what you need, and work is all about what the company needs. So many high school kids never have a job. A gap year or two is a good opportunity for them to explore the world of work before they invest thousands of dollars in an education.

  86. Sunflower Sea Star*

    As a parent who has two kids studying “useless” things (Art and Costume/theater design) at my expense, I say this:
    Believe in your kid. Encourage your kid. Support your kid.
    Do not quash your kid’s ambitions because you want them to have the “option” of a job they have zero interest in.
    Do not kill your kid’s passion because you want to put conditions on how they “spend your money”
    Do not be that controlling parent who ruins their relationship with their kid.
    Who knows, maybe your kid will surprise you and make a living at that passion. My oldest (the one with the art degree) is doing it!
    (And there are TONS of people working in fields unrelated to their degree. Tons. Many of them are happy, too.)

  87. Red 5*

    Just as a thought for LW #1 – I technically went to film school, but I earned a bachelor of arts while I was there, and while my skillset has become something that is a topic of discussion in interviews, the fact that my BA is in film with a minor in art has never hindered me from getting any kind of office job. Actually I’ve only had moderate ability to get a job in film (that’s a whole other story) but because I have a massive skill set in office and admin work, including four years as a work study assistant, I’ve spent most of my life working in office jobs and doing admin work. And basically I do a souped up version of that in my job now, where I also pull in my marketing and communications experience.

    I wouldn’t say she needs to worry about having some kind of “fall back” degree for office work. It’s just if you want her backup to be something that _requires_ a specific degree (my parents floated the idea of a teaching degree as a fallback, but then we all had a good laugh at the idea of me teaching). What my parents always told me, and what had the biggest impact on me, was that they didn’t care what I wanted to do or where I wanted to end up but I needed to do the research to figure out how to get the best education and background I could to get there. For film, that meant researching film schools (again, whole story for later). If I’d wanted to be a chef, they absolutely would have supported culinary school because a good culinary school is going to prepare your daughter for a variety of careers within the field. She’s not locking herself down to one single path of “if you can’t get the financing to open your own restaurant you’re never going to make it.” She could end up in a ton of different places and be well prepared to be successful there if you work WITH her to find the right school that cares about their graduates future and future flexibility.

    And that’s not even getting into the idea of grad school. Maybe she goes to culinary school and falls in love with the business aspect (weirder things have happened) and decides to get an MBA. She’d be perfectly positioned to make the most of that MBA to get into the specialized field she loves because she has the variety of experiences and education.

    So in short, yes it’s good to prepare your daughter for the fact that these are not easy fields to get into. But that’s why you research the schools she’s looking at and make sure that they offer a liberal arts type curriculum with a variety of classes and experiences. Encourage her to get a work study job where she’s building experience and will get good recommendations. Make sure she takes math and science classes (both careers that you mentioned involve a specialized type of both math and science that are specific to those jobs, yes, costume design is so much math, but it’s a specific type and style of math and not general trigonometry). But she doesn’t need a BS in business administration or computer science as a fallback to have a stable and successful life. She just needs a good education in general and to go into her education in a thoughtful and deliberate way. And avoid for profit colleges at all costs.

    Good luck to all of you! It’s an exciting time in life!

  88. Anonymous at a University*

    #1, I do think community college might be an idea, but I would also second that it’s a great idea to have her talk to people in the culinary and fashion industries and see if she REALLY wants to do them. I teach at a community college that offers a number of certificates, and have met a number of students who are there for jobs like welding, cosmetology, construction, etc. About 50% of them end up changing their minds once they see what the work involves (for example, some physical dangers in welding that they may not have been prepared for, work in cosmetology that is not just “I used to cut my sister’s hair and I really liked it,” etc.) Plenty of people don’t need or want a four-year-degree, but that doesn’t mean every decision to pursue a path that’s not that degree works out or is ultimately the “dream” the student wanted. I have also met people who told me they got a welding/cosmetology/etc. certificate but came back for an associate’s degree and are then going to transfer to a four-year college to finish a Bachelor’s because the job they had disappointed them in some way. “This didn’t work out the way I wanted” applies to non-office jobs as well as Liberal Arts degrees.

