What’s a Post-High School Woman to Do?

(The following post is a very insightful Facebook comment left by Nisha Congrove on a thread connected to the Should Single Women Get an Education post. Nisha is a talented linguistic (MA from IU), experienced in college ministry, an elder’s wife, and a mother. Her counsel is worth considering….)

I’ve been thinking that these various directions young women can go into post-high school are similar in some ways to the homeschool vs. Christian school vs. public school options. No way is perfect. Each has its advantages, and each has its dangers. It will also depend a lot on the actual schools available in one’s area, financial situation, etc. as well as the characteristics of each individual. Any option is going to have problems, so it’s best to go into it aware of them and ready to combat them. The following thoughts come from my own experiences, those of my friends, and those of the dozens of young women I’ve come into contact with over the years doing college ministry.

Regarding a community college situation, there are obvious savings in cost and time (compared to a typical 4 year college). A young woman may have more time to serve her church (of course that depends on if & how much she is also working), and she is less likely to feel the push towards having a successful career in the world’s eyes. By age 20 she could have a useful skill that could be used immediately in a decent job if she’s not yet married, or, depending on what she chooses, would benefit raising a family. Disadvantages include a potential for laziness & insularity. I say “laziness” because it can be the easy course to live at home, continue with one’s same friends, and take classes that are less challenging. I say “insularity” because students in a community college are generally coming from at least a similar geographic area. And while they may be diverse in age or life experiences, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, it can be quite difficult to establish relationships with them. So, as I said, the community that a student had going into college is likely to remain fairly similar (also, if the pool of men available to her is small/dismal, it’s likely to remain that way).

Regarding a 4-year college situation, a student is more likely to be exposed to a broader world. She’s more likely to have interactions with others from very different backgrounds (other countries, even) and will more likely be forced to examine her own beliefs & defend them. The number of potential suitors increases (especially true at a Christian college). She’s more likely to be challenged intellectually. She also has the potential to gain multiple skills in the 4 years that could be useful to her future (major + minor, elective classes in areas unrelated to her major, clubs, organizations, activities & internships). Disadvantages can include: cost, time, a possible unwillingness to change course because of the time/effort one has already spent down one path, dangers of being overwhelmed or carried away by dangerous philosophies or friendships, & idolatry of school/career.

Regarding work, there’s the obvious advantage of money & possibly gaining some “real life experience.” But that’s going to depend a lot on what job an 18-year old woman can find. Typical jobs are in food service or retail. There may not be much in these types of jobs that will tie over to future work in raising a family. Nevertheless a young lady can still learn to be responsible, industrious, etc. Another advantage is allowing her to meet coworkers that do not know Christ, which can be a good challenge for her to share her faith/be a light. On the other hand, her community of co-workers could be a bad influence (mine were always asking me to come drink & party with them). Also, the likelihood of running into a godly young man at work is fairly low.

By the way, these things I’ve listed are just general observations. They are by no means true for everyone/everywhere. I’ve seen girls completely waste the advantages of the path they chose. I’ve also seen girls go completely against the grain of the disadvantages/dangers in their particular situation and do very well. Imo, it depends a lot on the home environment they came from (how well prepared they are to face the dangers), as well as the church environment they are in as they actually walk the path. It’s so vital to stay connected to a good church so that you can be challenged to not fall prey to the dangers.

Speaking of, I have a few practical suggestions for any of the options above:

  • Have clear goals in mind for whichever path you head down (this has already been mentioned by several others, and it really is important).
  • Don’t hold to those goals too tightly. Be open to the Lord changing your path. (This could involve dropping out of school, changing schools, etc.)
  • Move out of your parent’s house (or the dorms) when you can and live with other girls in a house/apartment. It’s sooo helpful in having your own household someday!
  • Stay involved in regular church ministries with families (i.e. don’t only be around other students. Continue to love & serve the church body).
  • Get connected to a student ministry. (This is a great tool to help you minister to those on your campus, is helpful for accountability, for the questions you’ll face, and even if you’re a community college student can put you in contact with some of that “broader community” that I mentioned being an advantage of a 4 year college).
  • Stay connected to your parents/spiritual parents (especially if you go away to school, you’ll need people who have known you for a long time and can help you watch out for some of the dangers. I know my dad saved my bacon more than once during my college years!).

There’s a lot more I could say, but these are just a few of the thoughts that I’ve been mulling over lately.

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