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Is College Worth It?

Higher education plays a huge part in our world today, but is college worth it? It depends. Here are some things to consider as you decide if going to college is a good plan for you.

female student dressed up and talking to a representative from Caterpillar at a Engineering career fair

What can college do for you?

Professional Value of a Degree

A college degree has always been a resume-booster, and it has now become an expectation for many in the professional world. Some career paths are very hard to pursue without a college degree. If you know your dream job requires this kind of degree, that would be a strong pull toward going to college.

While evaluating your career goals, make sure to consider your target income and job availability within your field. Look at opportunities for growth for your desired position. Recent data support the idea that as you increase your education level, average salary expectations grow and unemployment rates dwindle. It’s helpful to know whether there are places to develop, both developmentally and financially, as you progress in your career.

Unemployment Rates & Earning by Education

EducationMedian Weekly EarningUnemployment Rate
Some College,
No Degree
HS Diploma$8096.3%
< HS Diploma$6268.3%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Also keep in mind that most people change their careers at least once in their life. If that time comes for you, you’ll have many more new employment opportunities if you’re equipped with a bachelor’s degree than if you’re not. Plus, in many companies, an employee’s salary is based on how much experience and education they have, so having a college degree will give you an advantage even if you’re “starting over.” 

College is an investment; paying now gives you an opportunity to gain in the future. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s an investment you want to make. 

The Undergraduate Experience

College gives you ways to learn more about yourself; you can discover passions, gain fresh insights, and meet new people. It is a great place to grow, but so are a lot of other places. So what makes college so special?

Well, it all depends on what you make out of it. Being in college can change your life if you embrace the resources and opportunities available to you. You’ll get a chance to be independent, maybe more than you’ve ever been before. College can teach you what it’s like to live away from home and make decisions for yourself.

Still, the college environment isn’t for everyone. Think about what your priorities are and decide if they match up with the professional, intellectual, and cultural opportunities college can provide. 

mother, daughter, and her friend looking through college applications in their home

But what about the expense?

There’s no denying it—college is expensive. Then again, many students decide to commit to college anyway, and for good reasons. When you’re looking at your options, be realistic about what you want out of a college; remember that the most expensive school isn’t necessarily the best (and neither is the least expensive).

The vast majority of students aren’t able to pay all of their college expenses upfront, so they take advantage of financial aid, scholarships, loans, and more. To learn ways you can make college more affordable, check out our guide to paying for college.

In the end (and in the beginning, if you can), be honest with your family and yourself; don’t show up at college before you explicitly understand how and when it’s going to be paid for, as well as by whom.

two friends happily running into each other at the Illini Fest celebration in Chicago

What’s your plan?

Consider for a moment what you would do after high school if you didn’t go to college. Would you take a gap year? Get a job? What are your short- and long-term goals? Your answers might help you decide if college fits into your plan and if it’s required to carry out your goals. 

You won’t know for sure where your life will lead, and that’s okay. But having a college degree today may very well open more doors than not, and this is something you’ll want to consider as you look ahead. 

So, is college worth it? This question will be easier to answer if you’re realistic and honest with yourself. Keep things like expenses, future goals, and different school options in mind. Make sure you understand what you’re signing up for and how much you’ll owe, and draft a few plans. 

If in the end you decide that college is the right choice for you, we have more resources to help guide you through your planning process, including 5 ways to narrow your options. We hope you find them useful as you continue your journey!

UIUC Admissions

UIUC Admissions

We're here for you as you prepare for college. Whether you're looking for guidance on the college search process or have questions about Illinois, we hope our blogs will help!

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