Whether or not college is worth it has been a hotly debated topic lately and I’m going to throw in my thoughts that no one really asked for. I’m a fan of getting straight to the point, so what do I think? It depends. I know that’s a bit of a cop-out answer, but there is a reason topics like this are so polarizing. That’s because there is no clear cut answer due to the fact that there are so many variables to consider. College could be a great financial decision for one person and a terrible one for another. Again, it just depends. Let’s look at some pros and cons, so you can form your own opinion. At the end of the article I’ll give my full thoughts.
Pros For Attending College
- Gain Knowledge
- Surprise! They actually DO teach you things in college contrary to what some people seem to believe. Whether or not it’s actually useful information is up for another debate. I personally think it is mostly useful and it will make transitioning into a full-time position after graduation a little more seamless.
- Personal Development
- As the countless number of college-centric movies have shown, your years in college have a way of helping you find yourself and develop your own personal brand. You’ll also establish and grow skills that you’ll use throughout your life, and I’m not just talking about shotgunning beers.
- Makes It Easier to Find a Job
- Like it or not, many companies heavily prefer or even require potential candidates to have a college degree before they even consider interviewing them. You may have done a great job building up your resume even without attending college, but many big companies use automatic scanners that filter out resumes that don’t have certain keywords which may include a college degree.
- Higher Starting Salary
- If you have a degree you’re more than likely going to be making more money starting out compared to someone that doesn’t have one, especially if the degree is in a STEM field. Those that major in underwater basket weaving are going to have a tougher time…
- Grows Your Network
- One of the great things about going to college is that you’ll automatically have an expansive network of people that want to help you succeed for the sole reason that you went to the same school they did. There are so many networking opportunities that you might trip and accidentally end up at a networking event.
- It’s Fun
- I know this point doesn’t quite fit into the financial perspective of college, but I think it’s still important to mention. You’ll have the rest of your life to work, so enjoy your time before you have a ton of responsibilities.
Cons For Attending College
- It’s expensive
- Some colleges can cost $50,000+ PER YEAR, so that’s over $200,000 IF you graduate on time and don’t have to go any extra semesters to get the degree. Changing your major can potentially set you back at least a few semesters as well, so that can exponentially add to your bill if you’re not careful. I know a few people that took a victory lap or two and ended up taking 5 or 6 years to finish. That’s not gonna be fun to pay off.
- It Takes Time
- Undergraduate degrees typically take four years to finish, so that’s four years that you’re not going to making much or any money. If you start working right out of high school you’re going to have a four year head start on your college counterparts. In that time you likely would’ve received some sort of promotion and made the salary difference a little more negligible.
- It Can Be Difficult and Stressful
- Trying to balance homework, exams, projects, a social life, other responsibilities, and keeping your sanity can be incredibly stressful and hard to manage. If you don’t deal with stress well you might have a tough time.
- Classes that aren’t Applicable to your Degree
- With a four year degree you’re likely going to be required to take some classes that don’t pertain to the degree AT ALL. It can feel like a waste of time and give the impression that the university is trying to keep you around a little longer just so they can squeeze more cash out of you.
I know the popular opinion among many in the financial advice community nowadays is to say college is definitely not worth it. I’m going to be a bit of a rebel and say it is, especially if you can get someone else to pay for it (e.g. your parents, sugar daddy/momma, etc) or get a lot of scholarships. Realistically though, anyone that doesn’t go won’t be at as big as a disadvantage as many would have you believe. That being said, if there’s a certain career that you want to pursue and the vast majority of people in that career have a degree you probably don’t have much of a choice. If you look at it from a purely financial perspective though, the difference is less pronounced if you play your cards right.
A lot of it comes down to your personality and ability to self-motivate. If you want an easier time traversing through your career then college is probably a good option. If you’re the type of person that can really put your nose to the grindstone then you might come out ahead financially if you don’t go the higher learning route. There are a bunch of trades that pay well (even better than many career paths that require a degree), so future earning potential shouldn’t be the only reason you decide to attend or not. At the end of the day college can definitely open doors but with enough hard work you can open those same doors by yourself. Just be aware it might require a little more force and elbow grease to open it.