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Should You Go to College or University? 5 Questions to Decide

Should you go to college or start a business?” These are the two questions James has been asking himself after he learned that he had earned straight As in high school and NOW it is time to step in a whole new world. A world which will decide his entire life. So, he gets goosebumps whenever the idea of going to college jogs his memory.

Besides, in high school, it had become quite a ritual for his teachers to jog his memory that school and college are not the same. They would say things like: “Once you go to college, you will realize your school and school teachers were kindest to you.” or ” College professors will not allow to hand over work like this.”

Though they were kind and hard-working, these sentences are a few reasons he has been trying to figure out if his future could lay outside the world of academic achievement. So, that he would not even need to go to college.

Furthermore, he knows that if he attends college, he will have to devote four years and work extremely hard to earn good grades. After all, his grades will be the witness of whether or not he is capable of his dream job.

Sounds similar? I am sure yes if you have recently completed your school years and you are puzzled about whether or not you should attend college. Then, keep reading because the following 5 questions or steps have helped James and his classmates to figure out whether or not they should attend college. Thus, I am sure they will be helpful to you too.

1. Do You Know Which Career You Want to Pursue?

As early as 2nd grade, Jame’s teachers and parents would curiously ask questions like “What do you want to be in the future?” or “What are your future plans?”. The questions, eventually, evolved in every other way becoming more difficult for him to answer.

It is very hard to tell what you want to do for the rest of your life without any real-life work experience. And James had always been a brilliant student but he never participated in anything other than his school activities. So, he knows very little about the real world. Thus, almost nothing about what career he should pursue.

Most of the students with a high school degree can relate to James. Therefore, deciding whether or not they should go to college is indeed a tough decision.

However, you can easily decide whether or not attending college is profitable only if you know what career you want to pursue after college. For instance, if you are a tech geek, a Computer Science degree is the best option or probably you would love graphic designing. You do not have to attend college for this purpose, though. Because there are more opportunities available outside the college premises.

Or if you are caring and kind with an aspiration to help people, you would love a career in the medical field. unlike the above case, you will have to attend college.

Thus, there are a variety of options for you to choose from. Remember that the career you choose today will help you shape your Future Self and Lifestyle.

Take a Year Gap

It is essential to remember that not all of the courses are free or affordable enough. So, by the time you figure out what you want to study, you may find yourself saddled with student debt trying courses after courses.

Therefore, if you are not sure what career you want to pursue, take a year gap. Then, try out new things, read more books, learn a new language, learn how to code a computer game or travel. This will probably help you discover yourself and the career you want to pursue.

Advantages of Taking a Year Gap

If you do not know what you want to pursue, it might be a good idea to take a year gap. After all, it is better to be late than following a wrong career. As in the Journal of Higher Education, Andrew J. Martin quoted:

“For many students, a gap year is about crystallizing their decision-making; developing self-directed and self-regulation skills, broadening their competencies and self-organization and perhaps their confidence.”

Moreover, taking a year gap has the following advantages.

  1. Accelerate Maturity
  2. Opportunity to focus on more important things
  3. Time to think and try out new things
  4. Improved academic performance
  5. You will be less likely to suffer from burnout
  6. Gain a new perspective
  7. Develop new life skills
  8. You can become a more grounded person
  9. Improve career opportunities
  10. Learn independence

2. Does the Career You Want to Pursue Require a Degree?

It is very important to realize whether or not the career you want to pursue requires a college degree before taking any decisions. Because as I mentioned above, like graphics designing, there are a variety of careers which do not need any college degree.

For instance, if you want to pursue culinary arts, you may go looking for work experience at a restaurant rather than spending 4 years studying it. Because restaurants are nowadays hiring more chefs with real job experiences rather than graduates.

Therefore, take your time deciding whether or not college is for you. Also, if you are still confused, we recommend you take out a piece of paper and write down all that befalls on your way. Try to learn about your interests, work-related values, personality type and all.

Finally, if you have chosen a career which has the slightest chance of success without a degree, go for it. As the college drop-out aka CEO of Facebook once said:

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. 

3. Can the College Degree Increase Your Earning Potential?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS, there is a potential rise in the median weekly earning with each level of education. But there is also a decline in the doctoral degree. Overall, each level of education guarantees higher pay. The following data shows the unemployment rate and earnings by educational attainment.

Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment
Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment

While attending college is said to increase wealth and future job perspective, the world’s most successful people dropped out as soon as they stepped in their early adulthood. Because they realized that a brighter future awaits them outside the premises of the college.

Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Lady Gaga, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Julian Assange are just a few ultra-successful college dropout names. The fact that these millionaires and billionaires did not complete their graduation, is not surprising. Because unlike many of us, they knew that they can not find their legacy within the walls of the college. But instead, they have to look outside in the real world. Thus, with dedication and perseverance, they did it.

Consequently, today most of the students listen to the stories of these college dropout legends and get fascinated by their name, fame, success and wealth. However, there are a number of successful people otherwise who got popularity and success.

Accordingly, if there is also a chance for your income to climb up with a college or a university degree, so dropping out of college is not the best idea. Although if you can earn a comfortable and happy lifestyle without a college degree, not attending college doesn’t hurt.

4. Should You Go to College Because Others Expect You?

According to the research conducted by Degree Query, 30% of the students go to a four-year college only because they consider that it is what everyone is supposed to do after high school.

From a very young age, our parents, grandparents and our lovely aunts and uncles keenly ask us which university we would attend and what courses we would enroll as if we are bound to know the answers to these questions right after our birth.

Moreover, we are told that only college/university is the only path to prosperity and a comfortable lifestyle. So, we have to attend college; get a degree. Then, get a decent job and marry. Right?

But gone are the days when a college degree would ensure not only a potential income source but also a happy lifestyle. Consumer Reports asked a number of graduates that whether or not going to college was a worthwhile decision.

And almost 45% of them said that college was not worth the debt. Besides, the same study shows that almost half of college graduates are unemployed.

Therefore, just because “others expect you to go to college” is not a good reason anymore.

The Alternatives

Still, if you do not feel comfortable with the idea of not going to college, there are alternatives you can try.

You can attend classes at your nearby community college. After you get your 2-year degree from the local community college, there are a number of options for you. You can either continue your education or start working.

The best part is that you will study bachelors without wasting a heap of money on the college/university.

Alternatively, if you do not want to attend any formal college but learn some useful soft skills, you can take some tuition classes to learn and explore.

5. Are You Willing to Put Your Life on Hold?

While there is so much to explore and learn at college, for some people going to college demands more than it offers. Because you will not be able to do anything other than college. You will not be able to easily do any real-life working experience or focus on your hobbies. You might even have to live in a dorm with a bunch of other people and rules who will actually kind of control your life.

Meeting and hanging out with friends and family will be more challenging because you will hardly ever get enough time for yourself. The bitter truth is that the university will be your life and home for four years.

For some people, this is a new ladder to maturity. They learn and make new contacts and mentors. So, it may work out to be wonderful for them. For others, it slows down their growth. After all one size does not fit all.

Alternative: Start a Business

In case you are one of those people who can learn and explore the world around them outside the premise of college, then starting a business or/and at least a youtube channel or a blog may turn out to be a great decision later in life.

After all real-life experience wins at the end of the day. As Oscar Wilde said:

Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.

Because life is a journey with problems to solve, lessons to learn and things to experience.

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