Open Letter to Students: Why it is Ok to Work First Instead of Enrolling in College

College graduation hire me

With June being the start of classes here in the Philippines, a single mom from Cavite sent us an open letter to all students, particularly those who were not able to enter college this school year. Ms. Cora told TN she hopes this can help them decide when it’s better to go to work instead of enrolling in college.

Here it goes:

Dear TN,

First of all, it would be a pleasure for me if you will publish this letter on the first week of June, or just in time when the school year starts. I’m separated from my husband for six years, and all our four children are with me. Their father has a new family, and he has not been supporting me financially for the past four years.

Yes, I know I can sue my husband but it would not be practical. I learned that he lost his job and that he is now a street vendor. I know I’m not alone, as there are many single parents out there who work hard every day to provide the needs of their children. But of course, there are times when our efforts are not enough.

Lilac is my eldest daughter, and she is supposed to be a college freshman this school year. But as early as April, I have this feeling that I cannot send her to college. My two other children are still in elementary, while the other one will be Grade 8 this year. And yes, I’m glad all my daughters are with me. They are my angels.

As a parent, it hurts me so much when I look at Lilac preparing herself to go to work instead of going to school. But because she is a very understanding daughter, she always tells me she’s Ok. Right after her high school graduation, she applied as a staff in a nearby grocery store and was immediately hired.

Having a very strong character, she was able to impress the store owner. After a month, he offered my daughter to stay longer and gave her a salary increase. She does not really love math, but her employer trusted her to be one of the cashiers. Little by little, I learn to accept that my baby Lilac is now a young lady.

When Lilac was small, she loves posing in front of the mirror wearing my dresses. As the eldest sister, she likes combing the hair of her siblings, and making sure that they look fresh even if their clothes are not new. I never heard her complain if she shares her rug dolls to them, and even her old clothes, too.

While she was growing up, I always remind her about the importance of going to school. Although she does not belong to top students, her grades are high enough considering that she helps me maintain our small sari-sari store. Not even once that I feel that she did not enjoy her youth, although she works at early age.

She always tells me she’s Ok not to enroll in college as long she is not wasting her time making new friends on Facebook, and not learning anything that can help improve her life. And besides, she told me she is still not yet sure on what course she really likes to take. She is caught between culinary arts and architecture.

Sometime last year, we were watching a show where actress Jodi Sta. Maria was interviewed. There, she revealed that she finished high school when she was already 28 years old. I was surprised when Lilac said she agrees on Jodi when she said, “Age does not matter when it comes to going back to school.”

But then, I told my daughter that despite her healthy showbiz career, Jodi Sta. Maria decided to go back to school because she wanted to be a good example to her child. And yes, she’s right when she said, “How can you motivate your child to go to school when you yourself were not able to finish school?”

I must admit, I don’t know if Lilac will eventually finish college. But right now, I’m happy to see my daughter enjoying her work. Her siblings will start their school days, and I know it will not be possible if Lilac has no work. I know this is a great sacrifice for her, but I can see the happiness in her eyes being able to help me.

Lilac even joked at me, saying that she is willing to stop for several years, once a talent scout discovers her ‘beauty.’ My daughter has missed school this year, but it doesn’t mean her time is wasted. I can say that I have been a good mother. And yes, it’s Ok if she finishes her school late. I will always be proud of her.

So, yes, it’s very much Ok to work first before entering college, as long as you don’t forget to finish it when you are already financially prepared. And of course, it’s better than no to enroll in college if you don’t what course you like. Don’t take a course that you don’t like, hoping that you like it better because of salary.

Never take a course that you think that can make you rich, or for the sake of working be abroad. Remember that job opportunities may change after you graduate. Instead, take a course that you really love, but learn how to make good money in other ways. Career is about being rich; it’s about fulfilling your dreams.

At the age of 37, I still plan to finish by Business Administration course.

Sincerely yours,
Cora M.

Here at TN, we believe that going to school is very important. However, a college diploma is not the most important thing in life. We know some successful people who were not able to finish college – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to name a few.

Being financially broke may stop you from going to school, but it cannot stop from reaching your dreams. A college degree is a very useful tool, but it is not the only tool available. Never use poverty as an excuse for not dreaming big. The key to success depends on how you think, the things you do, and how you do them.