8 Benefits of Going to College You Shouldn't Overlook
For many, going to college after completing high school is just a natural next step in life. But with a near-daily churn of news stories about employers struggling to fill positions, you might be wondering if it’s worth taking on the costs associated with going to college. After all, why should you spend money on additional education when there are plenty of places that’d love to have you start as soon as possible?
It’s a fair question to ask—and for some in this environment, college may genuinely not be their best next step. But that doesn’t mean you should immediately write off higher education. There are still several solid reasons for going to college that look beyond near-term employment trends. We’ve pulled together key data and input from college graduates to help lay out some of the top benefits of going to college.
8 Reasons why going to college can still be the right choice
1. You may be better positioned to weather economic downturns
Earning a degree isn’t only about preparing yourself for a one-time employment search—it puts you in a stronger position long term. Even if you graduate in a hot job market where finding work is easy, there’s no guarantee those economic circumstances hold. If you’re out of a job due to a downturn, having a college degree can help differentiate you from other job seekers who decided to forego higher education.
Regardless of whether you think that is fair in practice, this matters in a job market where employers can afford to be picky. Generally speaking, the more education you’ve attained, the less like you are to be unemployed—and this is backed up by Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.1
2. You’ll have opportunities to expand your social and professional network
Many college graduates point to the creation and expansion of their social and professional networks as a critical benefit to earning a college degree.
“The most important benefit to my life and my career was not what I learned inside the classroom, but the people I met and skills I learned outside the academic setting as a result of being in college,” says Ira Thor, senior director of communications and media relations at New Jersey City University.
Thor says that the interactions that happened while on campus helped him meet with faculty and others who had a big influence on his career path.
“I met staff and faculty who directly helped guide me towards my first full-time job that jump started my career,” Thor says.
Melanie Hanson, CEO of Education Data Loan Finance, also credits the people she met in her college life for helping her professionally.
“Every single job I've had, including the one I have now, has been one that I learned about from someone I met in college, from friends to professors to industry experts to my advisor,” Hanson reports. “I learned a lot of useful skills in college, skills that made me better at doing my job in so many ways, but I couldn't have done any of it without the personal connections I made.”
3. You’ll further develop soft skills
Networking, of course, involves practicing the non-technical skill of communication. The development of interpersonal skills, as well as other transferable soft skills such as critical thinking, digital fluency, teamwork and information literacy, are another way you can benefit from going to college.
“One of the most important benefits of the college experience is exposure to other perspectives and soft skills, as well as the chance to practice them,” explains Tina Hawk, senior vice president of GoodHire.
These skills will benefit you your entire life, says Hawk, and having the chance to practice and use them frequently in college is a big plus.
“You will [call] upon them again and again to get through challenging periods in your career,” Hawk adds.
Eric Thomas, CEO of Simple Solar Living, says college really pushed him to become more organized and professionally polished.
“For the first time, I was paying for my own classes, and if I was absent or late, I keenly felt it,” Thomas explains. “I also made new friends who were deeply dedicated to their studies, and they often had no sympathy for me regarding my general messiness.”
Thomas stepped up his game, investing in a planner and reorganizing his living space so that he could be better positioned to study and learn.
“These skills did me well throughout my college years and have continued to serve me in my career and entrepreneurial journey,” Thomas adds.
4. You may increase your overall earning potential and open new doors
Earning potential is an obvious benefit in attending college. While some career fields and the education paths associated with them will certainly be more lucrative than others, there’s a strong correlation between educational attainment and earning potential. BLS data shows that having a college degree leads to higher wages as well as lower unemployment.2
“Along with the skills and knowledge I gained in college, my earning potential was greatly increased,” says Brian Gawor, vice president of research at RNL®. “One reason for this is that my first college prepared me for graduate school and ultimately to pursue a Ph.D.”
A first-generation college graduate, Gawor acknowledges that while not everyone will continue through to the doctoral level, he believes having that first degree in place creates further possibilities in the future.
“It's really important to recognize that your undergraduate college experience is providing a foundation for what you do next—and maybe even decades later,” Gawor adds.
5. You’ll have a chance to gain diverse perspectives
Even if you’re enrolled in the same academic program and courses, you’ll still meet people with completely different life experiences and world perspectives. Colleges are places that seek to bring together a variety of students from all backgrounds, cultures and traditions, with the intention of making the student body itself a source of learning and growth.
Victoria Slingerland, founder of PracticeQuiz.com, found the experience of college broadened her horizons on many levels.
“Being from a rural town in Ohio, college opened my eyes to the barriers that people face seeking upward mobility,” Slingerland explains. “I thought my background was challenging, but when I started college, I saw a diverse array of socioeconomic challenges people had to overcome, including low income, racial discrimination and disability.”
Learning new things through academic routes is great for preparing for a career but learning to see things from multiple perspectives is a skill that will serve you for your entire life span.
6. College may be needed for meeting professional licensure requirements
While it might not matter for all of the potential career paths you’re currently considering, a college education is often a requirement tied to professional licensure and certification.
For example, nurses at all professional levels must complete an approved nursing program in order to sit for their respective NCLEX® exams. Passing these exams is a key part of the state licensure process—and you cannot work as a nurse without meeting that standard. Additionally, careers such as attorneys, teachers, physical therapists, social workers, personal finance agents, realtors and information security analysts all require some type of certification or licensure—many of which are tied directly to college education.
7. It can help you maintain a competitive edge
The modern economy requires workers that are adaptable and willing to learn. Having a college degree is one way to quickly demonstrate that you’re a person who isn’t afraid to work hard and stick with projects when times get difficult. But that isn’t to say that getting a college degree doesn’t require technical know-how. Indeed, many employers seek candidates who can offer up a range of skills.
“In today's business environment, proper training is priceless,” says Daniel Rutberg, co-founder of MuteSix. “While real-world experience can count for a lot in the workplace, acquiring that knowledge that can only be gained from professional instruction simply can't be replaced.”
Having a college degree on your resume is also important for another key reason: the increased reliance on artificial intelligence and other high-tech to sort and scan resumes.
“There are now services using video assessment and resume analyzing to quickly remove applicants that do not meet job requirements,” explains Akram Assaf, founder and CTO of Bayt. “Therefore, with AI technology running a large portion of the recruiting process, it may remove those applicants that do not hold a degree, regardless of other relevant experience.”
8. You’re investing in something that cannot be taken away from you
You might have heard a grandparent say something to this effect, but the simple fact remains—earning a college degree is an investment that cannot be taken away from you. What you have discovered, learned and experienced will continue to stay with you throughout your life. An education is one acquisition that cannot be repossessed. And once you invest in yourself with academic study and effort, chances are good that you’ll become hooked into a lifetime of continuous learning.
Be confident in your choice
It’s not easy making big decisions. The choice whether to attend college is something you should take the time to weigh carefully. You’ve heard plenty of solid reasons why you shouldn’t rule it out—but it’s on you to decide.
If you’re curious about taking the next step and learning more about the educational options available to you at Rasmussen University, visit our degrees page for more. If you find an option you like, know that we’ll be available to help you every step along the way. For more tips about how you can meet the challenges of higher education, read our article “How to Get Ahead in College: 5 Tips for Success.”
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, [accessed December 2021] https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2 “Learn more, earn more: Education leads to higher wages, lower unemployment” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2020. [accessed December 2021] https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2020/data-on-display/education-pays.htm.
NCLEX is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc.
RNL is a registered trademark of Ruffalo Noel Levitz LLC.