Resources / The Road To College

Why Go to College?

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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 Gallup poll, 28 percent of Americans regret their college choice. Another survey from Best Colleges reported that 61 percent of Americans would change their majors 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 to also take classes covering a wide range of topics. It can be a time to explore your interests, develop personal and professional skills, study abroad, and meet lifelong friends. College may also provide opportunities to explore different career paths through internships as well as opportunities to build a personal and professional network of professors, alumni and peers. 

#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, so 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 are likely to be exposed to new and different people with diverse ideas and beliefs. Learning how to work with a variety people and observing new ways of doing things is an education in itself and can have positive and life-changing affects. Most of all, college can 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 research indicates that college graduates make more money, on average, across their lifetimes than 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 the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities shows that the median annual earnings of college graduates are 84 percent higher (or $36,000 more) than the earnings of those with only a high school diploma. The data also states that college graduates experience less unemployment over a lifetime than non-college grads. It's true that some fields of study may 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 as well as a steady paycheck.

Deciding whether or not to attend college is a big — and personal — decision.  You may discover that heading directly to a four-year college is the right choice for you, but don't forget to consider alternate routes such as taking a gap year or attending community college. Along with all the other factors you will consider on your college path — such as majors, campus features, and costs — it's important to take the time to consider your goals and dreams, and how college may help you achieve them. Understanding why you want to go to college in the first place may help you make the best college choice in the end. Good luck!

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