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 it’s worth it to go to 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, learning to manage your finances well 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
Learning to be financially independent isn’t the only opportunity you will have as a college student; studies show that college graduates are more likely to become financially stable upon graduation. A College Board report states that individuals with higher education levels “earn more” and are “more likely than others to be employed.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that in 2020, people with a bachelor’s degree had a weekly salary 67 percent higher than those with just a high school diploma.
3. Create long-lasting relationships and professional connections
The connections that you’ll create in college — with faculty, classmates or members of clubs — will help you start building your professional network. Networking is important: Job website Indeed says that networking is essential because it can “provide job leads, possibilities for advancement and opportunities for personal improvement.” 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 May 2021 the unemployment rate for people 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree was 3.2 percent, while the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college degree was 6.8 percent. This is consistent with longer-term trends, where people with at least a bachelor’s degree typically have half the unemployment rate of people with just a high school diploma.
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.
This is the perfect time to join organizations and clubs and take classes that aren’t a part of your major to learn more about different career paths. It’s not uncommon for students to change their major or career path throughout their time at college.
Having any sort of college degree can also be helpful for future career changes. Even if you pursue a new career that’s not related to your degree, having a college degree in the first place makes you more flexible and qualified in the eyes of employers.
6. Experience independence
College offers you invaluable experiences that high school just can’t give you, including a level of academic and personal independence that may prepare you for the realities of a post-college career and 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 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, skills that will equip 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.
Factors to consider when deciding to go to college
When you are thinking about whether to go to college, there are multiple considerations. Here are some things to keep in mind 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. Consider these factors when thinking about going to college:
- Is it something you want to do? Do you feel obligated to attend college, or is this a decision you have 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 to college.
- 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 makes a great first step.
- 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 that you have the time to take the courses you’d like, whether you’re attending full time or part time. Many colleges offer night, morning and weekend classes to accommodate busy schedules. A perk of higher education is that you can choose when you take your classes.
You can start a college education at any age; you don’t have to head to college 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.
How do I 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:
|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 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)||$3,770|
|Public four-year (in-state)||$10,560|
|Public four-year (out-of-state)||$27,020|
Source: College Board
However, you can lower the upfront costs of your education by applying to scholarships, grants or student loans.
Are you ready to pursue a college education? There are a few items you can add to your to-do list to be prepared.
- Meet with a financial advisor: If you’re looking for ways to pay for college, speak to a financial advisor about starting your student loan search and management.
- Do your research: 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 the negatives of their experience. It could also be helpful to meet with an admissions counselor at this college to learn more about applying and make a good first impression for your application.
- Tour the campus: 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. If you don’t have the time or resources to visit a school in person, many colleges also have a more basic virtual tour option on their website.