College or no college is a big question for any 18 year old who has been on track through the US education system with good grades through high school. It is not a question that comes up that often in suburban communities like the one I live in in CT. There is so much emphasis put on which college, which major, which internships that the thought of no college always gets at least a very perplexed look or worse. That look of "how could you", "what's wrong?" or "I am so sorry to hear that" is almost always part of the equation in a discussion with other parents. The real answer for my youngest son is, he tried a good liberal arts college, Skidmore, for 3 semesters and it didn't fit where his head and heart were. He has taken his own path and one year into it hasn't looked back.
The question is what advice do we give him at 20? Better yet what advice could we or should we have given him at 18 or even earlier? Here is the best advice I have seen on the subject which comes from Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net.
My wife and I have been very supportive of our son's effort to find his way on a "path less traveled" which I started out referring to as "entrepreneurial leave". His primary focus is on urban street culture, the fashion it inspires as well as the art and music. He follows the lead designers, retailers and artists and knows / can predict the trends. He is networking in his own way and has lots of ideas and things that he is trying including two short internships of his own making. He has run into a few detours so far but is gaining confidence that he will find his own way based on his boundless creativity and energy.
When I discovered Leo last week through my explorations of "free range humans" I had to share his recent blog post with my son letting him know I wish I had said these words to him at 18. My caveat was that they may be even more appropriate now that he is closing in on 21. Most importantly I told him I admire him for taking the risk and expressing himself - by following his heart!