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College Education: To Go or Not to Go? Your Ultimate Decision Guide

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You’re probably bracing up for your college life, eyeing a larger social circle and more freedom! While college education delivers its perks in terms of better placements, higher salary slabs, and faster promotion, quality education comes with a hefty price tag!

Like many other high schoolers nearing their college life, you might find yourself torn between options: whether or not to go for a college education. Back in your mind, you may be wondering if a college education would be worth your investment.

Now, students often end up equating college degrees with success. Think of Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, or Rachael Ray, successful people who either dropped out of college or had no formal education altogether. 

Whether you should go for a college education or not largely depends on your financial stature. The last thing students would want is to burden themselves with education loans. If the degree you are eyeing involves a promising ROI and seems affordable, a college degree is worth it.

However, what if your career doesn’t pay well? Would a college degree be worth its cost? Maybe you are ready to vouch for trade schools, certifications, real-life experiences, internships, or even military experience.

This is the ultimate decision guide that should help you decide whether or not you should go for a college education.

5 Reasons explaining why you should go to college

There’s no denying that a college education is valuable. Before taking you through viable alternatives, let’s look at the prime reasons for acquiring a college education.

Higher pay scale

Formal education at the college level delivers its benefits over a lifetime. After graduating, you would be working for at least 40 years, right? Have you added up the salary and compared it to your earnings without a degree?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that bachelor’s degree holders earn a median income of $1,305 per week. For high school graduates, it’s a little more than half, around $781. Well, this difference comes to around $30,000 annually. Now calculate the extra cash flow a formal college degree can fetch you throughout your 40-year career!

Georgetown University, in their recent study, revealed that college graduates earn around $2.8 million over their lives, while that for high school graduates is only $1.6 million.

These figures tell the story: while a college education can be expensive, the degree delivers its returns throughout your career.

Better job security

Looking beyond your pay cheques, a formal college degree brings other perks, such as better job stability. Thus, attending college renders you less likely to be unemployed.

BLS Data as of December 2021 reveals that unemployment rates among high school graduates were 4.6% amidst the pandemic. However, only 2.1% of college graduates were unemployed during this crisis. That’s less than half the grim figures of high school degree holders.

When unemployment rates peaked in the US following the Great Recession, just 7.1% of college graduates aged between 22 and 27 passing out in June 2010 were unemployed. In contrast, the percentage of unemployment for individuals without a college degree in the same age group was 16.2%.

Amidst economic turmoil and chances of yet another recession, a college degree can help you hold your fort.

Expanding professional network

In the professional circuit, your network defines your worth. The individuals who you keep in touch with can influence your professional standing. Attending college, you can cultivate crucial contacts or people who matter in your profession or the respective industry.

Besides, college graduates can obtain recommendation letters from their mentors and professors. This further boosts their chances of employability.

At the same time, college students can utilize the alumni to stay abreast of the job openings on campus. For instance, you can contact your seniors on LinkedIn or those who are a part of your alumni network to tap lucrative professional openings. 

Greater life satisfaction

Attending college for higher education can lead to greater satisfaction in life. Statistics reveal that bachelor’s degree holders are habitually happier than the ones missing college degrees. Pew Research Center published a study, revealing that 75% of college graduates in the USA are ‘very satisfied’ as far as their family lives are concerned. On the other hand, the figure is just 64% for those with less than a high school degree.

The marital outcomes for college degree holders also look better than their high school counterparts. Evidently, higher education or a college degree translates to better lifestyles and satisfaction.

For college-educated females, the odds in favor of their marriage lasting for at least 20 years are 80%. On the contrary, high school-educated women have less than a 40% chance in this regard. The trends for men look similar, with 65% and 50% of college and high school degree holders likely to remain married for a minimum of 20 years.

Access to health insurance

With better education come better career prospects. College graduates are likely to find employment in established companies. Naturally, they benefit from their employer’s health insurance policies, which high school graduates may miss out on.

A College Board study reveals that 64% of college graduates enjoy the privilege of employer-sponsored health insurance policies. For high school diploma holders, only 52% of the population qualifies for the same. The chance of getting medical coverage through an employer for those lacking a high school graduation degree is just 33%.

Considering the high cost of healthcare, the availability of insurance coverage from your employer does matter. This has a direct bearing on the quality of your lifestyle. Besides, college graduates are likely to enjoy other employment perks, such as paid sick and vacation leaves. Moreover, some employers offer retirement plans and student loan assistance as well.

Do you really need a college degree?

Now that you are aware of the benefits of acquiring a college degree, let’s talk about the sheer necessity of higher education. Considering the high cost of education, many high school graduates are reluctant to go for college degrees. Being transparent with your career plan and career counseling can help you identify the need for a college degree.

High schoolers should consider these three aspects before deciding on their higher education.

How do you define success?

Perceptions differ, and you might be someone who loves to turn things out in your favor. Do you have plans to launch your business or take over the reins of your family business? Or maybe you have some ground-breaking plans and are bracing to launch a startup.

