Why do we go to college? This is an important question for every high school student and anybody who is seeking out a higher level of education should be asking themselves. During my junior year of high school, I was confident in my reasons. My motivations broke down into three very simple, common, but important goals. I wanted to:
- Learn as much as I could about what I am passionate towards
- Have as much fun as I could during what is widely regarded as the "best four years of your life"
- Be able to graduate with a valuable skill set and a higher starting salary
Each of us has our own plans and passions. The appeal of obtaining a college degree is very strong to those who are motivated to live a successful life in a career they are talented in or that they will find fulfilling. It is not so easy, however, for students to navigate the numerous lists of options that is the college search.
Priorities will come to light as a person takes more tours and learns more about their possible future residencies. This is great because it allows a student to find out what is important to them and “feels right”. This is all exciting, but every student needs to have one specific concept in the back of their minds:
College education is an investment in yourself and it is always better when an investment pays off. The industry term for this in a college degree is a return on investment, also known as ROI. This figure is one that holds a lot of weight when determining if a school is the right fit.
Here are two scenarios involving a student named “Jimmy”:
Scenario 1 – Jimmy applied to 2 schools and was accepted by both.
- School A is a state college, it is less expensive and has a lower average starting salary.
- School B is a private university, is more expensive, and as a much higher average starting salary.
- The return on investment is better at School B, and it would be worth it for Jimmy to pay the high college tuition costs to attend.
Scenario 2 – Jimmy similarly applied to 2 schools and was accepted by both.
- School A is still a state school with the same costs and average starting salary, but they offered Jimmy a large scholarship to attend.
- School B is once again a private university with the same high college tuition costs but this time around the average starting salary is only slightly higher than school A.
- This choice is not so easy. While School B might have a higher ROI in 30 years, that is a long time to wait. Jimmy might find School A to be a much better choice since he would be taking on very little debt.
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Your job as a potential college student is to Do The Math. Is a college degree worth its tuition costs based on your personal financial situation? How long will it take for the college degree to return on its initial investment? If you are asking "where do I look?," the internet will provide more information than ever before and between a college's website and third party resources, average starting salaries and ROIs are not too hard to find.
This being said, money isn't everything and some colleges might be worth their costs for other reasons than "I am maximizing my investment in my personal education." A college degree, however, is quite important in determining an individual's future opportunities. With the student debt crisis growing in size every year and college tuition prices climbing at excessive rates, a potential college student should make smart long-term financial choices.
The best advice I can give is to take a look at these figures and compare them. Determine what choices make the most sense, and then pick from that group of potential colleges. This way students can feel confident about their college degree’s worth and ROI, in addition to finding an academic atmosphere that fits them best.
Nicholas Sanborn is a Student Blogger and Intern for Quatromoney in addition to working for Johnston & Murphy as a Sales Associate. He provides articles, studies webpage analytics and compiles industry data. Nicholas is an Economics Major and is currently studying at the University of Vermont.