Nowadays, it seems like you hear how useless college is more than you hear how beneficial it is to complete a degree. I’m here to challenge that idea, because I truly believe college is one of the best investments to make in your future. If you don’t have an interest in the trades or another training program like cosmetology, college is a great way to start your adult life. Here's why:
When you are accepted to and subsequently attend an accredited college or university, you are surrounded by a pool of people who are interested in being successful. This learning environment cultivates conversations that may not occur outside of an educational setting, guided by professors and driven by diverse groups of students. Socializing with faculty and peers at a university quickly transforms into job recommendations and new opportunities. They say you are most like the five people you are around the most; wouldn’t you want these people to be aspiring professionals and lifetime learners?
2. Checking that box
Here’s the reality I found after graduation: having the degree opens doors. Often times, it’s a simple check-box on the list of qualifications and there are no exceptions. The door for your dream job may simply be locked without a completed degree, and I found that to be the case in every position I was interested in.
3. A degree says a lot
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it’s absolutely true. Having a degree speaks volumes about your work ethic and character, which can carry over to success on the job. To complete a degree from an accredited university, you will dedicate thousands of hours to your studies and coordinate your life around due dates, class time, and internships. This requires an enormous amount of self-discipline, dedication, and strong decision-making skills, which are several traits every employer wants to see. Not only that, but many classes that you don’t see as relevant to your future actually improve your analytical and critical thinking skills. This isn't to say that you have to earn a college degree to have a strong work ethic and self-discipline, but if you want a lifetime of open doors, a college degree may be the key.
4. You will earn more money
Yes, there are alternatives to college that may be better for a lot of people. I don’t think college is for everyone. However, according to the Economic Policy Institute, college grades earn over 50% more than high school grads. While it may seem in your twenties that this is reversed or equal, college grads have a pay scale that increases drastically over their working life as they move into leadership roles. Additionally, college grads have captured most of the new jobs and pay increases since the end of the most recent recession. You learn such a wide variety of things during college that you’re simply more attractive to an employer and less likely to get laid off when times get tough.
5. College + Internships
I wouldn’t want to end this article without highlighting the importance of completing internships (clinicals, student-teaching, or whatever your major qualifies as real-world experience) during your college years. College can teach you all of the knowledge in the world, but it won’t give you all of the technical field training you need to really succeed after graduation. While you will learn a lot of that in your first entry-level position, internships can give you the jump-start you need to outshine your fellow grads on applications. Internships also teach you about the expectations in a professional work environment, as well as offer great interview practice!
As you decide which path is best for you, I highly recommend you take those recommendations to avoid going into debt for a degree with a grain of salt. There are affordable options for accredited universities, particularly when you take advantage of in-state tuition and apply for scholarships. Either way, the pay increase over a lifetime combined with selecting the right major will give you a much more positive outlook on your future than avoiding college altogether. Even if you don’t know what you want to do today, there are many steps you can take to figure that out. My advice: get enrolled, sign up for those general education classes, start meeting people, and ace your exams. Your future is in your own hands!
"College inspired me to think differently. It's like no other time in your life."
I appreciate you taking the time to read this article! Please share this post with your network and feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
—Natalie Silverstein '15