5 More Reasons Why You Should Go To College
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You’ve heard the reasons. You’ve read the lists. They all say the same thing: attending college will bring you more money, better jobs, and more career options. From my perspective, though, going to college offers so much more than that.
When people think of college or higher education, they immediately think “4-year degree”, but that is not your only option. Beyond 4-year universities, there are (among other types of institutions) community colleges that have amazing trades programs that can help you get a better-paying job in less than a year.
Young or old, the idea of going to college can be pretty scary! It’s easy to come up with a list of reasons why you shouldn’t enroll, but in my experience, there are more pros than cons to continuing your education. Below are some of those reasons that aren’t usually talked about when discussing why you should go to college.
In high school (and/or at home), we get used to someone telling us when to complete XYZ, knowing that they will end up reminding us three or four times, if not more. A lot of high school students turn on autopilot and just do as they’re told without thinking about it.
In college, instructors don’t often remind you of upcoming tests/quizzes/assignments. You are also expected to do a lot of learning outside the classroom, which isn’t as common in high school. You quickly discover that you are responsible for your success in school, and most instructors will not bend the rules for you.
Some students think this is unfair. Keep in mind, though, that you’re about to enter the real world of adulting. At your place of employment, if you miss an important deadline, you will see the consequences of that. The same is true when you attend college, usually in the form of a bad grade.
Don’t let this scare you off – let it prepare you for what’s to come! If you’re terrible at meeting deadlines and completing tasks, going to college can be the thing that helps you reinvent this part of yourself. Personal responsibility is a great thing to have in all aspects of life.
Gaining More Independence/Autonomy
Throughout my advising career, I have worked with many students whose parents did everything for them. As a parent myself, I know other parents tend to “take over” because they care and want their children to be successful without any unneeded stress. However, it can actually be quite counterproductive. I had one particular student not even know how to address an envelope… because he’d never had to do it before.
College is a great place to gain more independence from your parents and/or others. In my opinion, it’s easier to do that when you move away from home. I always tell my students that living on-campus is in between living at home and true independence/adulting. When you go to college away from home and live on campus, you still have a support system down the hall (literally). Oh, and you don’t have to cook or buy groceries very often!
How Do You Gain More Independence?
Margarita Tartakovsky lists the following ways to become more independent, as shared by Isha Judd (author of Love Has Wings and Why Walk When You Can Fly) and Darlene Lancer (author of Codependency for Dummies,):
- Get to know yourself
- Challenge your beliefs and assumptions
- Become assertive
- Start making your own decisions
- Meet your needs
- Learn to soothe yourself
Independence can be pretty scary for some students. I know I was petrified of moving four hours away from home even though I intended on going to college with my boyfriend (now husband). Know that your parents/loved ones are just a phone call away. You can still talk to them regularly and receive support while you are gaining your independence.
It’s true that those who have continued their education past high school typically have more opportunities for a better-paying job with good benefits when compared to those who did not continue their education.
While health insurance benefits may be the first thing that comes to mind, don’t discount the value of vacation time and being satisfied at work. Work-life balance and enjoying what you do for 40+ hours each week is incredibly important to preventing stress on the body and mind. Remember those things in your benefits package when offered a position.
Additionally, many studies have shown that college-educated adults go to the doctor on a more regular basis, exercise more, eat healthier, and have a lower Body Mass Index (BMI), all of which are helpful in preventing ailments. According to Brookings Institution, “An additional year of college decreases mortality rates by 15 to 19 percent by reducing deaths from cancer and heart disease”.
By attending college, it’s proven you can live a longer, healthier life. I think that’s a great reason why you should fill out that college application.
There may be no better (or, at least, practical) way to learn about different cultures than while you’re in college. Unless you work in a big city or metropolis, your community may be pretty homogenous. My high school was probably 98% caucasian; I don’t think I ever had a friend who was of a different race until I went to college – purely because my area did not allow me to meet people of different races or ethnicities. If we were lucky, we got an exchange student from a different country, but that didn’t always happen.
Diversity isn’t just about skin color. Among other things, age, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religious beliefs, disabilities, and parental educational attainment are all part of the diversity equation. For example, the Center for First-Generation College Student Success reported that in the year 2015-16, the majority of students (56%) attending college were first-generation college students. That means 56% of the students did not have a parent/guardian who had a bachelor’s degree.
This infographic has a lot of interesting information about first-gen student enrollment.
First-generation students can and do have more difficulties navigating the college process because they don’t have as much (if any) parental guidance to prepare for what’s to come.
While you will learn more about diversity in the classroom, the best place to learn about different customs and cultures… is from the students themselves. Where else will you be able to potentially meet people from dozens of different countries or religions?
New Skills & Competencies/Career Readiness
This one seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Of course, you attend college to learn a new skill. Or, at least, gain some new knowledge about a particular interest area so you can obtain a job in your desired field. But again, it’s so much more than that!
What is Career Readiness?
The National Association of Colleges and Employers has defined career readiness as the “attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace”.
Career Readiness Competencies
The competencies the definition refers to are:
- Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
- Oral/Written Communication
- Digital Technology
- Professionalism/Work Ethic
- Career Management
- Global/Intercultural Fluency
Can you improve those competencies without going to college? Sure, but attending college is a great way to work on all of those competencies simultaneously!
There are many lists that include reasons to go to college, but none of them are exhaustive. Your reasoning for enrolling in college is probably different from your neighbor’s reason. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to higher education or improving your life.
Is a bachelor’s degree what you need? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on your goals.
That being said, landing your dream job without any type of higher education (whether that be an apprenticeship program, certificate, etc.) will not happen very often. If you don’t need to go to college to achieve your goals, that’s okay! No judgment here. Do what you need to do in order to live the life you want to live!