As much as 30% of students go to college only because they believe it’s what they’re supposed to do after high school. And now you might be torn between doing what’s expected of you and following what your heart is telling you.
One of the biggest perks of not going to college is avoiding the steep cost of getting a degree, which helps prevent debt. It also promotes gaining life experience, practical skills and the drive to get a job or start a business. Skipping college in the meantime is also good if one is undecided.
Got other important things in mind than earning a college degree? Keep reading.
Below, you will come across not one, not two but ten benefits of not going to college — yes, that’s how many perks that come with not attending on-campus classes for the next four to six years of your life.
By the time you get to the end of this article, you will realize that not creating a college list might be the best decision ever.
Avoid Student Debt
For many students in the US, student debt is the only option to pay for a degree due to the rapidly rising tuition and other college-related costs.
It’s no wonder why, as of this writing, 65% of students in the country graduate from college with student debt, with each borrower owing an average of $38,792.
According to startling data from Education Data Initiative, the average college student borrower takes around 20 years to pay off his or her student debt.
The website adds that, meanwhile, some graduate students take over 45 long years to repay theirs.
So, in other words, a fraction of your monthly salary for the next two to five decades of your working adult life could end up being used for paying off the money you owe the federal government or a private source.
Thanks to student debt, your pocket will still feel the impact of earning a college degree long after you have gotten your hands on it.
It doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you have to be up to your neck in debt after graduating from college. That’s because there are many things you can do to keep student debt to a minimum, such as:
- Attending a public college or university in your state.
- Taking general education classes at a community college or while still in high school.
- Applying for as much financial aid as you possibly can.
- Working on campus or taking on a part-time job.
- Consulting with the college about the available repayment plan options.
As of this writing, the average cost of attending college in the US per student per year is $35,720. Just 20 years ago, the said amount was three times lower.
The average savings of single people without kids and under 35 years of age is $4,003.39.
Having that amount in your bank account would be extremely grueling, if not entirely impossible, if you were attending college — that amount, which is 11% of what you would need to shell out every year just to work on a degree, would likely end up in the treasury of the college or university.
Spending the next four years of your life in college would cost around $142,880 — more if it would take you six years to complete your bachelor’s degree, which is true for many college students.
The estimated entire cost of one college degree these days is roughly equivalent to three medium SUVs, a private jet rental for an entire weekend, a modest house in West Virginia, or a large drive-through coffee shop.
A four-year college sticker price is also equivalent to a hefty addition to one’s emergency or retirement fund.
Most of the time, tuition is usually the most expensive part of college costs. It’s a good thing that many colleges and universities offer free tuition to admits, provided that they meet requirements.
Some of them include residing in a certain state, coming from a low-income background or willing to provide on-campus service.
Start Making Money Earlier
To earn more money — chances are that this is the top reason on many online lists of why students go to college. But why wait four to six years before you get your first paycheck when you can start making money now?
The average annual salary of people with a high school diploma is $38,792. Above, we mentioned that the estimated cost of being in college for four years is $142,880.
Doing the math, you would be making more than that amount in four years if you applied for a job after high school instead of attending college.
Nowadays, there are what’s called new-collar jobs. Simply put, they are mostly technical jobs that call for a specialized skill set instead of a bachelor’s degree.
Here are some examples of high-paying new-collar jobs and each one’s average salary per year:
|JOB TITLE||AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY|
|Computer Security Analyst||$99,730|
|Service Delivery Analyst||$56,433|
|Computer Support Specialist||$54,760|
It’s not unlikely for recruiters and hiring managers to prefer applicants with a college degree over applicants with a high school diploma — based on a survey, 100% of them agree that applicants who finished college have more skills.
Gain Valuable Experience
In college, it’s not just academic lessons that students learn. There are also many different life lessons those who are working on a degree can acquire, such as the importance of:
- Taking responsibilities
- Building relationships
- Managing time
- Having discipline
- Being committed
Clearly, there are many things one can learn in college besides those that the textbooks and professors say.
However, it’s also apparent that one can learn them, too, without having to step foot on a campus, and it’s by living the life of a high school graduate who decided to skip going to college. After all, as they say, experience is the best teacher.
What’s so nice about the life experiences available for high school graduates to gain is that you could obtain them without using a college degree as some sort of a pass to get through life so much easier.
Besides, college is stressful, which can be more traumatic instead of rewarding for some.
For instance, according to a study by the American College Health Association (ACHA), 48% of college students have moderate to severe psychological stress.
Meanwhile, 53% of them are feeling lonely, with one in four having considered suicide. Needless to say, college is not only expensive but also stressful.
In college, all the life experiences you can gain will be backed up by a transcript and diploma, which you can use to gain even more valuable lessons as a part of the workforce.
Develop Useful Skills
There are many skills that college can teach you. It all depends on the program you are completing or the discipline you are majoring in.
For instance, Computer Science will teach you stuff like programming, critical thinking and attention to detail. Meanwhile, you can learn good math, evidence-based problem solving, and supply and demand in Economics.
However, there are also skills that secondary education can’t teach you.
Well, you can acquire them in college, too, but not necessarily from the textbooks you will read or professors you will listen to. And in that sense, some of the skills you can learn in college can also be learned outside college — minus spending around $35,720 every year.
