Is College Worth It? 6 Tips To ‘Yes’
College has come under a lot of fire from educational critics, politicians, and students alike because of the skyrocketing tuition fees and the greater difficulty in finding a job upon graduation. Some have even started to ask the question, “Is college worth it?” But as Anthony P. Carnivale pointed out in a post for U.S. News and World Report, college graduates still earn higher pay.
Carnivale is the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. In his piece, he writes: “Employers see those with postsecondary credentials as the most capable of adapting to new economic realities and are willing to pay for it. In 1999, a worker with a bachelor’s earned 75 percent more than workers with only high school diplomas; today, that “premium” has risen to 84 percent. In other words, over a lifetime, a bachelor’s is worth $2.8 million on average.”
“In addition to higher pay,” he adds, “college graduates are more likely to be in the labor force and to find jobs faster during periods of unemployment.”
So even though it gets a bad rap today, it’s still better than trying to navigate the workforce with just a high school diploma or GED equivalent. But in order for it to still work for you, you’ve got to apply yourself. And you can do that with these 6 tips.
1. Know what you want to do.
Many students in high school give little thought to their post-high school plans. Oh sure, they may have picked out the college or university of choice, gotten accepted, and even won scholarships. But that doesn’t mean they’ve truly thought about the future. I was as guilty as anyone. For starters, I didn’t have a great sense of how the world worked because I tried taking high school as easily as possible. I made no efforts to job shadow. I made no efforts to think of anything outside television, football, and the opposite sex. I made no efforts to listen in class and get a sense of how all the subjects worked together and how what I was learning could be applied to the workforce in an interesting way.
This type of behavior is what leads to students switching majors so much, racking up college debt while doing nothing to further their employability. If you start early and think about life after high school now, then you’ll be able to determine the things you like to do and the things you don’t; the areas you excel in and those that are more difficult to grasp. Pinpoint these strengths and weaknesses, and then look for real-world examples of how you can turn them into a career.
2. Know what you can afford.
There is no shame in going to a public university within the state where you are. Out-of-state tuition can make college unaffordable without the assistance of a scholarship, and even then, scholarship funds don’t guarantee your education will be affordable. (This, of course, depends on the amount of the award and the school where you’re attending.) Embrace the idea of going to an in-state four-year college or university, especially if it means that tuition, room, and board will be taken care of or significantly reduced.
If you are still intimidated by cost, then consider getting your first two years of general ed requirements completed at a community college. Some states are looking at making community college tuition free-of-charge. Even if that’s not happening in your state, you’ll have a much easier time managing two years of general ed at the two-year school than at a four-year school. Above all, it’s about knowing what you can afford and cutting costs without cutting quality.
3. Listen to the experts.
In every field of study, there are people who know a lot more than you do, and they can challenge you and help you to rise above your current limitations. These people may be your teachers. They can also be tutors, benevolent business people who are working in your field of expertise, etc. Seek them out. They don’t always come to you.
If it’s a teacher, schedule time outside of class to discuss the areas where you’re having trouble. If it’s a business person or tutor, be respectful of their time and attentive when they’re talking. Also, be active in all conversations. Try to soak in what they’re telling you while paying attention to new questions that occur to you.
4. Research, research, research!
It cannot be emphasized enough, and it’s something you should start doing in high school. Research subject areas and skill sets. Go online and google phrases like, “careers that use math” or “careers that use English.” Get even more creative and try to figure out how math fields use English and vice versa.
Schools require these areas and teachers teach them, not because they want to make your life miserable, but because they actually have purpose in your development into a successful adult. Don’t wait until you’re collecting your high school diploma (or even a college degree) before figuring this out.
5. Mean business.
When you’re in college, it’s easy to get swept up in the parties and independence, but never mistake that your first purpose is to get the job done and walk out prepared for the next chapter of life. That means going to class more often than not. Doing homework. Studying for tests. Forging relationships with teachers, business professionals, and companies that might want to offer an internship and, possibly, hire you. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for shenanigans. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals, and you shouldn’t have many issues.
6. All things in moderation.
While college is definitely serious business, there is nothing wrong with having fun. But remember: all things in moderation. Drug and alcohol abuse have sent far too many kids home early to work a menial job in their hometowns instead of preparing for successful futures. Keep your eyes on the prize, whatever that prize may be to you.
Getting the most out of college is about managing your costs and expectations while also finding the “you” that you want to be and pursuing it with dogged determination. It won’t be easy, but as the Carnivale quote from the beginning of this post notes, it’ll pay off in a much bigger way. Good luck with whatever you do!
[Image via Quieted Waters]