You're sure to be flooded with plenty of emotions during your college application process. Don't worry — this is normal. One such source of apprehension you might encounter is the concern that college might not even be worth all the trouble you're putting yourself through to get in the door, let alone the cost of tuition. So is a college degree really worth all the costs involved?
This is a question many students ask while determining where they should apply, as well as when figuring out how to pay for their chosen degree. The cost of a four-year degree has been increasing faster than inflation for over 30 years. Ninety-eight percent of participants in our 2017 College Hopes & Worries survey reported that financial aid would be necessary to pay for college at that time. At many institutions, financial aid includes loans, and so graduates often enter an uncertain job market already loaded with debt. With that in mind, students often reach the question: Is college really the path to professional success and financial stability?
Check the Facts
As someone who has worked in and around college admissions for over 20 years, I may be a little biased. However, this area of work has given me the chance to see firsthand how young people use the tools and experiences they acquire in colleges and universities to achieve their personal and professional goals. So while my answer is, of course, an emphatic “yes!" there are some pieces of data to confirm my anecdotal observations:
- In 2015, adults with bachelor's degrees saw significantly higher median earnings than those with only a high school diploma. The median weekly earnings of persons age 25 and over with a bachelor's degree totaled $1,137 while those for individuals with only a high school diploma came in at $678.*
- Earnings aside, the unemployment rate between those with a bachelor's degree and those without was also drastically different, with only a rate of 2.8 percent unemployment for graduates with a bachelor's degree in comparison to one of 5.4 percent for those who didn't seek a degree outside of high school.*
These are all merely quantifiable gains that come from a college education, but there are many, many valuable experiences that you also simply won't have the chance to get anywhere other than on a college campus or as a direct result of your college experience. For a deep dive into where these other experiences can be found and how, I've compiled Colleges That Create Futures, a book focusing on schools that help launch careers by offering students opportunities outside of the classroom. Books and resources like this can be extremely helpful in choosing your best fit school so you can find the exact college experience you want.
So with all the stress that can come with the college application process, don't get bogged down with the added worry that your investment won't pay off — there is statistical evidence that it will. Instead, focus on finding the college that you feel best fits your needs and desires for your years after that high school diploma comes your way. Doing that will ensure that your experience will be worth much more than the price tag on tuition.
*Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics