Is Higher Education Worth It?

By Linnette Cruz, 11th Grade

Many high school students reach their senior year and realize that they never really considered what they would like to do with their life beyond high school. Most don’t even realize that there are many different types of colleges they can apply to, and the different paths they can take to achieve their dream jobs or prospective goals. “Should I go to college? Do I want to go to college or is it just a decision I made because of my parents? Should I take a gap year? What major should I pursue?” are all questions that many students have to face during their junior and senior years of high school. A college education is something that society pushes so much that it has led to students believing that this is the answer to everything. However, college is not for everyone, which leads many young people to ask: “is college worth it?” 

With tuition rates being up 92% since 2000, it is understandable why high school graduates may be considering whether or not college would be a good investment (Campus Explorer, 2021). Our current economic recession as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has not made it easy to make ends meet. Nevertheless, the federal government and other scholarship companies have realized that times are hard. Because of this, financial aid, along with applying for grants and scholarships, can help you go to the college of your dreams. Even so, after graduating, you will still have to pay back all of the money borrowed, but the good thing is that by landing a cushy job post-college, you can pay that money back in no time. 

Higher education is meant to prepare you for your career and adult life, but thanks to the ever-increasing college tuition and the lack of financial support, many high school seniors today are opting to attend post-secondary education vocational schools instead–otherwise known as trade schools. Trade schools specialize in offering programs that prepare students for skilled jobs. The greatest difference between college and trade school is that the latter is more affordable and allows you to complete the program in less time than a traditional four-year college bachelor’s degree. However, it is important to keep in mind that while vocational schools allow you to earn a good salary in a specialized job sooner and get a jump start on your career, four-year colleges offer a broader spectrum of education and have greater potential for higher lifetime earnings (Staff Writers, 2022). 

From watching Gossip Girl to striving to have Rory Gilmore’s from Gilmore Girls love for homework and excellent work ethic, every person some way or another has dreamed of getting into one–or multiple–of the distinguished Ivy League universities. However, it is very common practice to view these virtually impossible-to-get-into schools as a gateway to success; nevertheless, you do not need to go to a big-name college to be successful or be important. Entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are proof that you do not need a fancy Ivy League education to get a good job or make a difference in this world. The truth is that Ivy League schools are just like any other great university in terms of education; the only inherent difference is that an Ivy League carries a great reputation that looks good on paper. The majority of students only attend prestigious universities such as Harvard and Yale simply because they’re Ivy League, creating a fine line between excellent college education and elitism. Additionally, we cannot forget the fact that in the past few years, federal authorities have arrested dozens of well-known Hollywood actors that have tried to bribe their children’s way into elite universities. While these universities are world-renowned for many good reasons, I believe that it is more important to pick a school that caters better to your needs than to simply go for the first “good” college that offers you a spot just because of how it will look on your résumé.

Others may contend that higher education is not important in this day and age because people can become successful by only having their high school diplomas. While this is true, earning a high enough wage to support a family is very difficult with a high school diploma alone. Now, college won’t guarantee you a high-paying job, but it will provide you with a title and the necessary skills to make it easier for you to get one. Furthermore, college graduates make more money with an average of $570,000 more than high school graduates in a lifetime (, 2022). Additionally, “only 34% of American jobs require a high school diploma or less in 2017 (, 2022).” This means that only a tight-knit group of jobs allow you to enter the workforce with only a high school diploma, but none of these jobs will allow you to be ambitious and build your future but are meant more for expanding your skills and experience. 

Graduating from high school and beginning college is an extremely big step, therefore, it is not a lie when a college counselor or parent says that working hard in high school pays off in the future. Education opens doors to new opportunities and experiences, and it will ultimately help you get a job, buy a house, and raise a family in the long run. The vast majority of companies today provide advantages to their employees, including health care and retirement benefits. Students with an impressive lineup of grades and extracurriculars are also most likely to get into a good college and become successful. 

This is not to say that you cannot be successful with just a high school degree, but to expand on the fact that college is simply one of the means to get there. Many of the world’s billionaires–living or deceased–became wealthy without receiving a bachelors’ degree. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, for example, dropped out of college to found Apple and Microsoft. Even without a college education, these men defied the odds and revolutionized computer technology forever by creating groundbreaking products that have facilitated the lives of millions of people worldwide. This shows that college is not always the right choice and that ultimately it is up to you to make a choice that resonates with you. 

For those who are still not sure whether college is the right path for you, find comfort in the fact that society is becoming more open to the idea that there are other ways to achieve success and earn a living. If you’d like to spend your 20s college-free, you can also try out internships, apprenticeships, or acquire the skillsets for high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree. Many high school graduates also prefer to enlist in the military, which provides financial benefits, job security, and scholarship opportunities. Overall, when coming down to the whole “what should I do with my life after high school” spiral, make sure to exhaust all of your resources until you come to a decision that appeals the most to you.


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