College? Check yes or no

Is college right for you? That’s right, you get a choice! For the first time in your life, no one is gonna call your parents if you show up tardy and you don’t have to bring the parking cop a cheeseburger if you decide to escape for lunch–congradulations on graduating High School! The next big question is exactly that, WHAT’S NEXT?

“To College or NOT to College?” is the famous question that today’s graduates are faced with. A college degree in today’s economy is much different than it was 30 years ago. Today’s economy is a knowledge economy in which people are paid for what they know and not necessarily what they do. Today, people are hired and promoted based on their level of education, not necessarily on their experience or skill level. I don’t say all of this to argue that college is the perfect answer for everyone, but to prove that college is a very important decision that will carry consequences for the rest of your career. In order to make a well informed decision, you must first understand the benefits and the costs of a college education.

Let’s start with the benefits, the fun stuff–nothing like eating your dessert first.

How will a college education benefit YOU?

Fresh out of high school is an exciting time. You are 4 years away from WHATEVER you want to be when you grow up! (Add 16 years if your dream job is to be a doctor) College offers you the opportunity to study in the areas that you are interested in. Those areas can range from geology, science, engineering, computer programing, teaching and medical . . . stuff. Notice that I only selected industries that make money–not that you’re doomed if your chosen major isn’t in my two minute list. The key to making college successful is choosing a major that is profitable–we’ll talk more about this later, but I wanted to make you aware of the concept PRINCIPLE.

Chosen properly, a college degree, with the added knowledge and skills that you learn along the way, will make you a more valuable employee when you leave college. This added value contains two simple benefits to you. First, you’re going to earn more money than you did 4 years ago. Over the course of a lifetime, the extra money earned by college graduates is quite significant. Second, you’re going to have the opportunity to work the jobs you want to work. You’re added skills and education will give you the mobility to move around and work on projects that never would have been attainable without a college degree.

Alright, dessert’s over. Now it’s time for the meatloaf, the bad, the ugly. We need to understand the COSTS of a college education. College is an investment. And if invested poorly it can yeild you very bad returns. Many people fumble around with college and even graduate with a degree, only to look back and say “What a waste . . .” My goal is to inform you of both the benefits and the costs so you can make a decision on what is right for YOU. Hopefully, you can make an informed decision that possibly saves precious years of your life spent stumbling down the wrong path and chasing after the wrong thing. Which path matches your goals and dreams?

The costs of college are as follows: time, money and hardwork.

Time: Most college degree’s take 4 years to complete. 4 years is a chunk of your life that I don’t want you to waste. To do it properly, you’re going to need to devote most of your waking hours–and a few of your non-waking hours–to all things school. A college professor will tell you to plan 2-3 hours of study for each hour spent in the classroom. I found most college professors to be liars and usually devoted about one hour of study for each hour in class. To give you an idea of how much time you’re going to devote to college, I’ll break down my weekly school schedule. To finish in 4 years, I took as many as 18 hours per semester. This meant about 20 hours of study each week. In addition to school, I always worked 20 hours per week, and I learned to spend about 20 hours each week on student organizations. Student organizations proved to be a very worthwhile endeavor–not only were they fun, but the added experience also provided many job opportunities when it came time to graduate. All said and done, my work weeks in school totalled 80 hours: 20 hours school, 20 hours study, 20 hours real work, 20 hours student orgs. Time is a large chunk of your investment in school.

Money: The average four-year, public college, in-state degree (hmm, guess what type of college I recommend) will cost you $64,000. That’s $16,000 per year, which includes tuition, fees, room and board. If you’re straight out of high school, then that’s probably the biggest purchase you’ve ever made–unless, of course, you made a BILLION dollars on the youtube and you’re driving a Mercedes-Benz. The bottom line is that you want that 60k to perform well for you. You need to understand if a college education is going to be a wise investment for your goals and dreams.

Hardwork: Hardwork is the difference between a mediocre return and a GREAT return on your college investment. When it comes to knowledge gained and skills acquired, you’re going to get out of it whatever you put into it. If you go into college with a work hard mentallity, then the sky is the limit. You will find the resources to achieve whatever your dream is. Unfortunately, if you skip the hard work, then you may attain the degree, but you will short yourself out of many learning opportunities of countless value. The tipping point for me was the decision to be actively involved in student organizations. Here’s where I give a shout out to Baja SAE, which consumed much of my time the last couple years of college. Baja taught me many skills that are important to my industry: engineering, design, analysis, welding, machining, manufacturing and testing. Leadership roles in student organizations taught me skills such as: planning, organization, communication, teamwork and teambuilding. These are all skills and experiences that are not taught in the classroom. My decision to work hard and participate in these activities is what set me apart from my classmates and gave me something to talk about in the job interviews–plus, it’s a lot of fun and you make great friends throughout the process!

So, I’ve laid out a road map of the pros and cons of a college education. You now understand the risk and the reward. The next step is to add your input . . .

Has college proved beneficial to you? Did I miss any costs or benefits? Would you recomment others attend college? What degree do you recommend?

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