Is college the best option for you after high school? Are there alternatives to college that would a better fit? Here are 6 things to consider before deciding if you should go to college.
One of the biggest decisions you’ll make is whether or not you should go to college right after graduating high school.
In the moment, the most obvious choice for many high school seniors and upcoming juniors is to go to college.
In hindsight, college is not something that needs to be rushed into right after graduating high school. It honestly can wait a year or two.
But as a 17 to 18-year-old, it’s hard to recognize that there are other paths than going to college.
In today’s blog post I am addressing the question you’ve probably had since freshman year of high school: should you go to college? And 6 things you should consider before deciding if you should go to college.
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Spoiler alert: It just depends!
I hate to break it to you, but there is no clear answer to whether or not you should go to college.
It really depends on what you want to do with your life after high school.
But like I said earlier, it’s tough to picture yourself 5 to 10 years from now. I mean, I’m 23 and I still have no idea what my life is going to be like in 5 to 10 years!
The biggest thing right now is to just not be peer pressured to go to college. Deciding to go to college is a HUGE decision whether you realize that or not.
Going to college will and can alter your life emotionally, physically, mentally, financially, and socially.
It’s a 4-5 year commitment to studying and grinding if you want to be successful in college.
There are definitely a lot of benefits to college, but there are also negatives–that’s a blog post for another time!
So I want you to read and think carefully about the following things to consider before you answer the question: should you go to college?
Can you afford to go to college?
College is expensive.
EducationData.org states that, “The average total price for a 4-year degree is approximately $122,000.” That’s $30,500/year.
With $122,000, you could buy a car with that and still have money left over for a downpayment on a house!
College can be stupidly expensive for not much gain if you choose the wrong major, don’t end up liking college, make the wrong decisions, or don’t utilize everything your college has to offer that you literally pay for in your tuition and fees.
However, you have to consider that college is an investment. And when it comes to business and investment, you have to spend money to make money.
If you can afford college, understand how student loans work, and/or have the luxury of not having to pay for your own college tuition–I’d say go to college.
College is truly a wonderful investment not only financially, but also socially.
You get the chance to be on your own for the very first time (in most cases), you get a low-risk trial of being an adult, and you get to meet and interact with a diverse group of people from different states and countries.
The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities states that individuals earning a Bachelor’s degree are less likely to be unemployed and make $1 million more over their lifetime versus their high school diploma counterparts.
That’s not a bad return on investment! But of course, there are always exceptions to this!
Do you know what you want to major in?
Besides deciding if you should go to college, the second hardest decision is what you want to major in.
Many colleges and universities these days have SO MANY options to choose from and it can be hard to just choose one major and one minor (unless you’re an overachiever and want to double major or minor!).
If you do not have at least some idea of what you want to major in, I would suggest waiting to go to college and getting some work experience instead. Or at least not going to a big, expensive state university to take your general education (also called core curriculum) classes.
Instead, consider going to a community college to take your general education classes.
Your general education classes are basically high school classes all over again. They’re your basic math (algebra, trigonometry, and statistics), science, English, health, economics, government, and history courses that every student has to take prior to graduation unless you have AP or dual enrollment credits.
It honestly is not worth $30,000 a year to take US History or English for the millionth time.
So save your money for when you decide on the perfect major for you and then transfer your credits to your dream college! Just be sure to double–even triple–check that your credits will transfer from your community college to your dream college.
However, don’t forgo the opportunity to be in the workforce for a year or two before going to college. Work experience can help solidify what you want to do (or not what you want to do) in life, helps you build money management skills, and can strengthen your resume.
Is college the only route to your ideal career?
If you are looking to become a doctor, lawyer, dentist, veterinarian, college professor, mental health professional (i.e., psychologist or counselor), or anything that REQUIRES a degree to pursue–go to college.
It’s a no brainer that you need to go to college to pursue one of these careers no matter what the cost is financially.
However, if your future career does not technically need a degree to pursue, consider again gaining work experience or an internship experience in your ideal career field before going to college.
