Is College Right For Me?

You have been thinking about going to college but are hesitant. You are just not sure that it is the right choice for you.college-adviser-with-college-student

Does this sound like you? If so, you are not alone. The decision to go to college—whether it’s for the first time or to complete your degree—is a big decision. There are a lot of factors that can (and should) be evaluated to help you figure out if going to school is right for you.

Some of the common concerns prospective students have are: “Do I have time for college?”, “Can I afford college?”, “Is it worth the investment?”, and “Will I really be able to get a job?”  These are completely normal concerns and there is no one right answer. Every person’s situation is different. One of the most helpful things you can do is research. Research is simply gathering information so you can make an informed decision.

Let’s explore these common concerns and some tips on doing research into each:

TIME

Whether you spend your time with your family, at work, or just enjoying a social life, we are all generally busy people. The great thing about college now-a-days is that there are so many different ways to attend. Full-time vs. part-time…Day classes vs. night classes…On-campus vs. online courses. With all of these options available, it would be hard for most of us to claim we don’t have time for school, so the question then becomes “How do I find the right college for my scheduling needs?”  At this point, your search engine of choice (Google, Yahoo Search/Bing, etc.) will be your new best friend. Look for schools in your area or online and then just start asking questions. Request information and talk to each school about what they offer until you find the one that’s right for you.

MONEY

I think it is safe to guess that the majority of us do not have a pile of money just sitting in the bank waiting to be used for college. That's okay. There are resources out there to help you manage the financial obligation that higher education brings. These can include tuition reimbursement from your employer, educational benefits from your military service, and scholarships. Not everyone can qualify for these forms of aid which is why Federal Student Aid (FSA) is such a key part of the financial aid process.  FSA comes in two forms: grants and loans. The best way to find out what forms of FSA are available to you is to visit www.fafsa.ed.gov. This website will show you how to apply for that FSA and has information on how it works.

INVESTMENT

Ok, so now that we are talking about the possibility of taking out loans to help finance our education, the question usually becomes “Is going to school worth the investment?” For this question in particular, there is no one answer. If you are making $100,000 a year, love everything about your job and are secure in your position, then frankly no, going back to school is probably not a great investment for you. On the other hand if you are barely making minimum wage, dislike your job and feel like you have no opportunity for growth, then yes, going to college is probably a very wise investment.

For most of us, though, we are somewhere in between these two extremes. This is where The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) comes in handy. The BLS is a government agency that tracks statistics on different careers, such as their average income levels. Very generally speaking, if you are going to school to get a degree that will allow you to enter or advance in a career that you will enjoy and has an earning potential that satisfies your needs, the investment is always worth it.  You can check out the BLS website at www.bls.gov.

CAREER

So, by this point we have hopefully realized that with all of the different options and resources out there we do have time for school, we can afford school, and it is a good investment. However; how can we be sure that we will really be able to get a job?  The BLS can also be helpful in this aspect of our research.  The BLS not only has information on salary, but on the growth a career is expected to have over the next ten or so years.  In addition to this, go to websites like CareerBuilder®, Monster™, or any other site that lists jobs in your area, and see if there are opportunities for employment in the field you are looking into.

So, now that you have the tools you need to make an informed decision, get out there and answer this question for yourself: Is college right for you?

About the Author: Michelle Haley is a Program Manager for Rasmussen College at the Rockford, IL college campus.  She has worked in this position for over a year.  Michelle has a B.A. in Art History from the University of Miami. In addition to her educational background in art, she has work experience in both the technology and design field and the medical field.

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