Students, Whatever You Do, DON’T “Follow Your Passion.”

This is one of the most important posts I've ever written.

follow your passionA girl recently contacted me on Twitter, asking me to explain to her how she could wrestle control of her 529 college savings plan away from her parents.

“They are unreliable and untrustworthy,” she told me.

“What!?” I thought. “Are they drug addicts or human traffickers? Are they embezzlers!? What’s going on?”

I invited the girl to direct message me on Twitter so I could get a fuller picture. I learned that her parents were against a rather harebrained idea she had to study what she vaguely described as “media” overseas—so they were refusing to fund it. (They are perfectly within their rights to do this.)

When I asked the girl why it was so important that she carry out this plan to study “media” overseas, she came out with this whopping piece of logic:

“It’s been my dream since forever to do so.”

My reply to her looked like this:

“I understand about dreams, but when it comes to college and career we need to get extremely practical. What you need is the shortest, fastest, least expensive route to get to a career that will support you financially. When you get to your career goal and you’re working and earning your own money, then you can get started on fulfilling your dreams. Then you can fall in love and travel the world and do whatever you want. College is not the time to fulfill your dreams. College is the time to get busy get practical get it done and get out. Can you tell me what your career goal is? What do you think you’ll be doing when you are finished with studying “media” overseas?”

Parents, tell your kids the truth: college is not actually about following passion and dreams.

College is about qualifying oneself to do a job that will earn money in the real world.

To read my emphatic words to students age 12 -24 (and to see an inspiring short Mike Rowe video on this subject) read on.

Students, to earn money in the real world, you need to start with what you’re already naturally good at, and then polish, develop, and cultivate those natural abilities outside of school settings. Approach your work like a craftsman. Learn on your own. Read up on the subject. Get a mentor. Job shadow like crazy. Volunteer. Use your fledgling skills to work for free for a cause you believe in. Intentionally grow yourself outside of school settings.

Then go to college to put final polish on and add credential to the abilities you’ve already developed.

Students, there’s great danger in looking at college as a place to “pursue your passion and your dreams.”

If you do, you could end up pursuing something where you have no natural talent and no ability. You could end up with a thin, useless paper college degree that will never lead to a paying job in the real world. 

Students, take the wiser course.

Zero in on career goal early on by combing through assessments that show what you’re naturally good at. My book titled LAUNCH, available here, has an entire chapter (chapter 13) that explains exactly how to do this.

Then you’ll have a goal you can confidently pursue with passion and persistence.

After all, as Mike Rowe says in the video below, the advice you hear so often to “be persistent” and “stay the course” only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction.

To see my post on the genius idea of building real world job skills by earning a technical school degree first and then perhaps a bachelor’s degree after that, click here!

Finally, to sum up, take a look at this fantastic 5-minute Mike Rowe video where he convinces us that “follow your passion” is terrible career advice, and that what we all really need is opportunity—a legitimate chance to pursue meaningful work. Passion will follow that.

For clear, step-by-step help getting your kids through college debt-free, it takes only 7 hours to read my book:

You can get 10-minute, fast-paced video instruction on how to use this book most efficiently at

You can see more than 90 reviews of it on Amazon at:

(Tell your friends.)

You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCHhere.

You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCHhere.

Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

Do you have specific questions for me about debt-free college and career for your kids?

It’s my members that get most direct access to me. Doors to my membership open each year for just 5 days in March, and 5 days in September. Space is limited. Join the Waiting List here.

Do you have friends who are parenting kids ages 12–22?

SHARE this post on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin right now.

What about you? What are your thoughts about telling kids to decide career by “following their passion”?

Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.