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Is Going to College Worth It?

three students in cap and gown celebrating graduation

If you're a high school student thinking about your future, you may wonder whether college is worth the time, effort, and expense. While it's true that college can be a significant investment, it also opens doors and helps pave the way for a brighter future. 

In this article, we discuss whether going to college is worth it and share essential data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. Ultimately, the decision is a personal one that depends on your individual goals, values, and financial situation. But we'll give you all the facts you can use to decide whether getting a college degree is worth it. 

Being an Informed Gen Z Student Gives You an Advantage

As a Gen Z student, you have an advantage over those who came before you. Unlike previous generations with limited resources for gathering college-related data, you can leverage online tools to explore your options. This unfettered access to information lets you evaluate factors like program offerings, school reputation, available financial aid, and student experiences, allowing you to make more informed choices about your education journey.

For example, 48% of your Gen Z peers say they consider the cost of attendance a critical factor in their college choice. For context, this number is 17% higher than it was when a similar group of Millennials was surveyed in 2004.

You're also interested in fee transparency and knowing where your money goes. That means you're asking questions and expecting more from colleges and universities. This level of awareness gives you the bargaining power to negotiate out of things like non-tuition fees so you can pay less for your education.

All of this means you possess a distinct advantage over previous generations when making decisions about higher education. 

What You Get With a College Education

With that context, here's a look at some of the benefits of a college degree. From higher earning potential to increased job security and personal growth, we'll discuss how college can provide you with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in today's competitive job market.

Going to College Gives You a Higher Earnings Potential

One of the most significant benefits of a college education is the potential to make more money. Studies show that college graduates earn significantly more than those without a degree. On average, you'll earn over $30,000 more yearly than those with only a high school diploma.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people with higher levels of education tend to have lower unemployment rates and, as we've said, higher earnings than those with less education. But let's break that down now.

Here's a look at unemployment rates by education level (2022):

  • High school diploma: 3.7%
  • Bachelor's degree: 2.2%
  • Master's degree or higher: 1.5%

Here are the median weekly earnings by education level (2023):

  • High school diploma: $746
  • Bachelor's degree: $1,248
  • Master's degree: $1,497
  • Doctoral degree: $1,883

Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce also examined average cumulative earnings over a lifetime. Here median lifetime earnings are broken out by education level (ages 25-64):

  • High school diploma: $1.6 million
  • Bachelor's degree: $2.8 million
  • Master's degree: $3.2 million
  • Professional degree: $4.7 million
  • Doctoral degree: $4.0 million

It's worth noting that these are just averages, but it's clear that higher education leads to better job opportunities and more significant earning potential. 

Going to College Leads to Career Advancement & Benefits

A college degree can open up a world of opportunities for career advancement. Not only does a degree increase the likelihood of getting a job in the first place, but it can also lead to promotions and higher-paying positions with better benefits. 

Jobs that require a college degree tend to be in high-skilled industries, including finance, healthcare, engineering, education, and technology. These jobs typically offer better compensation packages, like retirement plans, health insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, and other perks. They also come with training and development programs, mentorship opportunities, and other resources to help you advance your career.

Going to College Leads to Personal Growth 

College is not just about earning a degree. It's also an opportunity for personal growth and development. College allows you to explore your interests and passions, meet new people, and build essential life skills like time management, communication, and critical thinking.

Here are a few specific examples of this benefit:

Managing the Costs of a College Education

Now that you know how beneficial a college degree is for your lifelong earning potential and upward mobility, we'll discuss ways to manage college costs. After all, that's what most students worry about. So let's look at ways to keep your costs down. 

The Financial Cost

The most significant costs of a college education are tuition and living expenses. But there are ways to keep both of those manageable. 

  • Choose a School That Fits Your Budget

So many great choices are available, so look for one that meets your needs and budget. For example, public universities generally have lower tuition fees than private institutions. Likewise, in-state colleges will offer lower tuition than out-of-state schools. 

If you're interested, you can read about the differences between a trade school and a college here

  • Apply for Financial Aid 

To start, all students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to pick up free money for school. Fill this form out as soon as it opens because the available money is essentially given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. And unfortunately, each year, money goes unclaimed because students fail to complete this simple application. 

You can read more about the 2023 FAFSA here.

You can also learn what scholarships are and how they work here. Or how to find and apply for scholarships here

  • Choose Affordable Housing Options

Living expenses, including housing, can be a significant cost associated with college. Choosing a less expensive housing option, such as living off-campus or with roommates, can help reduce expenses.

  • Cook Meals at Home

Eating out or purchasing pre-packaged meals can quickly add up and become a significant expense. However, cooking meals at home can be a cost-effective alternative and provide an opportunity to develop new skills.

  • Purchase Used Textbooks

Textbooks can be a significant expense, with some books costing hundreds of dollars each. Consider purchasing used textbooks or renting them from online retailers to save money.

You can read some of our other tips for making college affordable here.

By securing financial aid and being thoughtful about expenses while in college, you can reduce or eliminate the need to take on student loans.

The Time Investment

College is also a significant time investment. If thinking about dedicating the next four years of your life to school sounds daunting, just know that time goes quickly and is usually remembered fondly. 

But you can also use the time you're in college to build your professional network and jumpstart your career. Here are a few tips for making the most of the time investment associated with going to college. 

  • Be Active & Get Involved

Joining clubs or organizations related to your interests or college major can provide opportunities for personal growth and development, networking, and leadership experience.

  • Use Campus Resources

Many colleges offer resources like writing centers, career services, and counseling services. These resources can help you improve your skills, explore career options, and manage stress and other challenges.

  • Attend Networking Events

Attend job fairs, alumni events, and other networking opportunities to connect with professionals in your chosen career path. 

Using your time in college to network and build skills can be a game-changer when landing a job after graduation. Employers want well-rounded candidates with the required technical skills, soft skills, and a strong work ethic. 

Research Colleges & Decide for Yourself with Appily

Now you have an answer to the question, is college worth it? A college degree can provide benefits like a higher earning potential and better career advancement opportunities. But the first step in deciding if college is right for you is learning about different colleges and what they offer.

You can do this all in one place by creating a free Appily account. Search for and save multiple schools to your list, then compare costs, programs, admissions data, and more to make the best decision for your needs.

Just click the button below to get started. It's quick and easy, and you'll have access to all the best and most up-to-date information in one place. 

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