    As for a gap year, well, I’m not as much of a fan of that, but I think it can work out as long as you agree on what she’ll be doing (for example, working in one of her dreamed-of fields or volunteering there). Where I saw it not work was when somebody took the “gap year” as “I’m going to party,” like my sister did, and our parents had to sit her down the next May and tell her pretty bluntly that they were not going to pay for another year of partying and she had to either find a job or go to college. She chose the job.

  89. Sharon*

    LW1 – My SIL has a 4-year degree and then went to culinary school. She’s currently working a 100% office based job now by choice, but before she had kids, it was helpful to have both the college degree and the culinary degree. She was able to get a number of interesting jobs that were hybrids between office and kitchen work.

  90. Lauren*

    OP#1 – My niece wants to be a personal trainer. She can do that without a college degree, but she is choosing to be a business / physical fitness double major so that her degree box is checked AND at graduation she will be a fully-certified personal trainer having achieved the hours needed for the certification while IN college vs. after college.

    If her choice is fashion, she should opt for a business / fashion double major, which she WILL be needed. Creative directors at fashion houses need degrees. Getting an entry level desk job at a fashion house needs a degree. Explain this to your kid that she needs to look at job listings to see what her dream job requirements are first. There is likely a school with this mix of business and fashion decision. Eventually, she can be a designer on her own AND have the business setup and marketing knowledge to go at it with the knowledge to make it successful without paying others to do the work for her (at least at the beginning).

    If its culinary school, her best bet is a combo program as well. A school with a culinary program and other majors like business or accounting. This will be rare, but another option is culinary school in a 1-year program then traditional 4 yr degree or degree then chef school.

    Bottom line – she needs the degree. Fashion with a marketing degree would be very helpful especially if she focuses on social media since that is the easiest way into a fashion house these days.

  91. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1: has she considered a gap year? If she doesn’t already have work/voluntary experience in those areas I would really, really recommend it. Particularly on the pastry chef side – she ABSOLUTELY should not be doing that if she doesn’t have restaurant experience.

    I’m someone that followed basically the path you’re suggesting – I have a undergrad and masters in a humanities subject, then went into a completely unrelated field (events). I have never had an issue with the order that I did that in; I worked part-time at events and festivals and did a lot of voluntary work while studying and employers have always focused on that over what my degrees are in. I also know that most of employers would not even interview someone with no degree at all, even though one is very much not required to be a good event planner, and some have specifically mentioned that they had a positive impression of me because of it.

    That said, a lot of people that I work with do have degrees in things like hospitality and events management so I would second all the suggestions to look at related but non-vocational degrees.

  92. BadWolf*

    Maybe I’ve watched too much project runway, but if she’s really interested in fashion, even costume design, then maybe she should do some research into places like Parsons and FIT (I’m sure there are non-NY options).

    I personally did a double major in a “fun” and practical degree. The bottom fell out on practical degree while I neared graduation and I almost swapped over to pursing something in fun degree. (Fun being relative to me, of course). My “practical” degree was something I liked and was interested in as well, so it’s working well for me.

  93. I want off the leash!*

    #1 — You can kill two birds with one stone here. Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales are both top-end culinary schools that offer 4-year degrees — restaurant/hotel/management as well as nutrition sciences are part of the programs. Your kid will end up a bad-ass chef with hospitality business credentials that are very well-regarded.

  94. blink14*

    Op #1 – I went to college with one major in mind, realized I hated it, and then switched to sort of a “back up” major in the social sciences, because what I really wanted to do wasn’t offered at my university. My passion, arts related, became a major hobby, which it still is today, and I looked hard for a job in that field for several years before realizing that the amount of hustle and living in tiny shoebox apartments with 8 roommates would destroy my love for it. However, two of my friends who have degrees in that field are working in totally different industries now, and my own “back up” major was broad enough to translate to other career paths before landing at a university.

    Sometimes, a passion shouldn’t be a career, and a lot of that hinges upon the fact that the pay and benefits can be very low and the really great job opportunities are few and far between. You have to be incredibly committed to the hard times before finding real success. I had health issues starting to become worse in college and looking back now, I now I would’ve burnt out so quickly with the relentless hustle pace, and probably would’ve declined a lot sooner than I did, which happened in my late 20s.