If that’s the case, you need to be strategic about your choice of obtaining a college degree. Do you prioritize self-esteem and formal education while equating success? A lot depends on your professional insights and how you visualize maturing as a professional.

Which industry will you be working in?

Not all industries require employees to hold college degrees. While engineering, software development, or complicated sciences require formal degrees, many professional fields are skill-oriented. Think of technology or business fields, for instance. If you are willing to venture into entrepreneurship, content creation, programming, designing, or marketing, a formal degree may not be worth its cost.

However, having a degree in your portfolio can make it stand out. Now, high schoolers need to use their discretion to decide whether a college degree would prove valuable to them.

What would be the hiring process in your industry?

The hiring process in your industry can make a difference in your professional life. With algorithmic onboarding gaining traction, certain companies may discard applications without relevant experience or degrees. This way, hiring managers shortlist the best applicants who can potentially qualify for the post.

However, that’s not the case for every industry. Depending on the sector you wish to be in, explore the employment trends and hiring mechanisms before making your call.

A practical guide to help you decide on your college education

If you are still struggling to escape your dilemma, check out this practical guide before deciding on your higher studies.

Consider your situation

Your approach to decision-making involves self-evaluation in the first phase. Now that you know the extent to which a college degree matters, consider these questions:

  • What are your professional goals and where do you want to stand ten or fifteen years from now?
  • What keeps you happy? Do you love engaging in business or wish to join the workforce?
  • What is the average salary of professionals holding a degree in your industry?

If you feel you would fall behind your peers due to the lack of professional recognition, a degree is a must-have for you.

Identify viable alternatives

While deciding on your college degree, closely scrutinize your viable alternatives as well. For instance, how about pursuing a diploma or certificate or going to a trade school? Can you embrace a progressive career in case you cannot afford a college degree? Even an associate’s degree can help you stabilize your career if you commit yourself.

If a college degree seems imperative, check whether a bachelor’s degree will do. In some professions, candidates must complete their Master’s or Doctorate degrees. Keep an eye open for vocational education or courses that can help you gain industry skills.

Take your action

With adequate knowledge of the perks and drawbacks of pursuing your college degree, you can decide on the matter. If you go for a college education, start applying for scholarships early. High schoolers should also cultivate healthy money-handling habits. As you step into your college life, you inherit some financial obligations. In case you finance your higher education through loans, chalk out your repayment strategy and start working toward clearing your debts.

How to invest wisely in your education?

A college education is an investment, so research well before committing yourself to studies. Obtaining some scholarships and grants would ease up your financial stress. Fill out the FAFSA to find out whether you qualify for the Federal student aid.

Check out work-study options and part-time jobs for students that would streamline your cash flow to manage tuition fees or living expenses. Why not start a side hustle involving your college mates, if necessary? Try to save wherever you can to make the most of your college life.

If you work full-time, your employer may offer a 401(k) account. Saving for your retirement is never too early! Strategize your financial plan and start putting aside funds for your future.

A college degree can be a prized asset that opens up numerous financial, social, and health benefits. However, no degree warrants these benefits, and not all graduates completing a college education are successful.

You have lots of career paths to embrace an esteemed profession. Entrepreneurship, attending trade schools, or obtaining online certificates can also help you inch toward your cherished goals. If a four-year degree isn’t affordable, look for alternatives while you narrow down your professional avenues.

[Related: From Broke to Millionaire: Top 10 Money-Making Ventures for College Students]


Which work profiles do not require a college degree?

You will come across plenty of career options that don’t require you to have a college degree. Some of these work profiles include electricians, maintenance and repair staff, fire-fighters, and flight attendants. These are purely skill-oriented work profiles where you don’t need a college degree.

What are some high-paying work profiles for college-degree holders?

Earning a college degree can help you qualify for some of the best-paying jobs in the country. For instance, you can be a mechanical engineer, financial analyst, industrial engineer, biomedical engineer, civil engineer, petroleum engineer, or aerospace engineer.

 How to manage the high cost of a college education?

College education costs are high indeed, so make sure to apply for grants and scholarships to get some assistance. Also, live on a budget and share your rooms with friends to curtail housing costs. Engage in a part-time or full-time job besides going for used textbooks. Take care to pay off your education loan on time.

Do good companies hire candidates without college degrees?

Yes, you will come across plenty of established companies that hire employees without college degrees. Among the big names, you have Google, Apple, Starbucks, Netflix, IBM, Zoho, and Qburst. Lots of skilled workers without college degrees find lucrative employment opportunities with these brands.

Do IT professionals require a college degree?

While high-paying jobs in the IT domain require candidates to have a college degree, not all work profiles are similar. For instance, you may qualify for the post of an IT technician in some companies with a diploma or a certificate. However, software engineers, data analysts, or senior professionals in the IT industry need college degrees. Evidently, a college degree would help you embrace a progressive career where you can make the most of your growth prospects.

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