5 Reasons to Go to College

Student studying

The value of a college like Southern seems intangible sometimes. Getting a degree is a pie-in-the-sky goal that may or may not cost you your whole life through student loans, stress, and the money you lost out on by not being a part of the job force for four (or more!) years of school. Plus, you’re missing out on on-the-job skills you could get from starting a career early, and you may be wasting your young-adulthood. These are the things we hear implied about college all the time; the facts, however, tell a different story. Achieving a post-secondary degree not only produces more money in the long term—it also makes for a longer, healthier, and better life. Here are the top five reasons to go for a bachelor’s degree.

1. More money
Money tends to be the sticking point with college decisions. Degrees, especially at private universities like Southern, are expensive. The good news is that you almost never pay the “sticker price” every year—scholarships and government aid can cover a lot of the cost, according to Khan Academy. Moreover, college is an investment, and it’s one that pays off better than almost any other. In a Washington Post article from 2013, Dylan Matthews reasons that college graduates make between $500k and $1 million more than their high school graduate counterparts over the course of their lifetimes, which is around 15% annual return—a far better return on investment than the stock market, which gives an average of 6.8% annual return, or housing, with a 0.4% return. Yes, college costs money, but there are ways to afford it, and its return on investment is bar none.

2. More job options
College students have much better networking opportunities than those who decide against attending college, and, according to the Harvard Business School, networking gets 65-85% of jobs. Moreover, market growth is providing more jobs in careers that require college degrees. A Georgetown Public Policy Institute report projects that by 2020, 35% of jobs are projected to require at least a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps more importantly, as of 2015, jobs provided by a changing market that paid more than $53,000 per year were taken by those with a college diploma at a rate of 97%, according to a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. This means that almost every new job that pays well is going to a college graduate.

3. More success
In terms of society’s standards, college graduates are more successful. EDsmart reports that, according to the Pew Research Center, individuals who achieve a four-year degree are less likely than their high-school graduate counterparts to be living at home with their parents and are more likely to be married. Additionally, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. And, although we love to talk about people who dropped out of school to become successful entrepreneurs, the individuals that Forbes names as the wealthiest in America are overwhelmingly college graduates—85% in 2012, according to Christian Yang. In other words, you can succeed without a college degree, but your chances of success are far lower without the opportunities opened up by further education.

4. More health
Having a bachelor’s degree is linked with a longer life—nine years longer than that of people who did not go to college, on average, per Nanci Hellmich’s report of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This could be a result of better health; in 2010, the College Board reported that college education corresponds with healthier lifestyles, including lower obesity and smoking rates than those who do not have a college degree. College graduates are, on the whole, healthier.

5. More of what really matters
Degrees benefit people in quantitative, measurable ways, through things like salaries, networks, and cholesterol. These are not, however, the most important benefits of college; in the end, we return to the intangible—the way education changes us. College is a sea of difference and alterity, in people, in backgrounds, in experiences, in ideologies. Being around difference changes people (for the better, we’d argue): Procon reports that a 2004 study found 79% of college graduates, vs. 64% of high school graduates, placed value in understanding other people’s reasoning and perspectives. Parallel to this, according to a New Yorker article by Rebecca Mead, college enhances critical thinking skills and the ability to listen and respond to real-world issues. Not only are these the soft skills employers are looking for in new hires, they are also the signs of self-improvement and a dynamic character that make for a deeper, richer, and more spiritual life, one that connects us more fully with others.

In the end, deciding whether to go to a college like Southern is about deciding between long- and short-term rewards. If you enter the workforce early, you can make a salary for four years that you wouldn’t have otherwise, get established, have a better job, skip out on the stress and poor eating habits of college life, and be on track earlier. All of these are less impressive, however, when compared to the health, wealth, and wisdom that a college degree provides in the long term. There are lots of successful and fulfilling paths in life, with or without a bachelor’s degree, but college, despite its shortcomings, makes success that much easier to reach.