The value of education, especially in this day and age, has increased significantly from the days of our parents and grandparents. A high school degree 50 or 60 years ago holds similar weight as today’s college degree. In 2016 alone, 20.2 million students were expected to attend American universities in the fall.
But what is so valuable about continuing your education? There are self-made people in the world who have succeeded with less education and there are college-educated students who feel they aren’t able to utilize their university education and experience to its fullest potential in the job market.
It’s important to recognize that going to college will not instantly make you more successful than others. Other contributing factors, such as work ethic, certainly create visible differences between a successful and unsuccessful individuals. Yet, it’s also vital that we define what “success” means and where you can find it.
Characteristics of successful people include wealth (by their own efforts), skill and intelligence. But beyond these attributes – that are only images – what does personal success look like?
Education not only facilitates work success, but also personal success. Individuals who have achieved a sense of personal success find out who they are as individuals, what they’re passionate about, how to both navigate their surroundings and how to integrate into a community. They are people who have continued their education throughout their lives.
Research has shown that higher education correlates with increased cognitive and verbal ability and memory. Associated with these abilities are several social benefits that fit into the schematic for personal success: independence, integration and general well-being.
And apart from courses, college provides you with resources and outlets to explore who you are and in which areas you have interests. Clubs, activism and the communities within them foster interaction between individuals with common interests, which creates a learning situation in itself. It may not be the type of scholarly education that college primarily supplies, but it is an education nonetheless.
Of course, college does provide success outside of personal discovery. A general rule backed up by research is that the higher the degree, the higher the median wage. Typically, those who do not seek higher education are paid less and are more at risk for unemployment than people who receive a college education. Additionally, higher education can equip you with more skills – such as fluency in a second language – that can open up a field of career opportunities.
However, just because you want to keep learning doesn’t mean you have to attend college. If you want to learn a language, download free language apps like Duolingo and allocate an hour each night to study. If you want to publish a novel, take creative writing classes at night. If you can’t afford university right now, commit to a few classes at your local junior college.
As long as you are constantly searching to better yourself, you will open opportunities for growth that would not be available to you otherwise. A continued education is worth – and translates to – so much more than an increased salary or job security. The world is a huge place, filled with information ready to be discovered by its inhabitants. Encountering this information can nurture thoughtfulness, sensitivity and tolerance in individuals. These are inarguably valuable attributes which will unfortunately be lacking in those who don’t continue their education in some form outside of high school.
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