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Is College Really Worth It?

Is College Really Worth It?
James C. Gonyea
Considering the high cost of a college education and the drain that expense can have on one's financial resources and future, I am often asked by college-bound students, "Is college really worth it?"

Here are 10 reasons you should pursue a college education:

  1. Analytical thinking skills: Today's world is complex, and it requires making daily decisions about personal, economic, health, political, professional and social matters. Learning how to approach a decision, gather relevant facts, analyze comparative and contradictory data and draw correct conclusions are necessary skills for successful living. There is no better training ground to develop these skills than college.

  2. Career beginnings: Significant knowledge is required to understand the nature of most occupations. College is usually the most effective way to acquire this knowledge. For many professions, a college education is a prerequisite for entering the field.

  3. Career advancement: Many employers base promotion decisions on an employee's educational attainments. Whether or not a college education is truly required to handle the job is irrelevant. Employers need ways to rank employees, and a college education is an easily identifiable standard.

  4. Financial gain: While there are notable exceptions, individuals with four-year college degrees earn more over their careers than people with less education do. The difference in lifetime earnings between a college graduate and a non-college graduate can amount to several million dollars.

  5. Economic preparation: We all participate in a complex and continually changing economic environment, which requires some understanding of our economy. Where better to learn about managing your life's finances than in Economics 101?

  6. Friends and spouses: Colleges, even non-residential institutions, bring disparate people together in one place. When individuals find themselves sharing similar experiences it's not surprising that lifelong friendships -- and life partnerships -- can develop. Networking within a profession often begins here too.

  7. Life awareness: The next time you're in a group of people, step back and watch how they interact with each other. Humans are social animals -- we bond with each other through conversation and other activities. College serves an important role in preparing individuals for continuing social interaction.

  8. Lifelong source of advice and information: Graduation from college doesn't mean you won't be back. Just the opposite. Today, colleges and universities are eager to keep in touch with alumni, some offering programs and services on both personal and professional issues.

  9. Purpose in life: At some point, most of us wonder about our purpose in life -- why are we here and what should we be doing? An essential part of finding your way is understanding other possible paths. Colleges, by their nature, bring together people with different lifestyles, ideas and experiences. Beyond the opportunities for awareness offered by the classroom and social interaction, colleges also offer independent study and internship programs that can let you explore alternative paths to find the one best suited for you.

  10. Self-actualization: Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that we humans have a need to be somebody, to feel important, useful and of value to others and society. This self-actualizing behavior can mean developing and applying knowledge over time to build expertise in a given subject. Becoming expert in one's chosen career field is one of life's greatest feelings of accomplishment. As we age and begin to satisfy the more basic needs in our lives, this need for self-actualization becomes more important. Lifelong learning is a key element in developing a sense of accomplishment, and a college education is the foundation for lifelong learning.

James C. Gonyea has 30-plus years of offering advice as a professional career counselor. He believes that his college education -- BS in education and MS in guidance and counseling -- is worth more than he ever imagined.

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