College & You
Here’s why you should consider attending college—and what you can do to prepare now for higher education.
You’re working hard to get through middle school and finish high school. It may be tough to imagine signing up for still more school after that. But here are reasons that college is worth it—and some tips on what you can do now to get there.
3 Reasons to Go
Knowledge is power. “College is an opportunity to develop your most powerful asset—your mind,” says Joshua Steckel, a college counselor at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, a school for students in grades 6 to 12 in Brooklyn, New York. “In college, you can try new ways of thinking. You’re given the opportunity to wrap your mind around ideas and subjects that are totally new to you.”
You’ll earn more money. For a lifetime of work, a high school graduate will earn, on average, $1.2 million, according to a 2010 report from the U.S. Census Bureau. But the average college graduate will earn $2.1 million—almost twice as much. Why? The knowledge you gain and the ways of thinking you learn in college make your mind stronger—and more valuable.
You’ll get a job more easily—and be happier. “Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education,” said President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Clearly, college graduates are ahead in the competition to find jobs. They are also happier than people who don’t go to college, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. That’s likely because college helps land jobs that allow you to exercise your judgment and use your mind.
What to Do
Get serious about yourself. Do as much as you can as well as you can—in and out of school. “Sports, work, and summer internships are important personally and also help a college understand you,” says Matt Rubinoff, executive director of the Center for Student Opportunity, a group that helps students get into college.
In school, take classes that challenge you. Take courses that excite you as well. “Find things that you are passionate about learning and passionate about doing,” Steckel says.
Find a mentor. “Find an adult who has experience and can be a champion for you,” Rubinoff says. Example of mentors are parents, teachers, and family friends. Your mentor can help you navigate the steps to qualifying for college: taking the SAT or ACT test, filling out application forms, and picking a school.
“Ask your mentor to visit a campus with you,” Steckel says. “Walk around, visit a class. Seeing kids like you at a college can be a powerful experience.”
Understand that college can be affordable. Colleges give students grants to help pay for school, and financial aid is available from many sources. In a recent year, $135 billion in financial aid was available to U.S. college students, according to the College Board.