Traveling, pursuing an interest, raising a family, volunteering, getting a job, running a business — these and more that you can do outside of college can help you learn useful skills such as:
- Handling money
- Talking to people
- Having flexibility
- Being Resourceful
- Setting goals
- Dealing with stress
- Doing taxes
- Having self-confidence
Various skills you can learn from doing other things than going to college after finishing high school can help you achieve success without being a degree holder.
What’s really nice about college is that it teaches you not only various academic but also an assortment of life skills, the combination of which can make your job market value and profitability soar.
Become Driven and Boost Confidence
Nothing can boost your confidence in making money in the future than knowing you are going to earn a degree after spending the next four to six years of your life in college.
For many graduating high schoolers, a degree is their ticket to success and wealth.
Because of this exactly, skipping college can give you the drive and determination to prove everyone wrong — that being a college graduate is not the only thing necessary to make one’s dreams come true.
After all, there are many rich and successful individuals who didn’t go to college or dropped out of it.
And it can be more rewarding and validating because you know that whatever success you will reap is because of your hard work and perseverance, and not because of any college degree.
However, you might need to have more passion and persistence than a degree holder to be successful.
Based on an online study of more than 11,000 individuals in the US that Entrepreneur published in 2017, only roughly 6% of those without college education become highly successful.
And by the way, the same study says that college graduates tend to live longer, which means that having a degree could let you enjoy the fruits of your success for many, many years to come.
Avoid Wasting Time
In the US, up to 40% of undergraduate students drop out of college — as much as 30% of all dropout rate comes from first-year students before their sophomore year of college.
What’s more, around 80% of college students change their major at least once before graduation.
Based on the figures above, it’s safe to assume that a lot of college-level students do not know what they are doing or what they want to do with their lives.
So, in other words, many are wasting their time going to college only to not finish what they started or allow some courses to go to waste just because they have no clear career path in mind.
Needless to say, if you are a glass-is-half-empty type of person, the feeling of uncertainty and fear may follow you around throughout college, thus potentially keeping you from getting grades high enough for a stellar transcript.
Due to this, you can avoid the risk of wasting precious time by skipping college altogether.
Just because you are uncertain of what degree to take in college or major to commit to doesn’t mean that you should turn your back on college. Taking a gap year can give you a much better idea of what you want to do with your life, thus allowing you to make smarter college-related decisions and avoid wasting time.
Avoid Unemployment Frustration
It’s true that a college degree can open doors to an assortment of opportunities.
However, it doesn’t mean that going to college guarantees impressed employers and satisfying careers. As a matter of fact, a 2021 online article says that only 50.2% of the class of 2020 have full-time jobs.
Below are a couple of things, to take into account if you are still on the fence as to whether or not you should go to college after high school as far as getting employed goes:
- Between 2008 and 2017, about 75% of new jobs that were added to the US economy required at least having a college degree, which means that it’s not entirely hopeless for those wielding high school diplomas only since one-fourth of all new jobs within the given time period were available for them.
- Almost two-thirds of the US workforce consists of employed individuals who do not have college degrees, which means that the highest educational attainment of the majority of employed individuals in the country is high school — some of them might even have failed to finish high school or have a GED certificate.
The bottom line is that being a degree holder doesn’t mean you will get a job, and choosing to not go to college doesn’t mean you will not get a job.
Despite everything that’s said above, the fact remains that, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data, in March 2020, the employment rate for people aged 25 to 35 with a college degree is 86%.
Learn More About Yourself
Just because you are not like your high school classmates who are busy with college list building doesn’t mean right away that you no longer dream of having a college degree one day.
Sometimes, it’s just that you feel you are not ready to take on the challenges of secondary education.
It’s a good thing that skipping college in the meantime is not a crime. As a matter of fact, for the academic year 2020 to 2021, around 20% of students took a gap year. The figure was much smaller a couple of years before: just 3%. Based on these figures, it’s plain to see that taking a gap year is something that is getting more and more appreciated.
Fret not if attending college doesn’t seem right as of the time being. That’s because it’s perfectly fine to take a gap year, which you can spend doing one or more of the following:
- Pursue a passion
- Develop a new life skill
- Learn a foreign language
- Hone a talent
- Try having a small business
- Get a job
By spending some time doing activities that can let you learn more about yourself as well as what you want to happen in your life, a gap year can help get you mentally ready for college.
While it’s true that there are perks that come with a gap year, there are also a few downsides to it. For instance, it may completely get rid of any desire to go to college. A gap year can be expensive, too. And if you fail to spend it in a productive and rewarding manner, it could easily be a waste of time.
Many successful individuals have college degrees. But then again, there are well-off founders, CEO’s, entrepreneurs and celebrities that did not go to college. So, in other words, while there are benefits that come with attending college, skipping earning a college degree isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Above, we talked about ten of the perks that come with not going to college. But a few advantages of getting a college degree were also mentioned along the way.
So, should you go to college or do something else after getting your high school diploma? It’s completely up to you to weigh the pros and cons of either earning a college degree or doing something else with your life in order to be able to come up with a decision that perfectly goes well with your current situation and future prospects.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.