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7 reasons to go to college

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The decision to get a college degree comes with a big financial commitment. However, there are many good reasons to go to college, including career stability.

A survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) found that 87 percent of employers agree that getting a college degree is either definitely worth it or probably worth it.

Beyond the job market, take into account these seven reasons to consider going to college.

7 reasons to attend college

There are many benefits of attending college, including networking and broader career opportunities. Here’s what to consider if you’re wondering whether going to college is worth it.

1. Expand your potential earnings

Studies show that college graduates are more likely to become financially stable upon graduation than people without a college degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020, people with a bachelor’s degree had a weekly salary that was 67 percent higher than those with just a high school diploma. What’s more, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities found that the earnings gap between high school degree holders and bachelor’s degree holders continues to widen.

2. Create long-lasting relationships and professional connections

The connections you’ll create in college with faculty, classmates and members of clubs or student organizations will help you start building your professional network.

Networking is important. It can help with job leads, lead to opportunities for personal improvement and open doors for various areas of career advancement. The connections you make can help you get a jump-start on your career, and those relationships can challenge your ideas and provide new insights.

3. 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 January 2022 the unemployment rate for people 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree was 2.3 percent, while the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college degree was 4.6 percent.

This is consistent with longer-term trends, where workers with at least a bachelor’s degree typically have half the unemployment rate of those with just a high school diploma.

4. Explore different career options

If there’s a time to explore new interests, it’s college. Given the wide array of courses available in virtually any subject, you have the opportunity to take classes that aren’t even directly related to your major. In fact, a diverse course load may even be required by your college.

This is the perfect time to join organizations, try out clubs and attend classes that are outside of your comfort zone. You could choose to get a minor or certificate in another field, which can bolster your job prospects and diversify your skillset.

Having any sort of college degree can also be helpful for future career changes. Even if you pursue a new career unrelated to your degree, having a college degree in the first place makes you more flexible and qualified in the eyes of an employer.

5. Experience independence

College offers invaluable experiences that high school just can’t deliver, including a level of academic and personal independence that can prepare you for the reality of post-college life. 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 help 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.

6. 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, equipping you to share ideas and communicate with team members in any setting.

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. You never know what professional or personal skills you may pick up that can help you later on in life.

7. Gain financial responsibility

With the financial independence and responsibility that it brings, college is a great opportunity to expand your financial literacy. Between student loans and expenses like textbooks and rent, you’ll need to learn money management skills you likely didn’t have before.

Applying for a student credit card, maintaining a student budget and navigating your student loan expenses are among the many things that you’ll learn in college.

Factors to consider when deciding to go to college

When thinking about whether to go to college, there are multiple considerations. Here are some things to keep in mind when making your decision.

Should you go to college now?

The best timing for attending college is different for every person, as it’s such a large investment of time and money. While these investments can certainly be worth it, everyone’s journey looks different. Consider these factors when deciding if you want to attend college:

  • Is it something you want to do? Do you feel obligated to attend college, or is this a decision you’ve made for yourself? The time and money it takes to attend college are not worth it if you aren’t committed to your studies. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on high school students to attend college as soon as they graduate, but think about taking a gap year or two if you don’t feel ready to commit or if you’re not sure what you want to study.
  • 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 is a great first step.
  • Do you have the time to start college? Whether you’re aiming for a degree path that takes two years or one that takes 12, college is a major time investment. Before you apply, make sure that you have the time to take the courses you’d like. Many colleges offer night, morning and weekend classes to accommodate busy schedules. One perk of higher education is that you can choose when to take your classes.

Your college education can begin at any age, so don’t assume that you need to enroll right out of high school. Thinking about the timing and cost of your college education will help you be a more successful student in the long run.

Which college should you go to?

Deciding which college to attend may be one of the most important decisions in your life. If you have a specific major in mind, research the best schools to attend for that specialty. See if any in-state universities offer reputable programs, since those will usually be the least expensive options.

Your high school counselor should also be able to help you come up with a list of relevant schools where you have a good chance of being accepted. When narrowing down your options, also consider things like the school’s size, reputation and location. It may sound trivial, but things like climate could influence your choice; if you’re happiest living in warm weather, you may avoid schools in the midwest where you’ll experience months of harsh winter. Apply the same considerations to schools in small towns versus big cities.

How do you decide between public and private school?

Both private and public schools can provide valuable benefits to their students. 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:

Public school
Private school
University size Typically larger, with more students in each class Typically a more intimate setting, with smaller class sizes
Tuition Lower tuition rates 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 associated with attendance. The total cost will also depend on whether you go to an in-state or out-of-state school.

Type of college
Average yearly cost of attendance
Public two-year (in-district) $18,830
Public four-year (in-state) $27,330
Public four-year (out-of-state) $44,150
Private four-year $55,800

Source: College Board

You can lower the upfront costs of your education by applying for scholarships, grants or student loans.

When shouldn’t you go to college?

If you’re not sure what you want to study or what jobs you’re interested in, it may be best to skip going to college for now. Because a bachelor’s degree is such a large time and monetary investment, many students take a gap year or two after high school to figure out what sort of career they truly want to pursue or to save up money.

In some cases, the career you’re interested in may not require a traditional bachelor’s degree; if this is true for you, you may opt for a less expensive option. Trade and vocational schools are great alternatives to a traditional four-year school, and software boot camps can teach coding, app building and other skills for as little as half the cost of a degree.

Is college worth it?

College grads generally earn more and have better employment opportunities than nongraduates. And for many students, college is an opportunity to gain financial literacy, begin networking and broaden horizons. Because of this, the investment is worthwhile for many people.

With that said, whether or not college is worth it is an individual decision. You may not get a return on your investment for many years, especially if you can’t get a job in your field right away, and student loans could be part of your life for a decade or more after you graduate.

If you’re on the fence about college, do a little research first. Financial advisors and admissions counselors can paint a better picture of the realities of college life, as can friends and family who have already graduated. You can also join a campus tour to get a sense of the culture and energy of a college campus.

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Written by
Hanneh Bareham
Student loans reporter
Hanneh Bareham specializes in everything related to student loans and helping you finance your next educational endeavor. She aims to help others reach their collegiate and financial goals through making student loans easier to understand.
Edited by
Student loans editor
Reviewed by
Nationally recognized student financial aid expert