Should I Even Go to College?

Seth Marsh, CUED-IN Seth Marsh, CUED-IN Mar 24, 2016

According to Bloomberg Business, college costs have skyrocketed by a 500% increase since 1985. In turn, student loan debt in the U.S. continues to increase by about $2700 every second (yes, you read that right, every second). We’re somewhere in the $1,345,000,000,000 bracket at this point (but let’s be honest – when there are that many zeroes involved in a number, it’s probably better to just stop counting).

With the increase in college costs and the related increase in student loan debt, there is also an increase of the question in soon-to-be-college-students minds: should I even go to college?


Good question.


Gone are the days when bright-eyed college grads get to start off their career blissfully watching as money pours into their bank account. When you’re already in the financial pit, it takes a while to crawl out.


(Cartoon by Jeff Parker)

It’s no surprise that students may want to avoid starting out their career with this kind of disabling financial burden.

So, in order to answer the question of whether or not you should even go to college, I’m going to ask another question (the classic answer a question with a question bit): What do you want to do with your life?

Here are some potential answers to that question:

  • “I want to become a doctor.” OK. You should (as in, must) go to college. And you better enjoy it because you’ll be in school for a while.
  • “I want to be a car mechanic.” You may not need to go to college. A technical school or a good internship could be a much more cost-effective way to achieve this goal. Same goes for any mechanical or trade career (electrician, plumber, contractor, etc.)
  • “I want to be an engineer.” Yep. Go to college.
  • “I want to be a dancer/actor/singer.” While there are many excellent college programs that could help you on this path, getting an apprenticeship with a prestigious company instead of getting a degree is also a way to achieve this goal.  

I’m sure you get the picture. If you’re on the fence about the necessity of schooling for your hopes and dreams, feel free to drop us a line in the Share with us tab and we can help you figure it out!

Now, are there advantages to going to college that are totally separate from the degree that you earn? Yes. Absolutely. According to a recent study, college grads earn, on average, 84% more than high school grads. Plus, the life lessons, friends, and diverse experiences that come with college can’t really be quantified. But on the other hand, six figures of debt can be quantified (and quite painfully). So, a thoughtful consideration of your financial future should be a major part of your college decision if you don’t need to go to college to achieve your life goals.

Here’s another potential answer to the question: “Umm…. I have no idea what I want to do with my life.”

No problem! Trust me, you’re not the only one who didn’t know that you wanted to be a Pulmonary Surgeon since the age of 5. I have two suggestions for those of you who are in the *I have no clue* camp:

  • First, consider taking a gap year (more to follow on this in a future blog post). Explore the world. Explore different job fields. Get an internship in a field you may be considering. In general, just take a breath, smell the roses, and give yourself time to figure out the next step.
  • Second, consider a year or two at your local community college. This is a great strategy that helps you save money, take classes in various fields to help you narrow down what you like, and commute from home (hello no room and board fees!!), all in a flexible schedule that allows you to work while taking classes. Then, once you’ve honed in on what you want to do, you can either transfer into a four year school or choose a different path (associate’s degree, vocational school, full-time job, etc.).

Needless to say, only you can answer the question of whether or not you should go to college. But my hope is that I’ve at least helped you think through your options a little more. And, if you decide that college is the right choice for you, there are ways to avoid massive amounts of debt. Really. Keep checking in with us and we’ll give you some financially-savvy advice to help you start off your post-college life on good financial footing.