Going to college may have been an easy choice for your parents. 20 years ago, career paths were more straightforward and a bachelor’s degree was almost guaranteed to mark you as the cream of the crop. Not only that, but when a year of college costs barely more than a new iMac, it was much easier to pay for if you simply had some savings or even a part-time job. In a world like this, why wouldn’t you go to college?
But the world has changed.
Bachelor’s degrees are still respected, but they’re also flooding the marketplace. This means they’re not the guaranteed “in” they once were. At the same time costs have risen so much that a year of school today costs almost five iMacs. And that’s not even counting books and housing fees.
Going to college is no longer a no-brainer.
So before you take out a $30,000 loan for something you may not even need, ask yourself the hard question: should you go to college?
Obviously choosing whether or not to go school won’t necessarily be as simple as this graphic describes, and there’s often not a clear-cut “right” or “wrong” choice. But we made this graphic simple for a reason. When it comes to deciding whether college is for you, there really are just three questions that we consider to be the most important—everything else will fall into place based on your answers to them.
The top 3 questions to ask when making a college decision.
1. Do I know what career I want?
Going to college means making a significant investment in your future. No matter how you slice it, you’ll be spending no small amount of time, money, effort, and focus to gain an education.
So you better be sure you actually need the schooling before making the investment.
Are you interested in being a masseuse, airline pilot, entrepreneur, electrician, or an athlete? None of these jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Some require an associate. Some require non-college education. Some, simply on-the-job training.
Every career requires its own unique form of preparation. So determine what career you’re aiming for first and don’t bother wasting time and money on training that won’t benefit it. Choose the training that’s right for you.
2. Can I afford college?
I realize that student loans are the norm these days, but they’re also ruining people’s lives.
The average national student debt is almost $30k. And of those indebted students, 20% said their loans delayed their ability to get married. 30% said their loans prevented them from starting a family. 50% said they couldn’t buy a home because of their student loans.
Life is so much bigger than college, or even your career. And if you hastily choose to go to college on borrowed money, you may find yourself regretting that decision in 20 years when you realize those loans are preventing you from living the life you went to college to build in the first place.
Fortunately, debt isn’t your only option.
It’s a rare day indeed when a student pays the exact sticker price for their education. Often, if you’re not savvy, you’ll end up spending a whole lot more. But if you are savvy, you can spend a whole lot less. We should know—that’s what we do all the time! Using a variety of methods, like affordable transfer credit and in-depth degree planning, our Admissions Advisors help students cut their degree costs in half and graduate 100% debt free.
Making college affordable is possible, it just takes some effort.
So, before giving in to a loan or giving up on college altogether, take time to really explore your options and do what you can to reduce your costs. (And maybe give us a call. Our Admissions Advisors know all the tricks for earning affordable degrees, and they can help you build a college plan to fit your budget and keep you out of debt.)
3. Do I enjoy formal education?
Think about it: you’re signing up to spend the next 4 years (at least) in the classroom. If that sounds like hell, don’t do it.
Not only would you be torturing yourself, but it’s likely your sheer dislike for what you’re doing would cause your performance to struggle. Your personal life would suffer, and you’d likely end up dropping out anyway—which means throwing away a ton of time and money.
If you hate school, but you’re willing to make the sacrifice in order to get the job you want, then more power to you! But in most cases, if formal education isn’t for you, the jobs that follow aren’t either. That’s why if you dislike formal education, we recommend you reconsider your career choice—maybe do some job shadowing, volunteering, or talk to professionals in the field—to ensure that choice is really for you before jumping into college.
Of course, I know that one quick blog post isn’t enough to help you finalize a decision this big. But hopefully this has at least helped you get started.
If you want some more help figuring out your college path, why not check out some of our other resources?
- Should I Go to College?
- Is College The Best Way to Get an Education?
- What Should I Major In?
- What you need to know about Choosing a career
- Why I Walked Away From College… And Why I Went Back
- 4 Things to Do Before Considering Student Loans
- How to Calculate Your Degree’s Return on Investment
- Why Your Bachelor’s Degree Won’t Get You a Job
- 5 Most Expensive Community College Myths
And of course, if you have any questions about how college works or whether it’s right for you, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our advisors are ready to answer all of your college questions and help you find your best path.
A former student counselor and Unbound student, Abigail is passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals. When she’s not dreaming with her friends, you can find her reading or singing Broadway songs. Loudly.Read more by Abigail