Is college worth it?
The decision to go to college or attend a university is one of the most important decisions that families have today. Receiving a degree from one of these institutions takes a lot of time. Most students need at least four years to get the job done. You also have significant expenses to consider, even if you attend an in-state school for your education. The average amount of student debt in the United States is almost $40,000 and a $1.5 trillion overall debt in the country.
Some families cannot afford the tuition costs for college, so students might opt to enter an apprenticeship program instead. Others find a job, and then start working as a way to gain experience for their career. A growing number of seniors are looking at the gig economy as a way to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit.
The pros and cons of going to college must receive an evaluation from your perspective. No one else can tell you what is right or wrong about whatever choice you decide to make. What we can do is talk about some of the potential benefits that you can receive when pursuing an advanced degree while detailing the disadvantages that may be present as well.
That way you can decide for yourself if this is something you should pursue.
List of the Pros of Going to College
1. There are numerous financial and career benefits to consider.
If you go to college and come away with a bachelor’s degree, then you can earn almost 60% more per year than those who only have a high school diploma or a GED. The median earnings for workers with a bachelor’s degree in 2017 was $1,173 per week. If you only had a high school diploma, then you were earning $712 per week. Even an associate degree can give you a boost in pay.
What does this mean over the length of a career? If you earn an undergraduate degree in whatever field you prefer, then there is an opportunity to make $1 million more than if you never went to college in the first place.
2. You have a chance to make a life for yourself.
When you make the decision to go to college, then you are putting yourself into a position where you are more likely to get married. This advantage also means that you are less likely to be living in the home of your parents through your 20s. Research indicates the attending college has more economic benefits for Millennials than for any previous generation. You have an opportunity to create a life for yourself because of the experiences that occur with these advanced learning opportunities.
3. It may be necessary to have a degree to obtain an entry-level job.
The Georgetown Public Policy Institute found that up to 65% of jobs in the United States require some level of secondary education beyond high school to qualify as an applicant. 35% of these positions require the minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Unless you plan on working in the service industry for most of your life, there will be a need to pursue an advanced education at some point during your career. Even if you can find a position, there is limited upward movement without a degree.
4. Going to college can help you to make new connections.
Networking is becoming a tremendous advantage for students who decide to go to college today as well. Employment experts believe that up to 80% of the jobs that young professionals obtain are for positions that were never publicly advertised. You need to know the right people to secure employment today more than ever before. Since many companies also offer internship programs that work with local colleges, going to school can get your foot into the door of your dream company so that there is a full-time job waiting for you after you receive your degree.
5. Colleges usually offer free career counseling services.
Most institutions provide their students with free career counseling, giving you an opportunity to get in touch with alumni and employers who can help you to find a job that works with your education. Most colleges offer an annual job fair that brings recruiters to the campus who are looking for qualified students to start working for their organizations. This advantage gives you an opportunity to start forming relationships with representatives who can help you professionally now and in the future.
6. It is a way for you to start exploring all of your interests.
When you go to high school, the number of electives which are available for selection can be minimal. Most students get to choose from a handful of options at best. When you go to a college or university, then you can literally choose from hundreds of different majors, minors, and classes. There will be required classes that you must attend so that you can earn your preferred degree, but there is a lot of flexibility in how you set your schedule. Once you get outside of the court requirements, you get to decide what you wish to study and learn about at an advanced level.
7. There are plenty of extracurricular opportunities to pursue in college.
If you decide to go to college, then there are several extracurricular activities and student-led opportunities for participation that you would not have otherwise. This advantage can help you to form a lifelong passion, pursue athletics, form meaningful relationships, or even start studying in a foreign country.
There are several ways to be active on your college or university campus as well. You could become a reporter for the local student newspaper, join our campus organization, or become active in the department of your major in ways that are unique to your school. The number of choices that are available will be numerous, no matter what institution you decide to attend.
8. You will get plenty of opportunities to meet new friends.
Although there are some students who find their college experience to be less than enjoyable, most people find that it is an enjoyable opportunity where are you have an opportunity to make some lifelong friends. You get to attend parties, go to games, dance at concerts, and create your own random moments of fun. Even when you are a freshman at the institution you chose, there are mixers which will help you to meet new people which can sometimes lead to romantic relationships.
You will also get to meet some of the people who are working hard to change the world in better ways when you go to a college or university. Entertainers, political figures, academics, and even comedians all receive invitations from schools to give presentations. Not only does this advantage let you meet new friends, but it can also be a way to network yourself into a future job if you play your cards right.
9. It is an opportunity to experience different cultures.
Even in some of the largest high schools found in the United States, there can be a lack of diversity present within the student body. You will find a very different experience waiting for you if you decide to go to college. Even public, in-state institutions receive applications from all over the world from students who are wanting to earn a degree in their chosen field. You will be in the classroom with people who are local, from out-of-state, and from different cultures. There is a blend of different ethnicities, races, and spiritual preferences. Although some private institutions can become echo chambers, you will usually find that the diversity of this environment creates a strength you may have never known was possible.
10. There is room at college to make some self-improvements.
For many students who decide to go to college, this will be the first time in their lives that they will not be living at home. This journey becomes a learning lesson and what it takes to become self-sufficient. You will discover how to manage your domestic affairs, budget your finances, and motivate yourself to complete homework assignments without parental involvement. At the same time, you still have an opportunity to call home for advice or stop by for a visit if you live close enough.
Most of the people who choose not to go to college end up living with their parents for at least a couple of years after they graduate from high school. Although they typically have more freedom than they did before turning 18, their mindset and routines don’t change as much when compared to those who strike out on their own.
