Is College Worth It?

This is the big question today.  The news media is painting a picture that is beginning to scare students and their families as they look at the cost of a college education.  We see news reports highlighting the number of college students who are unemployed, and I’ve seen it personally in my position as a Career Counselor.  But is it really as bad as the media wants us to believe?

I don’t think so.  But the key to personal success after college is YOU.  Earning a college degree does not ensure that you will get the job of your dreams after graduation, in fact, simply doing enough to get by in college may not open the doors you seek.  You get out of it what you put into it – and it takes more than that.

Let’s start with what you accomplish in school.  GPA is important.  A 2.0 GPA means you earned a C average.  Let’s focus on the word “average”.  What employer wishes to hire someone who has “done enough to get by”?  Look at the people you admire, whether they be businesspeople, celebrities or athletes.  Are they “average”, or have they found a way to distinguish themselves within their industry?  That’s what it takes at all levels.  Learning in class, engaging with the university environment will allow you to get the most out of your tuition dollars, but no one can do that for you but yourself. 

 The next important step is to PROVE that you can apply the skills you’ve learned.  Find a way to get practical experience through an internship, organization, volunteer work or a part-time job.  Employers want to know that you can perform in the workplace.  During interviews they want to hear specific examples that outline your skills and successes.  This is a critical step in your strategy to make the most of your investment in yourself.

Finally, many students I have counseled have struggled to find jobs in their field, not because the jobs weren’t available, but because the jobs weren’t available geographically where they wanted them to be located.  In a perfect world we would all get to decide exactly where we will live and work, but in reality, that rarely happens.  Even large urban areas with many job openings are a challenge, because so many people are living there and looking for employment.  Flexibility is the key.  You may want to live in your hometown, and perhaps you can move back there after your career is established, but moving home, living in the basement and waiting for a position to open us is not the best strategy.  The longer you stay out of the workplace the harder it is to get that first position.  This may mean you skip spring break and work to save money so you can afford to relocate, but wouldn’t you rather sacrifice now to have the future you seek?

About Roberta Kingery

Bobbi  is a Career Counselor at Eastern Illinois University, and has been on staff since 1996, after spending two years as a graduate assistant in the Career Services office.  On campus she also co-teaches a University Foundations course for incoming freshman, and previously taught a graduate level Career Counseling course.

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