Taking at least a year to gain work or internship experience can again, solidify your decision to go to college and be more motivated to do what it takes to get a degree in that field.
While working or interning you may be surprised that you don’t like or aren’t as interested in the field as you initially thought. And that’s ok! At least you were making money while gaining that experience!
I honestly wish I had taken a gap year before going to college.
I think it would have changed the trajectory of life and given me more confidence to pursue something other than psychology.
However, I am glad I took a gap year between college and graduate school because it helped me learn that I was not as passionate about pursuing a field in mental health as I originally thought I was.
Are you going to college for yourself?
There is a lot of peer pressure to go to college.
If it isn’t all your friends getting their college acceptance letters and posting college acceptance letter photos on Instagram, it is your family and relatives talking your ear off about how important it is to go to college.
However, at the end of the day, you are the one who will be putting in the time and energy to earn your degree. If you are not internally motivated to pursue your degree, it is not going to be a good college experience for you.
To earn a college degree and to actually feel like you earned it and didn’t waste 4 years of your life, you have to want it just as badly as everyone else wants you to earn it.
If the idea of going to college, sitting in college courses, doing homework, and studying doesn’t appeal to you, that’s ok.
It honestly is ok! College is and doesn’t have to be for everyone.
If working or starting your own side hustle motivates you to get up and work hard, then do that! Do what makes you happy and feel fulfilled.
College will always be there and nowadays there are ways to obtain a solid college degree–hybrid or online–without the “normal” college experience.
What is your intent to go to college?
Usually there are two intents when it comes to going to college:
- I want to go to college to get an education
- I want to go to college to party
Of course there is a mix of the two, but if you are primarily going to college to pursue #2, think again about going to college.
At the end of the day, college is there for you to get an education, not to party.
There are plenty of other ways to go out and party without having to pay $30,000 a year to do it.
If you are interested in partying and getting that out of your system, I would suggest finding a job close to a college campus and making friends with college students who can invite you to their parties. Or even finding roommates who are in college currently and mooching off of their party invites and connections.
If you are a mix of #1 and #2 or just #1, I’d say college would be a good fit for you! And you’re more likely to receive the benefits of a college education and thoroughly enjoy the learning experience!
Have you explored the alternatives to college?
Your final consideration before you decide if you should go to college is: have you explored the alternatives to college?
We have already mentioned taking a gap year to gain work or internship experience before going to college, but there are other ways to get an education, gain skills, and earn money besides college.
Some alternatives to going to college include:
- Become a flight attendant
- Become a nanny or au pair
- Become a real estate agent
- Become a tutor
- Cosmetology school
- Freelance design, writing, etc.
- Get into affiliate marketing
- Investing/stock market trading
- Join the military
- Learn/teach yourself how to code
- Start a blog or YouTube channel
- Start your own business/side hustle
- Study or work abroad
- Trade/tech/vocational school
- Volunteer locally, nationally, or internationally
Is college the right choice for you after high school?
Answering the question, “should you go to college?” is not a decision you should make on a whim.
College is a long-term financial, educational, and social commitment that may not be the best route for every graduating high school student. And that’s ok! Sometimes it is best to wait a year or two before going to college or simply not go to college at all.
In today’s blog post we discussed 6 different things to consider before deciding if you should go to college.
Of course, there are plenty of other things to consider before going to college, but this is a good, broad list of things to think about before even starting your college applications.
And sometimes you need to go to college first, experience it, and then decide whether or not college is for you.
Whatever path you decide to go on, to go to college or not to go to college, always know that there are pathways to success without going to college. And not going to college does not make you less educated or less likely to be successful.
College will always be there waiting for you when you are ready, so don’t let the fear of not going to college hold you back from thriving in this world!
If you are planning on going to college, I recommend checking out these blog posts next on to help you prepare for college.
- 20+ School Supplies for College Every Successful Student Needs
- The Ultimate Survival Guide to Online College Classes
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