Horn said they found that students are choosing college for five core reasons: enroll to get in the best school, do what’s expected of them, to get away, to step it up and to extend themselves. He explained that it’s important for students to understand which one of these best fits them because it completely changes what success looks like for them.

As an example, he explained that the student who wants to get away, the criteria for that decision and the definition of success are dramatically different from someone who is going for other reasons.

Horn and Moesta have three primary recommendations for parents and students. The first, they said, is many students would benefit from taking a gap year before they go to college. And that does not mean gallivanting around Europe and backpacking aimlessly, but spending a year working a few jobs, doing internship or apprenticeships, taking a few online courses or attending coding bootcamp to “learn more about yourself and develop some passion and a sense of purpose in your life so that you can make a choice that you can be fired up about,” he said.

Secondly, students need to realize that taking an unusual path is a good thing. “It’s a way to differentiate yourself and it can be strategic to create value for yourself by not being like everyone else and standing apart from the crowd,” he said, adding that student they came across fell into the rat race of following the rankings and following what their peers are doing.”

Another advice the book puts forth for students is that they should view themselves as lifelong learners in the ever-changing economy, where the shelf-life of skills is constantly shrinking. “With the half-life of knowledge constantly changing—artificial intelligence, automation, outsourcing and things of that nature—you’re going to have to reskill,” Horn said.

“So, it’s much more important to view learning and your education as a journey as opposed to, ‘I am going to college and that’s it.’ And when you step back and have that viewpoint, you realize you don’t have to get into this rat race to get in ‘the best school’ or climb the ladder above your peers because, really, you are going to be taking different pathways as you navigate through life,” he said.

To be clear, Horn still believes college is a good investment, but the key is, you have to graduate, he said. “What people don’t realize is that roughly 40% of students do not graduate from a four-year program within six years, and if you don’t graduate, it’s a terrible investment. It’s that simple,” he said.

He added that college is especially a great investment for students from low-income households where the student is the first to go to college and gets into an Ivy League school. “You should go because that would be life-changing. But if you get into a school that costs a lot of money, doesn’t have a great brand, doesn't have a great alumni network, that’s probably not a great investment,” he said.

Horn agrees that the societal pressure placed on going to college is great, and it’s going to be up to employers, state governments and parents to change the landscape.

“Employers are literally requiring degree for jobs that 30 years ago they would not have required them for,” Horn said. That has got to stop, he said.