College, Not Always a Means to an End

College, Not Always a Means to an End

Earning a college education isn't the only path to success.

Some think that college is the only option after graduating high school. However, textbooks and classes aren’t the only way to be successful. (Provided/ 

After three years of studying at Missouri State University, business owner Kevin Wilhite decided to leave school and take the risky opportunity of starting his own business without a college degree.

At first Wilhite worked with his partners, Chad Miller and Vincent Mays, at a supplement retail store called Supplement Super Stores,in Springfield, but after learning and growing confident, the trio decided to move to Oklahoma.

“We kind of got to the point where we were running the entire store mostly on our own with a little help from corporate and got to be where we wanted to go do it on our own,” Wilhite said.

Their store is known as Triad Fitness and has been open for about a year and half, supplying supplements, fitness tips and dieting assistance, Wilhite said.

“Things have kind of slowly and steadily been growing since we opened and always moving in the right direction…,” Wilhite said.

Wilhite decided not to go the traditional route and finish college right away and yet has managed to find success in his adult life.

“For me…getting out of school and seizing the opportunity that I had and kind of going down that road has been one of the best decisions of my life. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but owning the store,” Wilhite said.

Higher education has been deemed the main way of finding success, both financially and emotionally. Young people appear to be repeatedly encouraged by mentors and teachers to attend college.

According to Adventures in Education, a website created over 20 years ago to help young people entering higher education, a college degree often leads to certain job opportunities, financial security and overall life stability.

Matt Johnson, owner of Aspen Coffee locations throughout the Oklahoma City metro, did attend college and received a degree in hotel and restaurant administration at Oklahoma State University. Johnson said because he received his education he was able to find success in his life.

“I think it played a huge role for me because I had to work during college to pay for school, so that’s kind of how I got started in the restaurant business,” Johnson said.

Although he did benefit from receiving a degree, Johnson said college does not have to be the only path someone takes to establish a decent living.

“I have this conversation all the time because almost all of my employees are college students. It’s based on the situation…Of course if you’re going to go into some kind of specialty, like med school or accounting, of course you have to get your schooling… but if you’re going to go into starting your own business…I don’t think it’s necessarily required to have a college degree,” Johnson said.

However, Johnson also said college does offer some security opportunities for people, such as a back up plan and connections, as they enter the professional world.

“If you have your college degree and you’re starting a business and something does not work out you can always fall back on that degree, whereas if you don’t have it it’s a lot harder to go back to school later in life,” Johnson said.

Shereen Jackson, owner and operator of Gypsy Rose Edmond Boutique, also decided to leave college before receiving her degree. She said that she felt she needed to establish her passion before continuing her education.

“I went to college just like everybody, you know. I felt like I was suppose to and I enjoyed it. I didn’t have a specific direction and I kind of didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so I think that’s what made me step back for a minute,” Jackson said.

Jackson also said she did not feel like she was leaving higher education permanently and she always knew she could return.

“Sometimes I think, ‘you know, maybe I ought to go back and get a degree in this or that,’ but it’s one of those things where it’s something you have, but can you do something you love to do without using it? That’s something you kind of have to ask yourself,” Jackson said.

Jackson said she does wish she had gone to college and has considered returning and getting a degree in interior design, however, for those who are uncertain about their future Jackson said they should wait.

“Get your degree. Have it. It’s good to have but there’s [other] things you can do,” Jackson said.

Because she left school, Jackson said she has been able to run Gypsy Rose for the last six years and is currently staring another business involving horse rescue.

According to Jackson, the advice she would give someone struggling with continuing college or taking a chance on a dream job is to take the risk.

Wilhite also believes that while school is important for some, if someone has the opportunity to work in the field they’ve dreamed of, they too should make that choice.

“I know there is kind of a negative stereotype of leaving college, but if you’ve got an opportunity and it feels right and you really think you’d be happier doing that I would tell you…definitely seize the opportunity,” Wilhite said.





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