If you’re about to graduate from high school and are trying to determine your next step, there are several reasons why getting a college degree should be at the top of your list. Going to college is the ideal opportunity to explore new interests, develop a career path and have fun. In addition to the social benefits of going to college, your financial future is also a critical consideration. College graduates have greater earning potential and are more likely to secure jobs that will provide health benefits. Perhaps one of the most important benefits of a university degree is what you will learn about yourself and the world around you. The academic, social and personal challenges you may encounter will help you grow as an individual.

1. Financial Benefits of College

Money matters and college graduates are well positioned to earn more than those without a bachelor’s degree. As a college graduate, you can expect a 66 percent increase in your wages, in comparison to high school graduates, according to a 2015 study by the Department of Education. During your lifetime, that means an additional one million dollars in your bank account. By 2020, two-thirds of the available employment opportunities will require a college degree. This corresponds with a lower unemployment rate enjoyed by college graduates. The earning potential of college graduates has other residual effects. Only 11 percent of high school graduates own homes in comparison to 75 percent of college graduates. While college is an expensive endeavor, the payback is worth the initial investment.

2. Provide Benefits for Your Family

In addition to larger salaries, college graduates enjoy other benefits, too. Jobs requiring a college degree generally offer a compensation package that includes health insurance, retirement accounts and even profit-sharing. A 2016 study by the Lumina Foundation found that college graduates are 47 percent more likely to have health insurance and 72 percent more likely to have a retirement plan. Paid vacation and sick leave is an additional benefit of working in a professional position that requires post-secondary education. A job that offers health insurance offers preventative care that can make a difference. Overall, college educated adults live longer than high school graduates by a rate of 19 to 15 percent.

3. Achieve Job Satisfaction

Most of our waking hours are spent in the workplace. Enjoying what you do and feeling valued is critical to overall life satisfaction. A 2016 Pew Research study indicated that college graduates are 22 percent more likely to experience purpose and job satisfaction than their counterparts that graduated from high school. One of the benefits of a university degree is that a post-secondary experience is geared toward career preparation. Just 39 percent of high school graduates report that their job feels like a career in comparison with 70 percent of those that graduated from college. Even if you enter college undecided, general education classes and professional academic advisors will help you determine a career trajectory that is the best fit for your interests and talents.

4. Be Civically Engaged

Attending college is strongly correlated with becoming more civically engaged. In college, you’ll be exposed to a variety of course topics that center on social and political issues. College classes will help you think critically and many colleges incorporate service-learning into the required curriculum. The results of this type of active learning are evident in the Lumina Foundation research study. College graduates are 1.9 times more likely to become involved in civic organizations and 3.2 percent more likely to become community organization leaders. College graduates are also more likely to volunteer in their community, vote in elections and give to charitable organizations.

5. Be Competitive in Job Search

College classes encourage students to work in groups, gain experience with presentation skills and engage in problem-solving opportunities. Most college students are involved with extracurricular activities. These experiences help students learn leadership skills and how to work as a team. With a college degree, you'll appear more marketable as you enter the workforce. Although an undergraduate degree is the common baseline requirement for professional positions, some employers seek candidates who have a graduate degree as well.

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About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.