Is College Worth It? Your Guide to Life After High School

Ginger Abbot

Nov 24, 2021

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If you’re graduating high school in the next couple of years, you’ve likely been thinking about the future and where you’ll be this time next year. At this point, you may be wondering, “Is college worth it?”

If you’re not sure whether you want to attend college, you have plenty of thinking to do before you walk out of the doors of your high school for good. Think about what college can do for you and make a decision based on your preferences. You might find that you’re more excited about what college has to offer than you previously thought.

What You Need to Get Into College

When you apply for college, you need more materials than just a filled-out application form. Sometimes, those applications come with a fee that you need to pay. For every college application, though, there are a few materials that you must submit.

1. Test Scores

The school of your dreams may require the SAT, ACT, both, or neither. Check into what the colleges you like require from you. You should schedule the tests ahead of time, early in your senior year or during your junior year, if possible. The earlier you complete them, the more time you have to retake them if you want a better score.

2. Transcript

Your parents and teachers have encouraged you to keep your grades up for a good reason: You may not be able to get into the school you want without them. Many colleges request your transcripts from your high school directly, and in other cases, you may be able to submit them digitally or mail them in. Keeping your GPA up is essential to having your pick of the colleges you want to attend.

3. Extracurriculars

Though not every college application requires extracurricular activities, they are worth mentioning as it shows schools that you get involved in activities. Someone active in clubs in high school may be more interested in what campus life has to offer. It shows that you’re a well-rounded individual who will fit in with other students.

4. Letters of Recommendation

Some colleges might want you to provide letters of recommendation from your teachers. Your teachers can sometimes submit their letters digitally, or you can mail in physical copies of their letters. Make sure to choose a teacher who knows you well, not one you only had a single class with who you haven’t talked to in years.

5. Personal Essay

The personal essay is an essential piece of your college application. It gives schools a bit of insight into who you are as a person and what you’re aspiring toward. You may receive a prompt, but no matter what you write about, remember to be genuinely you.

The Cost of College

Students pay on average around $35,000 a year in tuition. That hefty cost keeps growing. Education is considerably cheaper for in-state students than out-of-state students. When you choose where to attend school, consider the cost of tuition. Not everyone can pay for their tuition out of pocket, so many students will have to take out loans to repay once they’re finished with school.

Loans are risky, as they come with debt and potentially high interest rates for young adults who just graduated college and started to repay their loans. Altogether, former college students in the United States owe a collective $756 billion and counting in student loans. Some graduates escape with little debt, whereas others plan to pay it off for years to come.

Luckily, you have options to pay back your debt quicker and more aggressively if you want to take that route. Additionally, certain fields forgive a portion of or your whole debt if you spend enough time in your role. Without going to college, you wouldn’t incur these potential debts, but you shouldn’t write off the college experience simply because of what you may have to pay back to lenders.

Earning Potential With a College Education

Is college worth it, with the high cost of education? To make up for the debt you may have to pay off, you’ll likely get paid better with a college degree. The higher level of education you pursue, the more you’re likely to get paid for your experience in return. The key to life is balance — as long as you make enough to survive and support yourself, you can find happiness and financial stability.

Men with Bachelor’s degrees earn almost $1 million more in their lifetime than men who received their high school diplomas. If you go on to get your Master’s degree, you’ll earn about $1.5 million more than someone with a high school diploma. 

Still, you shouldn’t count out technical or vocational school. If a field you want to go into requires more training outside of your high school diploma, you can expect to make a living in your trade. Some trade schools offer careers that have earning potential greater than Bachelor’s degrees

Think about the job you want after graduation. To know whether you need to go to college or trade school for it, you’ll have to do some research. Certain fields require a Bachelor’s degree, while others require trade school. You might find the requirements of some of these careers surprising.

Some of the trade school careers that have excellent earning potential are:

  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Cardiovascular Technicians
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Electricians
  • Web Developers

Similarly, plenty of careers require a Bachelor’s degree. Here are some of the well-known jobs that you can work toward with only a Bachelor’s:

  • Architectural and Engineering Managers
  • Financial Analysts
  • Museum Technicians
  • Pilots
  • Teachers

Figuring out what you want to do for a career is crucial to determining the path you’ll take after your high school graduation. Though the main draw of college is continuing your education to build a future for yourself, it can also have its fun parts.

The Benefits of College Life

Living the life of a college student on campus is a common reason for young adults to attend school away from home. Living on campus gives you the amenities you need to grow away from your family and become more independent. Being on your own will prepare you for the future when you move out for good if you haven’t already.

Thanks to the dining hall and a meal plan, you’ll learn to budget effectively while eating a balanced diet away from home. Campus activities and dorm life will keep you social, so you’ll never have the time to feel lonely. Even if you don’t interact with your roommate or the people in your hall, you’re bound to make new friends in your courses.

The downside of moving to campus is that you’ll be farther away from your loved ones. Your family may visit you on campus, and you can go home for breaks, but it’ll be a new sense of independence for you. Students find the adjustment challenging sometimes. Still, as long as you make plans to check in on your friends at home and see your parents from time to time, you’ll find that you can adjust nicely to college life.

Is College Worth It? The Final Verdict

If you’re wondering is college worth it, you’ll need to examine your interests and goals. Getting your career goals in order can help show you the path you need to take to make them a reality. You may feel pressure from outside sources telling you that you should or shouldn’t attend college, but you’re the only one who can make that decision.

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