Is College Worth It?

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Published: 31st October 2012
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Student loan debt crossed the trillion dollar mark recently, spurring a flurry of "Is College Worth It?" articles and segments on tv news. With college costs ranging from $25,000 per year at a lot of local state universities (if you live on campus) to as much as $65,000 per year, it's only natural to question the value of such an investment.

So, is it worth it? The answer is... it depends on your student. Now guidance counselors, colleges and other "experts" will site the studies that say: "On average college graduates can expect to earn 66% more over 40 years with only a high school degree." And those studies are true. But they're examining several decades of data to come to those conclusions, including the times when getting the college degree was not the norm, it was the exception.

Problem is, those studies don't take into account more recent trends. Record numbers of high school students are attempting college while over do not complete their degree, a college degree is more common today than it was 15 or 20 years ago. Today's bachelor's degree is quickly becoming what the high school degree used to be in the job market. More degrees, less "value". It's supply and demand.

A college degree isn't a "silver bullet" to a job or a career, but it is an essential stepping stone for many students.

So, how can you tell if the investment of $85,000 to as much as $240,000 is worth it? Well, here're some hints that it might NOT be a wise investment:

1. Your student is in the lower 50% of his or her high school class.

2. Your student HATES school or just simply has no interest in attending college.

3. Your student's grades are below a B not because of lack of ability but because of lack of attention i.e. their attention is more focused on their social life or their sport or their activities (talking or texting on their phone, Facebook, video games, etc.)

In all three of these situations, many times, a lack of maturity is the main culprit. Often, a year or two in community college and/or having to be responsible for their own lifestyle (as in get a job and pay for their own "stuff") can be a terrific motivator that can inspire a student to put their nose to the grindstone and get in gear - and as a result boost their chances for college success.

And sometimes, listening to your student can save everyone from a stressful mistake. It did for one of my clients, Sean. Sean was a strong student and even a National Merit Commended Scholar. But, Sean had NO interest in attending college.

He was a smart guy, but didn't like school. He came to this realization after a couple of coaching sessions and told his mom.
She could have told him "Too bad, you're going to college" but instead, she listened. She said "Okay I'm glad you figured this out now instead of after one or two years of college and $50,000 spent."
Imagine if she hadn't listened, he went off to college and then dropped out. All that money spent but no degree to show for it what would that have done for their relationship?

Instead, Sean became an apprentice to an electrician and today is a Master Electrician with his own business and his younger sister, Maggie, took his place in my coaching program and today is in Veterinarian school.

College was a great investment for Maggie, but would've been a poor investment for Sean.

Your Smart Plan For College Assignment

Take the time NOW to assess your reasons for going to college and you may need to even think about your readiness. Here are some questions to help you with your assessment:

1. Why do you want to go to college?

2. After college, what do you see happening as a result of having attended college (what kind of life do you see yourself having)?

3. How does college fit into achieving this result?

4. Take a look at your grades. If they're not As and Bs, why is that (and lying to yourself won't help)? Are you really putting the time into your homework? Are you preparing for tests? Are you going for extra help? Have you considered getting a tutor? If you haven't tried those things, then there's an area to start focusing on.

5. Find out where you are in your high school class if at all possible. Your school may not rank the class or perhaps won't do it until the beginning of senior year, but they should be able to provide you with a range like in the top 20% or the top 30%, etc.

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