No matter what stage of life you’re in, deciding whether or not college is the right choice for you can be overwhelming. When you factor in the cost and the amount of time it takes to earn your degree, you may find yourself asking: “Is it worth it?”
However, there are many good reasons to go to college, including career stability. According to a 2018 study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 82 percent of executives and 75 percent of hiring managers believe that a college education is very important or absolutely essential.
Beyond the job market, there are many benefits that come alongside higher education. When determining whether it’s the right step for you, take into account these seven reasons to consider going to college.
7 reasons to attend college
1. Gain financial responsibility
With the financial independence and responsibility that it brings, college could be a great opportunity to expand your financial literacy. Between student loans and potential expenses like textbooks and rent, becoming adaptable and comfortable with your finances is extremely important. Applying for a student credit card (and learning how to responsibly use it), maintaining a student budget and navigating your student loan expenses are among the many things that you’ll learn in college.
2. Expand your potential earnings
Not only will you have ample opportunities to become financially independent while enrolled in college, but studies show that college graduates are more likely to become financially stable upon graduation. A 2019 College Board report stated that individuals with higher education levels “earn more, pay more taxes, and are more likely than others to be employed.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that in 2019, people with a bachelor’s degree had a weekly salary almost 1.5 times higher than those holding an associate degree.
3. Create long-lasting relationships and professional connections
The connections that you’ll create in college — with faculty, classmates or members of clubs — can lay the foundation for your professional network. Networking is important: The connections you make can help you get a jump-start on your career, and those relationships can challenge your ideas or provide new insights.
4. Achieve job security
Statistically, students who have earned a college degree are more likely to land a secure job with benefits upon graduation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in September 2019 the unemployment rate for people 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree was 2.2 percent or less, while the national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent.
5. Explore different career options
If there’s any time to explore new interests, it’s college. Given the wide array of courses available in virtually any subject, you have the opportunity to experience classes that aren’t even directly related to your major — and a diverse course load may even be required by your college.
Due to this, it’s very common for students to change their major and career path throughout their time at college. This is also the perfect time to join organizations and clubs that aren’t a part of your major to learn more about different career paths.
6. Experience independence
College offers you invaluable experiences that high school just can’t give you, including a level of academic independence that may prepare you for the realities of a post-college career. When it comes to collegiate work, you are responsible for managing your time, your homework and your course load — and, ultimately, your success.
Of course, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. Many colleges and universities offer programs to assist you and set you up for success. Check your school’s website to see how you can get involved with programs like tutoring, academic assistance or even interview preparation with your school’s career center.
7. Learn valuable skills
College won’t only teach you how to become a good student; it can also teach you skills that will help you succeed in any career. Many schools have mandatory courses for underclassmen that promote collaboration and group work, essential skills when sharing ideas and communicating with team members.
You can also sign up for courses or clubs in subjects that may not be your strength. For example, if you’re not comfortable with public speaking, try signing up for a public speaking course or a Toastmasters chapter. Not only will this look great on a resume, but it can help you become a more well-rounded person and prepare you for life in the workforce.
Factors to consider
There are many factors in figuring out if college is a good option, finding the perfect school and deciding when to start. Here are some things you should be considering when researching schools.
When should you go to college?
The best timing for attending college is different for every person, since it’s such a large investment of time and money. While these investments can certainly be worth it, everyone’s journey looks different. Here are some things to consider when thinking about going to college:
Make sure it’s something that you want to do. Do you feel obligated to attend college, or is this a decision you have made for yourself? There is a tremendous amount of pressure on high school students to attend college as soon as they graduate, but some would argue that a gap year is beneficial. The time commitment and sacrifice that a higher education requires must be a personal decision.
Do you have a financial plan in place? College tuition can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your educational goals. There are ways to ease the financial burden of college, and having a plan for your finances can be the first step. Try starting with Bankrate’s guide to paying for college.
Do you have the time to start college? Whether you’re aiming for a degree that takes two years or one that takes 12, college is a major time investment. Before you apply, make sure you have the time to take the courses you’d like. Many colleges offer night, morning and weekend classes to accommodate busy schedules, and some even offer full-time or part-time online classes. A perk of higher education is that you can choose when you take your classes.
The beauty of a college education is that you can start at any age, and you may be able to earn your degree at your own pace. A college education isn’t something that needs to be rushed or pressured; it’s all about when you feel ready.
How do I decide between public and private school?
Both private and public schools can provide an enriching academic experience that prepares you for your future, but they have their differences. When it comes to making a decision, it’s all about what you want to get out of your collegiate experience. Here are a few differences to consider:
University size Typically larger in size, with more students in each class Typically a more intimate setting, with smaller class sizes
Tuition Lower tuition rates due to government funding Higher tuition rates, but may offer scholarships and grants
On-campus opportunities Many clubs and organizations Potentially more limited extracurricular activities due to smaller size
How much does college cost?
The total cost of tuition will vary depending on the college, and there are other costs and fees that come with attendance. Your total cost will also depend on whether you go to an in-state or out-of-state school.
Type of college
Average published yearly tuition and fees
Public two-year (in-district) $3,440
Public four-year (in-state) $9,410
Public four-year (out-of-state) $23,890
Private four-year $32,410
Source: College Board
However, you can lower the upfront costs of your education by applying to scholarships, grants or student loans.
If you’ve made the decision to start your college journey, there are a few things you can start doing to be prepared.
Meet with a financial adviser: If you’re looking for ways to pay for college, speak to a financial adviser about starting your student loan search and management.
Do a deep dive: Visit the website of the school you’re considering and conduct a search of the total costs, the details of applying and the programs that it offers. Doing the proper research is crucial to make sure that you’re at the best college for you.
Get advice: If you know anyone who has attended the college you’re considering, ask them about both the positives and negatives of their experience.
Tour the campus: The best way to know if you’re at the right school for you is to tour the campus. If you prefer a guided search with a tour guide, check the school’s website or social media platforms to see when they are offering tours. Joining a campus tour is a great way to see the classrooms, meet other prospective students and get a feel for the culture and energy of the campus.
Featured image by Leigh Trail of Shutterstock.
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