    It is SO hard as a high schooler to actually understand what it means to work in a field like the culinary arts. I would strongly suggest looking into a community college for your daughter, and encourage to work in a kitchen if she’s able to as a part time job, to see the nitty gritty. There may also be tech school programs open to her that she might be able to take, along with her regular classes. Maybe a summer program or summer job where she can learn more about the culinary arts would be really helpful.

  95. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: Is it still true that lots of places “just want a degree, and don’t care what it’s in?” My mother used to say this to me too, and I thought it was outdated, but perhaps it’s just my region. As mentioned above, I wound up graduating into the Recession with a liberal arts degree, and over years of job-searching and slooowly upgrading, I found *nothing* that “just wanted a degree”. Everything either didn’t require a degree at all, or required something very specific. (There was some comic floating around during those years about a young person trying to get their start in the mail-room of a company, and the manager saying, “Do you have a degree in Mailroom Sciences? No? GTFO.”) I think at most, I’ve had jobs where a degree was an “asset”, but not required.

    1. Smithy*

      There are certainly certain sectors/jobs where I would say this absolutely is the case. For example, United Nations permanent jobs, your application will not be evaluated without a Masters. Lots of those jobs don’t necessarily require them, and in those cases if your MA is in English Lit – good enough.

      Now the UN also gets loads of applications, and if you’ve majored in a very specific topic that’s truly perfect to the job but with minimal professional experience – not saying you’ll get very far. But there are plenty of jobs where ultimately your work experience is all that’s going to be considered. But only if you have any kind of Masters.

    2. RecoveringSWO*

      Yes. A very respected bookkeeper I know with decades of experience and plenty of knowledge in current industry software was passed over for a position at an academic institution. The lack of degree had never held her back before, but the employer felt that they couldn’t hire any office staff positions to candidates without a Bachelors degree. They told her that she was their initial top choice but someone high up dictated that she couldn’t be hired. They told her that if she got a degree in any field and reapplied they would hire her as soon as a position opened.

  96. Oh Snap!*

    LW1: I’m in a creative industry and the people who can make a living at it tend to have experience in other things totally unrelated to their craft, or that compliment what they do.
    Many of my friends went to art school for a bit, then a technical school, then a business school.
    My husband had such a wide range of jobs before becoming a photographer that he got his first job in New York from a pool of 60 applicants because he had practical skills and creativity.
    I don’t know that I would encourage my child to get a degree just to have one but college is a great place to explore and learn what’s out there in the world.

  97. WineNot*

    #1 – I love your thought process here with wanting your daughter to go to a traditional university before deciding on either a culinary or design path. Those are two completely different careers, so if I were a mother, I would also be a little concerned that my child would choose one of those paths, realize they hate it and have to start all over again with another path. Getting a traditional education first is a prudent decision to make.

    However, when I began college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I am 27 and am just now starting to get a sense of what I want to do with my life. I have said before in similar conversations with younger relatives, family friends, etc., that I wish I had done a gap year in between to at least attempt to get a grasp of my life before immediately going to college. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is even a little unsure. There are some great companies out there that arrange these gap years for you. I think it could be HUGE in her figuring out what she wants and how she wants to get there. Best of luck to you all!

  98. Arctic*

    LW1 why not have her take a year off to work in a bakery? I don’t know anyone successful in any cooking/baking field that hasn’t done all the roles.
    If that doesn’t appeal to her it’s the wrong career path.

  99. Frankie*

    #1, the added value of a college degree is the opportunity to explore many other avenues as well. She could end up sitting in a random class and find her calling. If she does end up pursuing baking or the fashion industry, it’ll still broaden her experience and expose her to much more context, as well as to critical thinking skills and engaging with viewpoints besides her own. A college degree, while to some is just a checklist item, really is a leg up in versatility. It’ll give her access to lots of advisors and coaches, too, who can help her chart a course through her studies.

