College: Is it worth it?

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College. Undoubtedly the best four-years (or five) of our lives. Keep a high GPA. Stay out of trouble. Impress when you can. A goal that some us may seem to have worked for our entire short lives.

However, with the recent economic downturn and increasing difficulty to find jobs as college graduates, more and more students are questioning is it worth it?

Students all across the nation are having to face increasing tuition and fees. Approximately 71% of students graduating with a four-year degree will acquire student loan debt and the average debt per student is $29,400. Fortunately, the average student loan debt at Georgia Southern is almost $8,000 below the national average at $21,562. Still, is it worth investing such a large amount without the guarantee of obtaining a job post college?

The issue remains that most of us hold on to a false promise that attending college will automatically make us successful. Wrong. While a high GPA may count towards your success in the world of academia, most employers could care less about what you scored on those algebra exams. It also doesn’t necessarily matter where we go to college but how we do college. With post-secondary education, a vast amount of opportunities are provided, regardless of how well known your college is. A resume with a 3.87 GPA from Emory University will not stand out as much as a resume that has consistent student involvement and outside work experience.

Most employers will also require past references that could make or break your candidacy. A recent study found that a positive college experience depends on three main components:

  • Having at least one professor who makes you exited about learning
  • Finding professors who care about you as a person
  • Developing a relationship with a mentor who encourages your personal and career goals

Graduates who marked that they “strongly agree” to having all three experiences while in school, doubled their chances of being engaged in their work and obtaining a job. It is not enough to just go to class, complete the assignments, and pass. Because more people are attending college than ever, the job market is becoming increasingly competitive. It is crucial that we find ways to stand out and contribute to future employers.

Becoming involved on campus is also another great way to gain practical experience that you can apply to future opportunities. Develop a relationship with a professor whose classes you thoroughly enjoy. A professor who challenges you and is willing to help you towards your future goals. Find not just one mentor, but several. Mentors not only can advise you in major decisions, but most also have connections that can come in handy, or even help you to develop other important relationships on campus. Take long-term class projects seriously and use breaks to work meaningful internships. The Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement can be a great place to start and get plugged into the community.

After opening our acceptance letters for the first time, we often think that finally, the work is over. We measure ourselves by the degrees on our walls and the collegiate memorabilia in our dorms. We have frivolous hopes of large salaries and nice cars that eventually turn into an unrealistic status quo. In actuality, the work as just begun. Ask not what your college can do for you, but what you can do for your college.

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