From the age of 5 (at least!) all the way up to 18 years old, most kids spend the majority of their life in educational institutions. So, it only seems natural to go to college after you complete high school. And lots of students take this seemingly logical step without much consideration.
But unfortunately, going to college may or may not be the best option for everyone.
That’s why it’s important to figure out if you should wait a year or two, or whether you should hop right in. Here are the pros and cons of both situations.
Do Degrees Equal Jobs?
There are many well-meaning advisors who encourage students to get a degree because they believe it will guarantee a better job.
This may or may not be the case. With more and more college graduates, there are fewer job opportunities within certain fields. So, it’s important to realize this before going to college, because a small 27% of graduates end up with a career related to their college degree.
Are You Uncertain?
Sometimes, it’s hard to know what you want to do with your life when you’re only 17 or 18. It can be a daunting and frustrating expectation.
And if they feel pressured, “many teens jump on the first career track that someone recommends just to avoid being directionless, only to find themselves miserable a few years later,” according to Psychologist, Tamar Chansky.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with following advice or trying something new.
But it can be a costly decision, and college can end up being an expensive place where you figure it out. So if you can figure it out before you enroll, you can save yourself a lot of student debt.
What Your Tuition Really Covers
Many people would discourage high schoolers from starting college so young because of the financial burden.
Of course, not all students squander their college years, but for incoming freshmen and sophomores, college is an experience that involves so much more than academics.
There’s a new social life, budding friendships, parties, clubs, sporting events, committees, etc. All in addition to a brand new degree program!
For some, it can just be too much to process responsibly. That’s why it’s useful to take some time to learn financial responsibility before attending college.
When you work and pay bills, you get a better understanding of money and its value. It also gives you a better concept of how much money your tuition will actually cost.
Finally, high school graduates may simply not be emotionally and psychologically prepared for the college life experience. It can be stressful, overwhelming and challenging.
Without support or preparedness, students can find themselves in over their heads.
The Benefits of Taking a Gap Year
If any of those factors resonate with you, perhaps consider taking a gap year between high school and college.
It’s essentially a break in your education, but not a time to slack! Instead, it’s an opportunity to travel, work, get an internship, and just explore other options.
As a life-long student, you’ve probably spent most of your time absorbing information and repeating it back to your teachers.
Now, you can take an opportunity to understand what it is you want to know and learn. All of the experience you gain from a gap year can help prepare you for a more productive and intentional college experience.
In fact, Robert Clagett, a senior admissions officer at Harvard, noticed that students who took a gap year had higher GPA scores in college.
Why It’s Worth Going to College Right Away
Everyone’s path is different though, and for some students, the best route is to begin college straightaway. Here are some of the reasons why that might be.
Keep Your Momentum
Are you a motivated student?
Have you researched your career field and the job opportunities that await you?
If that’s the case, then dive right it. It might be tempting to put college off for a year or two, so that you can enjoy working, earning money and a little freedom.
However, you might find yourself in a rut after a few years, and not able to enjoy the lifestyle you want. Dedicating time to earn a degree can be well worth it if you have clear intentions and plans.
More Time to Pay Off Student Loans
Yes, college is expensive, however, if you earn your degree at a younger age, you have more time to pay it off.
Plus, as a young graduate, you bring a competitive edge to your field and have a better chance at landing a job – one that could help you pay back your student loan.
Plus, you probably don’t have a family, a mortgage payment or other costly expenses at this point, so taking on this financial responsibility is more do-able.
Take Your Personal Growth Up a Notch
As a college student, you are exposed to many different ideas, concepts, and philosophies. All while juggling lots of assignments and projects.
This intense immersion is a great way to hone in your multitasking and management skills. When you successfully complete one semester after another, you grow in confidence, maturity, and capability.
All of these skills and traits are invaluable, and something you can utilize in any walk of life.
Many people discourage students from entering college right away because it deprives them of traveling opportunities. And many students do use their gap year to travel and experience other cultures.
But you can do that during college, too.
Some universities are like an international mecca – they’re incredibly diverse. And if you want to branch out even more, most colleges offer an opportunity to study abroad for a semester or even for a full academic year.
By combining travel into your academic pursuits, you can truly enrich your college education.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both choices. What matters more than anything else, is that you make the decision that’s perfect for your life situation.
Don’t be afraid to continue your education now, or in a little while. Just be smart about it!