Is College Worth the Effort?

On my last blog, I vented quite a bit about the competitiveness of college admissions for the University of California system. This week, I would like to take the subject of college in a bit of a different direction. The question, “Is a college education really worth the time, money and effort?”

All of my life I have been told that I need to study hard to get into a good college so that I can have a career that I can support myself with. It has been hammered into my head so long and I never questioned it. Year after year I toil, AP and Honors classes since I was a freshman. I even got a head start on Spanish and math in middle school, taking high school geometry and Spanish I. Now I am taking college classes in high school to get ahead in college.

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Photo @ 2010 by Sean MacEntee [CC by 2.0]

Now I ask the question-is all this work and the debt I will incur in college really worth it? It’s kind of like pondering the meaning of life for a high school student. Instead of asking, “What is the meaning of life?” it is, “What is the meaning of education?”

My curiosity led me on an internet search. This search led me to a study called the Hamilton Project conducted by the Brookings Institute. The study found that someone with a four year degree will earn more than twice as much as someone who just earned a high school diploma. In addition, for almost all study programs, someone with a bachelor’s degree earns more than someone with an associate’s degree. There is a caveat, though. Depending on your major, your earnings can vary considerably. For example, a social worker makes about half of what a chemical engineer makes.

Although this information was very convincing to me, I wanted to delve deeper. I Googled the question, “Are people with college degrees happier or healthier?” What I found was equally compelling as the study on income disparity. What I found was a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics. It found that 31% of people with a high school diploma or less smoked, compared to only 9% of those with a bachelor’s degree. Something I found particularly surprising was that in households where the parents hold a bachelor’s degree, there are a lower percentage of obese children.

In addition to internet research, I decided it might be a good idea to ask an individual with a degree how they feel a bachelor’s degree benefited him or her. My grandpa gave me some very good insight. He said, “Earning a degree makes you more confident. It helps you with not only skills for employment, but it increases your ability to navigate through life. You will be able to communicate better. You will look at many situations in life differently. These things will lead to having a clearer outlook, a happier state of mind, and less stress”.

This research led me to only one conclusion: A college education is well worth the time, money, and effort. It has also taught me something very important and that is that I need to choose my major wisely.

– Bryan Clements

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