  100. The One with the Unpopular Opinions*

    Re LW1, I’m all for college and parents putting stipulations on how tuition money gets spent. That said, the world needs blue collar and grey collar workers. Vocational schools are a completely viable option and are worth exploring. Many vocations pay extremely well and provide a good career track for many people. Having a business degree doesn’t guarantee a desk job is in a person’s future, just like not having a business degree doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t have a desk job later. My husband started out as an air traffic controller in the military with no college to speak of, went on to work in restaurants, then did tech support, and is now a happy financial manager for a medium sized business.

  101. roll-bringer*

    #1 – just wanted to note that it’s a little patronizing to call creative careers “making a living at a hobby;” making a career as, say, a professional actor, novelist, stylist, etc etc, is a lot more work than doing community theater, writing fanfiction, or following fashion trends in Vogue.

  102. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1 I would send her to school while encouraging her to get a part time job baking/ cooking.

    I’m going to be extra real and tell you straight out culinary school is rarely necessary. That on the job training is crucial in the end. It’s an expensive nonsensical degree to many in the industry.

  103. somebody blonde*

    For #1, I have an unusual recommendation: tell her to apply to colleges, but she can take a gap year between high school and college if she gets a restaurant or fashion job. Almost every university will let you defer admission for a year. I didn’t want to go to college straight out of high school, so I took a gap year and worked as an English teaching aide in a foreign country. It had all the benefits Alison listed, since starting college at 19 is not much different from 18, but I also felt more driven to actually work hard at college when I got there because I had some actual goals in mind after working.

  104. A. Ham*

    I gotta be honest, it frustrates me when people believe that there are only certain types of schooling/degrees that are viable and worth it. There are plenty of people who graduate with a business or engineering or [insert other high profile career track] degree and either change their mind somewhere down the road after graduating or have trouble finding work right off the bat. But no one is telling those kids that they need a back-up plan.
    As many people mentioned above you can get a college degree in both of the careers your kid is considering, and they absolutely will teach the nuts and bolts side of the business as well, not just how to sew a shirt. The entertainment and the food industry are both much larger industries than you think that they are, with a huge economic impact. People love to imagine starving artists but there really are so many jobs in these industries that nobody thinks about. I confess that she is looking at two very different tracks and she should do some soul searching to decide which one is the one she really wants, but once she does she should jump in with both feet. (and that does NOT mean not getting a college degree).
    A 30 something with a theater degree that didn’t have a back-up plan and now has an excellent (stable/secure/well paying) career in theater and uses her degree every day.

    1. Anonymous at a University*

      +1 You are not absolutely guaranteed a fulfilling, well-paid job if you walk out of college with a STEM degree. (For that matter, you aren’t guaranteed one if you go to culinary school, either). I was an English major, and out of the people I went to college with, I know more with English degrees who are employed in a field related to that degree than, say, mathematics or engineering majors. I also know people who were discouraged by their parents from pursuing a Liberal Arts-related degree because it “wasn’t practical” and then flunked out of college because they hated the “practical” classes they were taking and didn’t attend them.

      None of which is to say that you’re absolutely crushing someone’s “dreams” if your daughter is 17 and interested in two very different fields right now. Encourage her to investigate those fields! See if you can find a four-year college with degrees in them! But the idea that college is always a waste unless you’re going just for a practical job and you know exactly what you want to do and no one should ever be required to take classes unless they translate directly into a job they want is…not true.

  105. Mill Miker*

    LW1: I think KMC12191219 got into this a bit above, but I can’t help but see the following scenario when there’s so much focus on having a fallback:

    Culinary/Arts is risky, you should get a safer degree

    Culinary/Arts is risky, you should put that new degree to use for a while so you have savings

    Culinary/Arts is risky, and now you’re used to living on an experienced salary, and you have such a stable, hard-earned career, and maybe a family depending on you, you should probably wait until a better time

    Culinary/Arts is risky, and you need to be thinking about retirement, you can’t start at the bottom again, you should have pursued the dream when you were young and unbound.

    I know that’s a very pessimistic outlook, but it’s hard not to think that way when standing at the start of your career and being told to really focus on your fallback first. In some demanding careers it can feel like the opportunity cost of keeping one hand on your fallback almost guarantees you’ll fail and need it.

