A college degree is necessary for many careers. College is a place to not only get a degree, but also to explore new interests, learn about yourself, make friends and gain the skills that help you succeed in life, both personally and professionally. Many people start college right after high school; some choose to wait. Either choice has advantages and disadvantages that affect your post-college life.

Advantage: Get Your Degree at a Younger Age

A bachelor’s degree requires about four years of full-time coursework, though many students require a fifth or sixth year due to changing majors, taking a semester off or academic problems that require them to repeat classes. The earlier you start your bachelor’s degree, the earlier you can finish it. Thus, you can be working at a younger age in a job that requires a degree than if you had waited to attend college. This typically means you’ll be making more money at a younger age, too. This comes in handy when you’re 25 and want to start a family or buy a home.

Disadvantage: Haven’t Sampled the Real World

By the time you’ve finished high school, you’ve been a student for over 12 years. Perhaps you’ve worked an after-school job or maybe a full-time job in the summers, but you likely haven’t experienced enough of the real world to understand what you want to study in college. Taking some time off between high school and college allows you to explore the adult world better. Work a full-time job in an industry you’re considering, travel to other countries or volunteer for an organization to get a better idea of what you want to do. While you can do these things while also being a college student, you can’t focus on them as much as if you take time off between high school and college, away from tests and grades.

Advantage: Continue With Classmates

Not all of your classmates will go to college right after high school, but many will. Starting right after high school keeps you on a similar path to your classmates at the same time, especially if you and your friends plan to attend the same college. You can experience being freshmen together, including academics and the social side of college life. Taking time off can leave you feeling behind your friends of the same age group who chose to attend college right after high school.

Disadvantage: Not Ready

While there are usually more social opportunities in college than in high school, the academic side is often more rigorous. You're typically expected to do more reading, write longer papers and take longer finals than you did in high school. Many students enter college unprepared for these academic demands. They’re looking forward to parties, skipping class whenever they feel like it and the other positives of being a college student. It’s near the end of the semester when their grades aren’t as high as they assumed they would be that the panic sets in. Many college students aren’t ready, academically or personally, for college life. They got Bs in high school, no problem, but now getting a C in college requires a lot more work. Time off between high school and college can be used to improve academic skills and personal habits before diving into the challenging world of college.

Advantage: Less Responsibilities

As you get older, you'll take on more responsibilities, such as a spouse, children and owning a home. These things make it harder to attend college, as you have more demands on your time, attention and money. For many students who have just graduated from high school, they don't have these responsibilities yet, and can focus more of their time and energy on college than if they were 25 and have a newborn they need to care for.

Disadvantages: Haven't Saved Up Enough Money

College is expensive, and if you're the one paying for it, starting right after high school may be difficult, as your responsibilities as a high school student typically make it impossible to work a full-time job. Taking time off before college allows you work full-time to save up money, while also researching careers and testing out the real world.

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