If you just graduated from high school and are considering your next steps, don’t rule out going to college. It may be enticing to work full time, but the benefits of a bachelor’s degree are likely to convince you to reconsider.

College will give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself and dig deeper into a subject area of interest. There are significant financial benefits too. College graduates earn more money, have less debt, live longer and are more likely to own a home. Take a look at other factors that influence the importance of a university degree.

Become a Well-Rounded Person

In college, your academic journey includes a variety of courses, often called general education. You may not be interested in all of them, but college classes are designed to spark curiosity and offer context about important societal issues.

You can use general education courses to explore different majors and sample unique subjects. You’ll also meet new people and be exposed to cultural events that you might not otherwise experience. College is designed to serve as a time of self-focus and exploration.

Learn More About Your Passion

Think about your favorite subject in high school and imagine what it would be like to become an expert on the topic. Having a university degree allows you to do just that. You may also be able to turn that passion into a career because of your college degree.

College will afford you the opportunity to reflect upon who you are and what you want to do. You can even take advantage of resources like the career center to learn more about career options.

Attain Interpersonal Communication Skills

One of the benefits of a bachelor’s degree is the development of strong communication skills. If you are intimidated by public speaking, college will help you overcome that fear. Similarly, you’ll learn how to communicate one on one and in writing. The ability to communicate will help you in your career and throughout life.

Become a Leader and Have Fun

Even if you’ve never considered yourself a leader, college will nudge you to explore new possibilities. A university experience will connect you with other thought leaders who can help you get involved. Professors may ask you to work on a research project, or a friend may invite you to a student organization meeting. Pushing yourself to become a leader is one of the many benefits of a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to academic options, college offers the opportunity to play intramural sports, join a social club or participate in a research project. The menu of choices is endless, and the end result is fun and rewarding.

Avoid Being Unemployed

In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report that indicated that having a university degree will reduce your chance of being unemployed by almost 2 percent in comparison to high school graduates. Most employers will give you the nod if you’re competing against a high school graduate.

Financial Benefits of a Bachelor's Degree

In addition to lower unemployment rates, higher earnings are one of the benefits of a bachelor’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that college graduates earn $464 more per week than high school graduates. Over an average lifetime, you could earn almost 1 million more just for having a university degree.

Gain Added Financial Benefits

Beyond a salary increase, most jobs that require a college degree offer other financial benefits. A typical compensation package for a college graduate includes health insurance and a retirement package. A Lumina Foundation report indicated that college graduates are 47 percent more likely to have health insurance from their employer. Paid vacation and sick leave are other common benefits.

Have Fun at Your Job

Having a university degree leads to increased job satisfaction, according to a 2016 Pew Research Report. Seventy-five percent of college graduates report high job satisfaction in comparison to 64 percent of those with a high school diploma. College offers education and training that help employees feel prepared to do their job and may lead them toward career advancement opportunities.

Build Problem-Solving Skills

One of the benefits of a bachelor’s degree is the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills. College students work in teams on academic projects and are challenged to think critically in classes. When students choose to live on campus, they develop independent living skills and learn how to navigate the speed bumps of life on their own.

Gain Credibility and Expertise

A college degree will substantiate your expertise in a particular career field. For example, if you want to be a social worker, a social work degree will open doors to potential jobs that fit your passion and interests. Often, particular employers require a degree that is relevant to the position. Having a university degree will help you gain access to specific jobs and give you the necessary education to pursue a graduate degree.

Become More Marketable

Increasingly, a bachelor’s degree is needed to apply for professional jobs. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated an 8.2 percent increase in employers requiring an undergraduate degree as a baseline requirement for new employees. Having a university degree demonstrates a tenacity to persevere and the drive to accomplish a goal.

Some employers will even look at an academic transcript to assess aptitude and potential. College graduates usually have a resume that demonstrates work experience, leadership roles and campus involvement. Employers that are seeking managers or future leaders are drawn to a candidate with evidence of success.

Network and Build a Support Base

Meeting powerful alumni and developing relationships with faculty members are two of the benefits of a bachelor’s degree. When you hit the job market, you’ll need references who know about your skills and ability. Faculty members are personally invested in student success and are usually eager to help you find a job. Academic departments are even rated on job placement of their graduates.

Often, a college may match you with an alum who can serve as a mentor. A relationship with an alum may lead to an internship or get you in the door to meet an organizational decision maker.

Become More Civically Engaged

You’re more likely to be involved in the community if you’re a college graduate. Donations made to charitable organizations are almost 5 percent higher for college graduates, according to a Lumina Foundation report. Volunteering in the community and voting in political elections is higher too. Increased civic engagement is an indicator of overall life satisfaction.

Live a Longer and Healthier Life

There is a significant disparity in the mortality rate of high school graduates in comparison to college graduates. A Brookings Institution report indicated that the death rate is doubled for adults who don’t have a college degree. College graduates are less likely to smoke and have greater access to health care and health insurance.

Feel Accomplished and Proud

Aside from the monetary benefits, having a university degree serves as an internal validation of your hard work and intellect. As a college graduate, you’ll be among the 33 percent of Americans who made it across the finish line. Graduating from college is an honor and a significant accomplishment. Finishing your degree will help you realize that anything is possible.

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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.