    Fresh out of college is when she has the least to loose. As she gets older and time goes on, the amount perceived “risk” in her desired career is only going to go up.

    If you really want to get her on board, you need to sell her on how the degree will help with her dream career, and then hey bonus it leaves more options open on the off chance things go poorly.

    The other thing to ask is what are you saving her from? If the fear is that she’ll fail at her chosen career, and then have to go do a second degree when she’s older, then making her do the second degree first, and her chosen career when she’s older seems to be “removing” the risk of negatives by changing it to a guarantee.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      This scenario went through my head as well, and I’ve been going back and forth on how valid those concerns really are. It’s a tough calculation. Here’s where I come out: LW’s daughter is not talking about becoming a celebrity anything. She simply wants to work in one of a couple of industries that aren’t known for being especially remunerative. But thousands and thousands of people work in these industries year in and year out. Are they all retiring on private islands in the Caribbean? Probably not. But they’re making a living. So in many ways, her dreams may not even be all that risky.

      I think a lot of the discussion in this thread conflates the daughter’s dreams of working in fashion with something like a dream of becoming a rock star. The fact is that those two are not alike at all. There are very, very few rock stars out there. There are tons of people working in fashion. Tons.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        I think this is partially because commentators have seen many young people who have unrealistic dreams of becoming celebrities in their fields overnight. But the daughter’s level of realism about this is something only the LW can know, and only if she talks to her. There’s a huge difference between someone who’s thinking “I want to design costumes for a theater in the future” and someone who’s thinking “I want to design couture dresses for celebrities next year.”

  106. Not for academics*

    OP2, some folks here aren’t academics and don’t understand what you’re asking the student to do – and neither does she. This student (and many that I have worked with) don’t understand that feedback on papers is largely non-negotiable. She’s seeing your comments as suggestions (not as required changes), and as Alison writes, she’s probably reading your comments and simply not incorporating them because she doesn’t want to. You have to explicity address this – “When I give feedback, it’s not a suggestion. It’s a change you need to go back and make.” Add, “We all do this – it’s how science works. No paper is produced by individuals. Practicing and getting used to this now will make your research life much easier.”

  107. birchtrees*

    LW1: If you’re helping her pay for both college and culinary/fashion school, completely ignore this comment, but it’s a little different than the ones I’ve read through.

    My best friend went to pastry school in NYC after going to college for a year. She went from baking cakes to managing a bakery and now she’s overseeing about 1/3 of the bakeries run by the “Cake Boss” guy throughout the country – not baking at all, just running the business side of things. She doesn’t have a business degree. She was driven to be successful in that field. It’s tough, demanding, and she has to travel a lot, but that would be the case if she was doing this type of business-y job in a different field too.

    I don’t think there’s enough weight put on Alison’s comment: (just make sure she doesn’t end up with significant student loan debt). That should be a huge priority – student loan debt is incredibly debilitating and I completely regret going to college right after high school and then grad school right after college. $90,000 of debt I’ll be paying off for the rest of my life because I was told all my life that you need at least a bachelor’s, preferably a master’s. My friend? No debt and she makes about $20,000 more than me.

    I’ve seen a lot of comments here suggesting she take a gap year and work in a bakery or doing something related to fashion design or checking out a technical school – TAKE THAT ADVICE. I work in higher ed – a lot of colleges are realizing the importance of students taking a gap year. They come to college more mature, more self-actualized, and more successful (aka they keep retention and graduation scores up for the universities, which tbh is what they care most about). Plus, if she’s living at home she can save up some money to help pay for college.

    Please please please don’t trap your daughter into student loan debt just because having a college degree is a nice backup. She can always go back to school later.

  108. Me*

    LW 1 – please encourage your daughter to look at community colleges. Many of them have culinary programs and a few have fashion. It’s a low cost, low commitment level to see if she likes it and will generally include college coursework as well.

    I’d also encourage you to look for short term classes that she can explore the creative fields she’s interested in. Her ideas of what she wants may not match the reality of them. Which is of course normal for all of us.