College graduation rates are higher than ever. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of 25 to 29-year-olds now hold at least an associate degree. This marks a huge improvement compared to graduation rates from just a few decades ago—but further progress is needed. After all, research highlights a myriad of benefits for college graduates. Higher education can improve virtually every area of your life, ranging from career prospects to personal satisfaction and even outcomes for your children.
Should You Get a College Degree? Factors to Consider
While most people now agree that college is vital to long-term personal and professional success, skeptics still abound. Many want a definitive answer to the age-old questions: Why is a college degree important? What degree do you get in college? Responses will naturally differ between students, as a variety of factors can provide much-needed motivation.
It’s important to feel confident in the top reasons to go to college long before enrolling. After all, no matter how valuable, college remains a huge undertaking. Keep the following in mind as you consider why you should go to college:
1. College Helps You Develop Advanced Writing Skills
In this digital age, we rely more than ever on written communication. Your ability to express yourself via email or social media could make all the difference as you strive for professional success. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 73.4 percent of today’s employers prefer job candidates with strong writing skills. Your writing could influence not only your ability to get a job, but also your likelihood of scoring future promotions and raises.
In college, opportunities for improvement abound. In addition to receiving feedback in general writing courses, you will obtain practice in the specific style of writing required in your field. Your instructors will help you refine your skills to ensure that you communicate effectively through the written word.
2. You Will Develop Newfound Confidence as a Public Speaker
The value of professional writing cannot be denied, but verbal communication remains as important as ever. From video conferencing to in-person meetings, a variety of settings and situations call for prowess as a public speaker. As such, employers highlighted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) claim that they value public speaking more than other job skills.
As a college student you’ll improve your verbal communication through regular practice both in and out of the classroom. From preparing presentations to participating in discussions, you will quickly build the confidence needed to make a positive impression.
3. You Will Master The Tech Tools Needed For Success in Today’s Economy
Whether you’ve embraced modern technology or avoid it whenever possible, you’ll need to make the most of tech tools as you seek employment. While the need for technological mastery is obvious in fields such as engineering and IT, it’s just as vital for climbing the career ladder in seemingly unrelated industries. Data from Ceridian’s 2020 Future of Work Report indicates that 63 percent of employers anticipate a skills gap. Most prefer to hire technologically competent employees.
Are you intimidated by today’s fast-paced digital world? You’re certainly not alone. College can make this steep learning curve feel more manageable. Many classes encourage you to build critical tech tools into your daily life. The more you’re exposed to these essentials, the less scary they’ll seem—especially if you can turn to your instructors and fellow students for advice.
4. Your College Connections Will Help You Build a Professional Network
The cliché “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” isn’t entirely true—both matter. College allows you to develop both the what and the who needed to climb the career ladder. This unique environment provides a valuable starting point for your professional network. In years to come, you can look to your college instructors and peers for leads, references, or a simple boost in confidence to help you take the next big step up in your career.
5. You’ll Discover Exciting Opportunities For Advancement
Your degree will help you secure not only entry-level work but also future promotions and raises. As soon as you graduate, you will see a world of opportunities become available. You will no longer need to fear job listings that demand advanced academic credentials. Employers will definitely take notice. In a study from the AAC&U, an executive explained, “Potential for advancement is far greater for college graduates.”
6. You Will Improve Your Lifelong Earning Potential
The immediate salary gains your degree delivers may seem modest, but they will add up over time. You could enjoy tens or even hundreds of thousands in additional earnings over the course of your career. Such economic benefits are evident based on research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. According to the study The College Payoff, a bachelor’s degree helps graduates earn, on average, 84 percent more over their lifetime than those who only achieve a high school diploma.
7. Your Degree Can Shield You During Times of High Unemployment
When recessions strike, employees who lack college credentials often lose their jobs first. Not only can such job loss prove devastating in the short-term, it can derail your entire career path.
In periods of high unemployment, limited jobs rarely go to those with gaps in their resume or minimal academic credentials. The right degree, however, can provide a competitive edge. This was clearly the case during the Great Recession, when just 4.3 percent of college graduates were unemployed—compared to an unfortunate 9.4 percent of those with only high school diplomas.
8. You’ll Set a Great Example For Your Kids
If you don’t attend college for your own benefit, consider doing so to give your kids a boost in life. By enrolling, you can demonstrate the value of lifelong education. You’ll also enjoy the ability to lead by example as you set a study schedule, participate in class projects, and apply what you learn in class to everyday life.
In addition to helping you set an immediate example for your children, your efforts as a college student will improve the likelihood of them following in your footsteps. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests that the children of parents with college degrees are more likely to graduate themselves.
9. You May Lead a Longer and Healthier Life
College and lifetime health are inextricably linked. According to a 2019 JAMA study, life expectancy has seen recent increases for those with four-year college degrees—and notable decreases for those with lesser levels of education. The link between academia and lifespan holds true regardless of race or gender. JAMA’s study highlights alcohol and drugs as the chief reasons behind the shorter life expectancy for non-graduates. Other studies suggest that college graduates are less likely to smoke or become obese.
10. You Will Feel a Deep Sense of Personal Satisfaction
If nothing else, college is worth attending for the eventual satisfaction of setting and accomplishing a huge goal. Few achievements match the personal pride of graduating from college. Your degree is more than a fancy piece of paper—it represents years of hard work. No matter what happens in your career or in your personal life, you can always look to your degree as proof of your ability to achieve great things.
As you ponder the reasons to go to college, think carefully about your short and long-term goals. Whether you’re eager for a raise or hope to set a positive example for your kids, you will ultimately thank yourself for making the commitment to furthering your education.