Our lives from age 6 to 18 are focused around preparing for college. We went from understanding the alphabet to learning how to use greater than and less than signs to comprehending the characters incorporated in math and more. Every year, some students grow closer to what seems like the goal of a lifetime: going to college. Most students that I know feel pressured to go to college by their parents. My parents personally tell me that I don’t have to go to college, but I need to have a plan. Some parents don’t enforce college at all, which leads me to wonder: how important is college?
The NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) says, “The number of students projected to attend American colleges and universities in fall 2018 is 19.9 million, which is higher than the enrollment of 15.3 million students in fall 2000, but lower than the enrollment peak of 21.0 million in fall 2010 (source)
. Total enrollment is expected to increase between fall 2018 and fall 2027 to 20.5 million.” To sum it up, college enrollments are dropping by the year. Younger generations understand that their dreams don’t always require a college education. Students are also worried about college debt, and some worry about college not being the right fit for them. College isn’t meant for everyone. Lizzi Delaney, a college counselor at the Barstow School, defends that statement by saying, “It really depends on the student.” When asking her about how Barstow feels about the importance of college, she told me Barstow “focuses on a best fit rather than college. Whether that’s a community college or the military, it just depends on where you fit best. It’s all about the individual students wants and needs.”
After asking people of all ages in high school about college, I found similar opinions on the topic. Quinn Stoy ‘22 believes, “Some people just aren’t meant to go to college and that’s okay. College shouldn’t be forced on a person. It depends on the person.” Mia Sabapathy ‘21 says college is “vital to my future because it creates a base and allows me to work from there. I get the tools in need in college that I will continue to use for the rest of my life whether I work or not.” Sam Dockhorn ‘20 would agree and adds that, “It is very important. Not saying you have to go right after high school, but you need to go at some point so you can learn more about real life and also get a good job to support yourself and/or your family.” Sammi Matula ‘19 agrees that college is, “Substantially important, it’s more challenging to be successful without a college degree.”
High school students stress a lot about college because, according to current social norms, it’s what probably comes next in life for them. I asked college students Kendall Prophete and Anthony Madison what they believed about college after a few months in their freshman years. Kendall, freshman at Clark Atlanta University, and Anthony, freshman at Southeast Missouri State, both major in business. Anthony says, “It’s important [to attend college] but there are plenty of reasons why, to an extent, college is unnecessary for me. In the entrepreneurial field, most people that graduate with a degree are broke at some portion of their life with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt from college.”
Kendall, however, points out that while many successful people in the field think college is unnecessary, the college experience is more than just an education. “While I do agree, it’s important for the social aspect of your life and helping improve yourself as a human being. Depending on what field you want to enter, there’s a varying level of importance to college,” says Kendall. Eli Pearce, sophomore at University of Missouri, kindly answered my question by stating that college “is important because it opens up possibilities for the rest of your life. In a world reliant on education and knowledge, pursuing a college degree can give you unique opportunities in your field of choice. Not only is college important for the information, but the experiences and connections make a lifelong difference.”
College is extremely important depending on what you want to do, but I fully understand all sides of the argument. College does seem like a financial burden, but its positive aspects outweigh the negative. As Eli said, the social experiences and independence you gain from college are important lessons that you’ll use for the rest of your life. Little things such as being able to wake up on time for class and asking questions when I don’t understand things will help prepare for college. Obviously, college has its educational benefits and often provides degrees which help earn jobs and extend resumes to be more attractive to businesses.
So how important is college to your future? That depends on who you are. College can be terrible for some people, and if you can benefit without it, that’s great. Being educated, financially stable, and socially aware are three things you need to have going into adulthood, and these are three things that college teaches you.