11. Going to college gives you an opportunity to start exploring.
Whether you choose to go to a college or university in your state, out of state, or in a different country, you’ll have an opportunity to start exploring a different environment. Discovering how a different culture approaches life can be a refreshing experience. There could be a unique vibe on the campus, the culture could be a shift in perspective, or even the climate can provide some benefits that are not available at home. Most students enjoy the opportunity to experience a different way of life.
12. It can lead to a healthier life.
People who earn a bachelor’s degree typically live about nine years longer than those who do not fully pursue advanced education. Going to college means that you are less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise every day. Those to earn a degree after the age of 25 are also less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms and rate themselves as having a better life once they reach their 40s and 50s.
List of the Cons of Going to College
1. You must graduate with a degree to earn the benefits listed above.
If you decide to go to college, then it will be an all-or-nothing experience. You must earn the degree you are pursuing if you want to receive the benefits which are listed above. Simply going to an institution does not guarantee that you can make a better life for yourself. Only 56% of students who decide to enroll in a college or university as a first-time student will earn a certificate or degree.
What happens to everyone else who goes to college and decides that it is not right for them? They get bumped into the statistics of those who only have a high school diploma or a GED. That means you’re essentially wasting your money if you go to college and don’t get the paperwork to hang on your wall.
2. The financial burden of going to college is exceptionally high in the United States.
Some developed countries around the world give students the opportunity to study at a college or university for free. That is not the case in the United States. It is up to each student and their family to fund their education unless they can earn a scholarship from an institution. Since many students do not receive them out of aid that they need to cover their costs fully, it is not unusual to rely on unsubsidized student loans to finance the expenses of earning a degree.
In 2004, the total amount of student loan debt in the United States was $260 billion. In 2018, that figure had risen to $1.5 trillion – and it keeps growing. If you need to take on a lot of debt to earn your degree, then it can take more time to purchase a house, drive a new car, or start a family. Student loans can’t even impact the jobs you take.
3. There may not be a financial benefit to earning a degree for some students.
Although it is possible for a student to earn $1 million more during a career with a four-year degree, there are only five schools in the United States out of almost 2,000 where is this is statistically possible. It is not unusual for a recent graduate to earn less in their first job than someone with a high school diploma because an educational experience does not always make for a practical substitute to the real-life experiences that happen in a vocation.
Unless you earn a degree in a high-demand field where there are worker shortages present, it could be 5-10 years before you’re earning the full potential of your degree. Since you’ll be paying your student loans during that time, it can be a tough start to your early career.
4. It may not help to improve your intelligence.
45% of college students who attended an institution between 2005 to 2009 made no significant improvements in their critical thinking skills. There were not any benefits shown in their reasoning or writing abilities during their first two years of going to college. Even after earning a four-year degree, 36% of people who decide to go to college show no significant gains in these critical areas. Because pursuing an advanced education comes with such a high cost in the United States, one would think that it should have a dramatically positive impact on everyone. That unfortunately is not always the case.
5. Going to college classes is a time-consuming experience.
If you thought that the stress of making it to each class in high school before the bell rang was a tough experience, then college is going to take your anxiety to a different level. Although you will have less time spent in the classroom when pursuing a degree or certificate, there is extensive time spent on homework. Most students need to budget 10 hours per week in study time for every class they decide to take. You must make a commitment to develop a considerable amount of your time to the work that must be done.
If you need to work a job or pursue other interests while trying to juggle your classes, then going to college might not be the best choice until you can secure grants or scholarships that can provide you with more time.
6. Earning a college degree does not guarantee that you will earn a job.
Although having a degree from a college or university on your wall can help you to get your foot in the door for your dream job, this effort is not a guarantee of employment. Some students will struggle to find a position after they graduate because their chosen field is exceptionally competitive. Some industries may have scarce positions available, which means a graduate must wait until a job opens up before they can apply. If you’re not sure what the future job prospects might be for your degree, then the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers lots of data about expected employment growth in many fields.
7. It might take you away from all of your friends.
For some students, being away from all of your family and friends can be an advantage. Going to college in that situation feels like a fresh start in life. If you feel close to your folks and enjoy spending time with your friends at home, then attending classes at your preferred institution can become a heart-wrenching experience. Meeting new friends is not always the same as spending time with the people who got to know you while growing up.
8. There are still great jobs out there which don’t require a college education.
Ellen DeGeneres. Rush Limbaugh. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. There are many entertainers, celebrities, politicians, and professionals who have achieved exceptional levels of success without having a college degree. Some of them may have attended for a semester or two, but then they dropped out because the opportunities of life felt more important than what was available in the classroom. Although it is easier to apply for some jobs when you have a degree from a college or university, it is not 100% necessary. There are plenty of people who earn millions of dollars because they embraced their creativity and ingenuity instead of their ability to focus on textbooks and homework.
Is College Worth It? A Concluding Thought
Going to college is worth it if the experience will help you to achieve what you want in life. There are times when a degree from an institution at any level can help to break down doors to get into a job that someone with a high school diploma will not have a chance to earn. Some creative careers can benefit as well because colleges and universities offer opportunities to practice skills in meaningful ways.
It is essential to remember that most college graduates do not regret their decision. Only 3% of students who graduated in 2011 and said that they wished that they have not gone to college in the first place. You will have more options if you have a college degree hanging on your wall. Sometimes the decision is that simple.
Is going to college worth it? That all depends on your personal perspective. If the career you want does not require a certificate or degree, then the expense of earning this paperwork may not make sense. If you want to work in a specialized field, then the pros and cons of going to college would suggest that the investment you make in your tuition expenses is one that will provide a lifetime of dividends.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.