• The Road to College
  • Thinking It Through

Why Go to College?

Students in a computer lab

It’s exciting to think about going to college. Understanding why you want to go--and what you hope to experience while you’re there--is the first step to finding the right college and educational path for you.

While many people feel going to college was a wise decision and that they made the right decisions while there, others find themselves wondering if they made a wrong turn along the way. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 51 percent of Americans would change their degree type, institution, or major if they could make the decision again. With the high cost of college and rising student debt, you want to make sure that you think through your decisions and choose the right path for you.

Do any of the following reasons for going to college resonate with you?

#1 Not-So-Right Reason: College is what's expected.

You may feel as though you are expected to go to college. But going to college just because you’re expected to might leave you feeling discontented, directionless, and wondering why you're there.

A Better Reason: College will open up opportunities.

In college, you have the opportunity not only to become an expert in your chosen field of study but also will likely take many classes that deal with a broad array of themes and topics.

#2 Not-So-Right Reason: College will be the best party ever.

College can be a lot of fun. There are parties, new people to meet, various extracurricular activities and events, and freedom. If you go to college just for the parties, you might fondly remember all of the fun you had, but if fun is your only agenda, you may leave college empty-handed.

A Better Reason: College challenges you to become an independent adult.

For many students, college teaches them to become financially, mentally and physically independent. Being away from home is a great opportunity to make your own decisions and take responsibility for yourself without mom and dad telling you to study and work hard. It’s up to you to make the right (and sometimes even the wrong) decisions.

#3 Not-So-Right Reason: College is where your friends are going.

There's comfort in a steady romance or a reliable friendship you’ve had for years - why not maintain that comfort level in college? However, making decisions based on what your friends are doing and where they’re going to college may not be wise. Consider what you want and what your goals are rather than blindly following the pack.

A Better Reason: College provides exposure to diverse ideas and diverse people.

In college, you will be exposed to different and diverse ideas, people and ways of doing things. Learning how to work with a variety of ideas, people and ways of doing things is all a part of a college education and will help you see that the little bubble that you come from is but one of many such bubbles that exist around the world.

#4 Not-So-Right Reason: To prepare for a high-paying career you don’t want.

Some people go to college because they think that it will lead to a high-paying or prestigious career. While college graduates make on average significantly more money across their lifetimes compared to those who do not graduate college, going to college for only this reason might lead to an unfulfilling experience or outcome.  

A Better Reason: Graduating from college pays in the end.

Data from a 2018 Georgetown University Study shows that college graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree earn almost twice as much as those with only a high school diploma and experience less unemployment over a lifetime. True, some fields of study will lead to more lucrative careers than others, but pursuing a career in a field of study you are truly passionate about can lead to personal and career fulfillment.

The information contained on the CollegeData website is for general informational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content contained on the CollegeData website without consulting with your parents, high school counselors, admissions representatives or other college counseling professionals. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on the CollegeData website.

What's Next?

See Eight Milestones on the Road to College to get a sense of the major milestones toward a successful college outcome.

For specific steps in applying to college, take a look at Your Get-into-College Planning Calendar.

Sign up for the Admissions Tracker so you can build and change your college list as you go along—plus see the stats of students who are admitted to those colleges.