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Should I Go To College Before Or After The Military
Edited by Chelsea Wing Edited by Chelsea WingArrow Right Student Loan Editor Chelsea has been with us since early 2020. She is invested in helping students navigate the high costs of college and break down the complexities of student loans. Connect with Chelsea Wing on LinkedIn Linkedin Chelsea Wing
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Going to college is a big investment. Students spend thousands of dollars between tuition and other costs. The average undergraduate owes $28,400 in student loans.
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But despite this, going to college is still the best path to high-paying jobs. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor’s degree holders earn about 65 percent more per week than those with just a high school diploma. Also, the unemployment rate among high school graduates is almost twice as high as that of those with a college degree.
Attending college offers many benefits, including networking and broader career opportunities. Here’s what to consider if you’re wondering if going to college is worth it.
Studies show that college graduates earn more money on average than people without a college degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2021 people with a bachelor’s degree had an average weekly salary of $1,334. Meanwhile, those with just a high school diploma earned about $809 weekly — a 65 percent difference.
What’s more, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities found that the earnings gap between high school graduates and bachelor’s degree holders continues to widen.
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The connections you will make in college with faculty, classmates, and members of clubs or student organizations will help you begin your professional network.
Networking is important. It can help with job leads, lead to opportunities for personal improvement and open doors to various areas of career advancement. The connections you make can help you get a jump start on your career, and those relationships can challenge your ideas and provide new insights.
Statistically, students who have earned a college degree are more likely to land a job. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in September 2022, the unemployment rate for people 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree was 1.8 percent, while the unemployment rate for high school graduates without college was 3.7 percent.
This is consistent with longer-term trends, where workers with at least a bachelor’s degree typically have half the unemployment rate of those with just a high school diploma.
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If there’s a time to explore new interests, it’s college. Given the wide range of courses available in almost every subject, you have the opportunity to take classes that are not even directly related to your major. Your college may even require a diverse course load.
College is the perfect time to join organizations, try clubs, and attend classes outside of your comfort zone. You can choose to get a minor or certificate in another field, which can strengthen your job prospects and diversify your skill set.
Having a college degree can also be helpful for future career changes. Even if you’re pursuing a career unrelated to your degree, having a college degree in the first place can make you more flexible and qualified in the eyes of an employer.
College offers invaluable experiences that high schools cannot provide, including a level of academic and personal independence that can prepare you for the realities of post-college life. You are responsible for managing your time, homework, and course load—and, ultimately, your success.
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College is also a great opportunity to expand your financial literacy. You’ll likely be dealing with things like student loans, credit cards, and budgeting on your own. This, in turn, will teach you money management skills that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.
College will not only teach you how to be a good student; it can also teach you skills that will help you succeed in any career. Many schools have required courses for first-year students that promote collaboration and teamwork, equipping you to share ideas and communicate with team members in any institution.
You can also sign up for courses or clubs in subjects that may not be your strength. For example, if you’re uncomfortable with public speaking, try signing up for a public speaking course or a Toastmasters chapter. You never know what professional or personal skills you might pick up that might help you later in life.
In addition to securing better-paying jobs than those with just a high school diploma, college graduates also have access to more employer-sponsored benefits. According to a report by the College Board, in 2018, 40 percent of high school graduates working in the private sector were offered a pension plan by their employer. In contrast, 49 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree were offered this benefit.
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Likewise, only 52 percent of high school graduates who worked full-time had an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, compared to 64 percent of bachelor’s degree holders and 70 percent of advanced degree holders.
The best timing for attending college is different for each person because it is such a large investment of time and money. While these investments can certainly be worth it, everyone’s journey is different
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