It's similar in the UK in that respect. You can choose to study a 2 year level 3 diploma at the age 16, there are even level 2 diplomas available from the age 14 at vocational colleges. But I think it's accurate that society/parents have created the illusion that the proper way to do school is to choose subjects and then get a degree. Also a 16 year old is definitely not someone I would bet on making a smart decision all on their own. The issue is correcting your course when you're in your in early 20s when things haven't gone to plan. I dropped out of uni when I was 20, for reasons unrelated to what's been discussed in this thread. After that getting back on track was particularly difficult, I wasn't eligible for any help with course fees be it university or vocational. I wasn't eligible for any apprenticeship due to a new government policy that was financially backing apprenticeships. I know things maybe slightly different in the US but I imagine there isn't a lot of free education available to the 20+ year olds. Anyway after I dropped out I was effectively stuck in a retail black hole regarding prospects and even considered trying to climb the retail ladder. But to make a long story short I managed to get myself back on track and it involved working full time hours during my first year of my new university course. I've mentioned it earlier but the new course is mathematics, I'm going into the final year and I am killing it. I'm not worried about job prospects afterwards because it is a field in demand and I already have work experience as a data analyst.