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6 reasons to go to college

Published April 1, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    From hoping it’ll provide better job opportunities to wanting to pursue certain academic interests, people decide to go to college for many reasons.

    As you consider whether college is right for you, here are a few of the rationales people use when they decide to pursue higher education.

    1. Going to college can lead to making more money

    One of the benefits of a college education is the opportunity to make more money than you otherwise would if you didn’t have a college degree.

    According to a study from the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities from 2023, the median income for recent graduates reached $60,000 a year for bachelor’s degree holders aged 22 to 27, while high school graduates of the same age had median earnings of $36,000 a year.

    2. Going to college can potentially open you up to career opportunities

    College graduates are often taught critical thinking, time management skills, and gain specific knowledge related to their area of study. These are both hard and soft skills that hiring managers might take into account as they consider candidates — just one of the reasons that a college degree can come in handy during a job search.

    Another reason a college degree can aid in a job search is that graduating from specific colleges grants you a network of people across the country that may help you get your foot in the door for certain jobs. Being a college alum can help connect you with other alums who know of job opportunities that might not otherwise be available to you. Colleges also typically have career centers that can aid in job searches. This can all add up during a job search.

    3. Going to college can open you up to careers that require a college degree

    Some companies have specific education requirements for candidates. In other words, some companies and jobs won’t even consider candidates without a college degree. You’ll see items like “bachelor’s degree required" on job listings that indicate this.

    Then there are the overarching career choices that require very specific advanced degrees, like medicine and academia. The road to becoming eligible for these jobs, for the most part, starts with a bachelor’s degree.

    4. Going to college can potentially help you during economic downturns

    There is some evidence that having a college degree can make it easier to weather a difficult economy. According to a study by the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities from 2023, this was true during the Great Recession that began in 2007.

    5. Going to college can be a personal growth opportunity

    Going to college is a unique experience that can allow you to come into your own and grow as a person. It may be the first time you’ll be on your own without the emotional support of your family and the friends you grew up with.

    Not only will this give you the opportunity to learn how and why you want to live a certain way, but you’ll also likely begin to develop critical and interpersonal skills that you’ll use for the rest of your life.

    College is also an opportunity to develop new friendships with people going through the same experiences as you, and to build a supportive network in the process. Many college students remain close to their college friends throughout their lives. Many friends bond over their shared mistakes, successes, and goals — creating a lasting foundation for friendship.

    Beyond being just a time to establish friendships, college is an opportunity to form relationships with mentors like professors and college counselors that can help you establish a network that might help you with job prospects or advice in the future.

    These reasons, among so many others, are why people so often say that college is about more than just academics.

    6. Going to college can be an opportunity to find a purpose

    College is a time to find out what you’re passionate about and to experiment with various paths. It's not uncommon for college students to change their major and minor during their college career as they experiment with their interests. While your career isn’t necessarily dictated by what you studied in college, college is a great place to start exploring what interests you.

    Final thoughts

    From the financial impact of paying for college to how college might impact your earning potential later in life, college is a very individual choice.

    Unfortunately, no one can decide whether college is right for you other than yourself. As you decide what to do, take your time with the decision and think through the pros and cons. Don’t hesitate to lean on people you trust for advice, and if you do decide to go to college, remind yourself often to make the most of it.