Why go to college? What’s in it for me? Is it worth it?
In a study conducted by the College Board (the same folks who do the SAT testing) back in 2007, they stated that people with a bachelor’s degree would average $1,000,000 more in income over their lifetime compared to an individual with just a high school diploma. One million dollars!! And the difference in lifetime earnings between someone with an 2-year degree (an Associate’s) and someone with a 4-year degree (a Bachelor’s) is $500,000. Those are pretty significant differences.
Those with 4-year degrees also are far less likely to live below the poverty line and to be unemployed – this from a more recent Pew Research Study (2014). Getting a college degree, particularly for first-generation students from low-income backgrounds is a worthy goal, and helps families and communities as well as the student.
It’s more than the money though. It’s also about the experiences college provides, the learning that takes place, the diversity of ideas you’re exposed to, and the opportunities to take thoughtful risks in a safe environment. College makes you think bigger and broader, about the world, about different subjects, and most importantly, about yourself.
If you go immediately into a job after high school, you may make good money. The problem is that in most businesses (and there are always exceptions) you eventually get passed over for promotion by those with college degrees. I’ve had students tell me they could make more doing construction for a year than I would make in education. That could very well be true, but what happens when your body wears down and you don’t want to be on the roof on a 40-degree day doing repairs? Or you get injured? Or you are passed over for a promotion by someone younger who can work more cheaply and faster than you? Or there’s a recession and there aren’t a lot of construction jobs to go around? I want to help you think more long term. I want you to think about construction management as a career, or architecture, or engineering, or even public relations and marketing – helping to sell the buildings or renting the new apartments. Heck, why not major in business and own the construction company!
College helps you learn about what it is you want to do. You can try different majors, try out different internships to see what job is right in a short term way, take on leadership roles in clubs and organizations, learn your craft and be around other people who have similar goals. If you fail, there are opportunities to reflect, regroup, learn, and get on track, and plenty of support to help you with that. I’d even argue there’s a lot of support to help prevent you from a big fail. If you have a job and you fail big or fail small a few times, you may not have that job for long.
No matter what, if you want an opportunity at the best jobs, at the best careers, a college education is they way to get there. And the way to get yourself ready for college (or trade school, or a certificate program, a two-year or four-year college) is to start laying the foundation now, in high school. Challenge yourself in your classes, get involved in clubs and organizations at school and in the community, and tell people you’re not stopping your education with a high school diploma. You can do this! It won’t always be easy, but there are amazing opportunities for you after that diploma.
Make it a great day!
Thanks for reading!
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