To go or not to go, that is the question—go to college, that is.
If you’re on the fence for financial or other reasons and not completely sure if college is for you, we’ve compiled nine of the best reasons to take the plunge and earn that degree.
Most of us assume that people with a college education make more money than those with high school diplomas, and research shows that assumption is probably correct. Figures will vary by college major or field of study, but 2011 Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data estimates that the average adult with a bachelor’s degree will earn over $1.4 million over the course of a forty year career while the average high school grad will bring home around $770,000 during that same time period. Even when you factor the costs associated with going to college into the equation, the income potential for college graduates is considerably higher.
“Team player,” a characteristic that’s often included on job listings, might seem like a cliché, but it’s really not. People who cooperate and work well with others—while doing their fair share of the work, of course—are generally reliable, hardworking employees. In fact, a study conducted by psychologists from Finland found that students’ skills and behavior in social settings during their college experience and studies contribute to their success in the workplace while having an impact on their commitment to work. The researchers’ findings indicate that learning positive social skills during college tends to lead a high level of work engagement while pessimism and the avoidance of social situations tend to increase work burnout and exhaustion.
Many college students opt to major in subjects that they are already familiar with. Having a good understanding or talent related to a particular field is required in some cases, such as dance or other arts, but it’s also a big advantage in others. And even if you’re an incredibly talented computer programmer or journalist or whatever it is that you’re good at, earning a degree in that area will help serve as proof that you know your stuff.
In addition to letting the world know that you have a working knowledge of a particular subject, degrees are an absolute necessity in order to enter some professions—for example, those in the medical field. They’re also an unspoken necessary requirement in many other industries. According to The New York Times, post-high school education is almost a prerequisite to obtain a middle class lifestyle. Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018 lead author Anthony P. Carnevale says that high school graduates and drop-outs will find themselves left behind in the workforce in the decade ahead. If you aren’t comfortable with falling behind, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree should be in your future.
Yes, it’s still school, but college is dramatically different than high school. Classes don’t necessarily meet every day; professors aren’t sending home notes to your parents or constantly reminding you of upcoming due dates. If you opt to live on campus, Mom or Dad won’t be around to do your laundry or cook your meals, but even if you stay at home and commute to campus, you will become more independent from your parents.
Although many teens take on part-time jobs during high school to pay for their clothes and gadgets, droves of others sail through school surviving on money from their family. A lot of parents contribute to their children’s post-high school educations, but if you accept any of the student loan money that you’re eligible for, you will be responsible for repaying those funds after you graduate or leave school. If you work during college, you’ll not only have to learn how to manage your time, you’ll need to manage your money and ensure you have enough to pay for required textbooks and any incidentals you need or want.
There’s no denying that change is hard. If you skated through high school with Bs and Cs but never really gave it your all, implementing regular study sessions at the library might have seemed impossible. Reputations are tough to change during high school, too. If everyone classified you as a bookworm or a jock or a band nerd or whatever, your rep could have been tough to shake. College provides a chance to start over, especially if you enroll in a school incredibly far from home where you know absolutely no one.
“Starting over” also means you can explore new interests. College campuses are home to a wealth of groups, clubs, and organizations. Extracurricular activities like intramural sports and even Greek life are great ways to make friends. (Nemours also points out that extracurriculars look good on resumes and applications because it shows others that you’re well-rounded.) Attend a few introductory meetings for clubs that sound interesting—you never know!
Even if you wind up pursuing a career path that isn’t related to your college major or find yourself “settling” for a job that you believe you’re overqualified for, statistics show that less than half of Americans who start college actually finish. Earning that degree is proof that you weathered the storm and finished school—you were dedicated enough to finish what you started and get from Point A to Point B successfully.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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