Four years of additional study after high school may seem like a lot, but college can open up many opportunities that may be more difficult to find without a degree. College gives students time to perfect useful skills and to seek out areas that interest them. It may also give graduates an economic edge throughout their careers.
One reason to pursue a college degree is for the academic challenge. College students are able to take classes in a variety of disciplines and can also focus on an area that is of particular interest to them through their academic major or minor. College classes are often taught by professors who are very knowledgable and actively involved in the research in their fields. Colleges provide an environment in which students are able to immerse themselves in learning and academic inquiry for a few years.
Skills for Future Employment
Regardless of their major, college students work toward acquiring important skills that can be used throughout their lives and careers. College students are expected to read and write critically, synthesize new information and participate in research, discussion and debate. In the workplace, these skills can help students solve problems, communicate well, and work effectively in groups. Colleges also provide resources to help students find internships and volunteer positions so that they can gain work experience while still in school.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of February 2011, the average lifetime earnings of someone with a bachelor's degree will be about $1.42 million, while the lifetime earnings of someone with a high school diploma are estimated to be about $770,000. Although earnings for college graduates do vary based on their undergraduate major, the income increase for most college majors is more than the amount that students will have spent for the four years of education.
A college degree can be an asset in a tight job market during an economic downturn. According to a January 2013 article in "Forbes," Americans between the ages of 21 and 24 with a college degree suffered a smaller drop in income during the 2007-2009 recession than those in the same age group who did not have a college degree. Although young Americans with and without a college education suffered economically during this time, those with a college degree retained more of their income.