EDITORIAL: College may not always be best route

Prospective students of higher education should choose carefully

As high school comes to an end for young adults, a vast amount of them apply to college almost thoughtlessly. Their older siblings went to college in many cases, their friends are applying, their parents expect it from them and it just seems like an implicit “next step” to take before truly reaching adulthood —at least that is what you have probably been told. But how often do high school students who decide to go to college take a step back and really contemplate what it means to attend an institution of higher education? 

Before actually attending college, it is easy to fall into the trap of presuming that your time there will be “the best experience of your life.” Indeed, for some, this is the case, and college truly can be a very valuable experience. But four years at any university can undoubtedly be extremely stressful, and in more than a few cases, actually lead to depression — hence the significant presence of the Center for Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) and other mental health services at our University. Juggling academics and extracurriculars is not a walk in the park, and for many it can become too much. In recent months, we have been reminded of that fact after a member of our student body succumbed to such pressure and died by suicide. Additionally, it does not take much research to realize that an enormous amount of career options out there actually require no college degree, and that people like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates dropped out and did not attain their degrees until they were already successful. In other words, college is by no means an absolute necessity for success. Not to mention how expensive it is. So the question becomes: Is college worth the trouble?

There is clearly no sweeping answer but it seems important to entertain the question, because going to college is no simple decision. Unfortunately, most people are not Zuckerberg or Gates and will never become billionaires — degree or not. College graduates do make more money than their counterparts, though. In 2016, the average salary for those ages 25 and older with only a high school diploma was $35,615, whereas those with bachelor’s degrees made $65,482 and those with advanced degrees made $92,525, according to the Census Bureau. So if one cares about making money, college is probably the move. But as cliche as it sounds, money may actually not entail happiness or a peaceful life. If people choose to go to college, get their degree or degrees and begin working, then they are likely to make more money than they otherwise would have. But the thing is that there really is no necessary connection between wealth and happiness. It is reasonable to say, though, that eliminating money struggles from your life would likely help reduce your stress levels. Studies show that those in poverty are twice as likely to experience depression than those who are in a good place financially. 

But college offers more than just a chance to make money — it offers a chance for experiences. Universities give their students an unparalleled opportunity to try out new things, like clubs, events and internships, that are unavailable outside of an institution of higher education. Additionally, college can help kids actually realize their passion — which is part of the argument for core requirements. But again, none of these things are necessary or entail happy life. 

No matter what, we do not discourage anyone from reaching for higher education. An educated society is presumably a successful society. Instead, we wish to encourage young people to search for what they are passionate about, regardless of if they are in college. Do not simply chase a college education or a certain career because it entails a higher paying salary — do not chase money, chase passion. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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