• The Road to College
  • Thinking It Through

Why Go to College?

Of course you are going to college! But lost in all the excitement may be the reasons why you are going to college in the first place.

People end up in college for all sorts of reasons. While some feel they made a great decision, others start wondering if they made a wrong turn. What happened? One clue lies in why they chose to go to college.

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

It may feel like your parents and everyone else expects you to go off to college. But going to college just to meet everyone's expectations can leave you feeling bewildered on campus and wondering why you're there.

A Better Reason: College will help you reach your goals.

Your goal in college may be preparing for a career. Or discovering and exploring your passions. Going to college with a purpose in mind is the key to a rewarding experience.

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

College life can be incredibly fun. There are parties, new people to meet, exciting sports events, and zany antics. You may recall all of this fondly the rest of your life. But you'll leave college empty-handed if that's your main agenda.

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

From managing your time and money to choosing new friends, your options will be wide open. College helps you learn the discipline it takes to make wise decisions, to succeed on your own, and to prepare to succeed in your life after college.

#3 Not-So-Right Reason: It's where your girlfriend or boyfriend is going.

There's comfort in a steady romance or friendship—why not continue it in college? But just tagging along is likely to get you nowhere.

A Better Reason: College opens doors to new possibilities.

Go to college because you'll encounter subjects you never heard of before. Because you'll be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking. Because you'll meet amazing people who become lifelong friends or mentors. You can still connect with your girlfriend or boyfriend—while attending a college you chose for your own reasons.

#4 Not-So-Right Reason: College will give you a lucrative career.

Some people go to college to study a field bound to lead to a high-paying job. That's great if the field truly fascinates you. But you are in for a great deal of wasted time and money if the more you study, the more you see it's not for you.

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

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor shows that people over 25 with bachelor's degrees earn nearly twice as much as those with only high school diplomas. So if you are up for it, completing college makes sense—regardless of major.

Whatever your reasons for attending college, make sure those reasons are for your benefit. And that includes getting ready to confidently begin whatever you choose to do after you graduate.

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.