With the cost of tuition rising every semester, there are a lot of arguments about whether a college degree is always the right choice for people coming out of high school, or even those that are considering going back after being in the workforce for a while. We have discussed some of the pros and cons here, and it definitely is something that people have to take their current situations and life goals into account before making up their mind. However, the value of going to college isn’t just what you learn in class, or even getting that piece of paper as tangible proof that you did something. A lot of the value in going to college comes with the experiences that you go through during your years of trying to get your degree. In a lot of ways, those experiences will benefit you far more throughout your lifetime than the actual knowledge you learn in your classes.
For a lot of people going to college is almost like a rite of passage into their first independent chapter of their lives. Maybe you’re moving away from home for the first time, or just really concentrating on your career or future for the first time. Either way it’s a big step that can help mold you for the rest of your life. In high school everything is mandatory, so you do as your told and get through it as best you can regardless of how interested in it you actually are. College is the first time you actually have something invested into the experience. Whether it’s student loans, scholarships, or help from family and friends, there is some money that has been spent for your higher education. The pressure and the expectations are much higher once that happens and it shifts the driving factor from something that’s mandatory to something that is inherent within yourself (not wanting to let people down). This is much of what everyday work is like. Sure, there are those that only do what is absolutely required of them, but most people don’t want to let anyone down and it drives their performance at work as well. Once you start to build relationships with people that have invested their time or money into you, you want to make sure their confidence in you is rewarded by performing at a high level.
We talk a lot about the importance of interpersonal skills and success, and going to college can be the first glimpse of that concept. Not only do you get a lot of exposure to group settings in class, but college in general is a social environment. You meet new people, are forced to be outside of your comfort zone, and end up being exposed to things that you never were before. In many ways it’s extremely exciting and eye-opening. This is why many people say they “found themselves” during their college years. It’s not so much about the topics they studied, but more about the things they learned about themselves after being exposed to all kinds of new things. Over time the book knowledge may fade or become out of date, but a lot of the social skills are timeless. The fact is that we have to learn them sooner or later, and it’s greatly beneficial to your personal life and career the sooner you have to go through them.
Going to college can be an opportunity to truly test yourself and challenge your abilities on many levels. This is one of the greatest benefits of the total experience, because you are almost guaranteed to have to go through things you’ve never had to before. They won’t always be good things, and that’s part of what makes college tough. With tuition rising like it is, is it still worth it? I would say that if you have the opportunity to go and are currently in a situation where it makes sense, then it’s at least worth a try. Not only can you come out of it with a degree that will make you more marketable, but you’ll probably gain some real-world perspective on what it takes to survive in a competitive workforce.