Is a college education right for you — and right now? There are plenty of good economic arguments for why a college education is a good idea. In fact, according to the New York Times, a typical college graduate will earn over twice as much money over their lifetime than a typical high school graduate.
However, this doesn’t mean that everyone needs a college education, and it certainly doesn’t mean that everyone needs a college education right out of high school. College is a huge commitment, and an expensive one, and if you’re not ready, you might just be setting yourself up for failure.
If you’re unsure whether you’re ready to go to college, here are some good honest questions to ask yourself.
Are You Ready for College Academically?
One of the most difficult things college students need to learn is that college academics are way more difficult than high school academics. In addition to more reading and more difficult assignments, the most difficult part of the transition is the expectation that you’re going to work independently. There’s no more handholding in college; if you don’t come to class or turn in an assignment, you lose out, and no one’s going to hold your hand to help you make up the work. Moreover, incoming college students often are shocked by how much more work outside they’re expected to do in college than in high school.
This means you need to be ready to do two things. First, you need to be prepared with the necessary academic skills to go to college. This includes reading, writing, listening, and math skills. If you’re still in high school, talk to your guidance counselor to get an honest assessment of whether your skills are up to par. If they’re not, find out what high school classes you need to take to improve. If you’re out of high school, you might consider getting yourself a tutor. Of course, if your skills aren’t strong enough for a four-year college, consider starting out at a community college and taking remedial classes.
Second, you need to be prepared to make the academic time commitment needed to be a successful college student. To succeed, the hours you spend in class combined with the hours you spend doing homework should equal the hours you would spend at a full time job. Are you ready for this?
Are You Mature Enough to Go to College?
College comes with quite a bit of adult responsibility. Are you ready to deal with some of the typical stressors that college students face, such as:
- working independently in your classes without much help from professors?
- succeeding in college without much help from your parents?
- balancing a heavy course load with a social life and possibly a busy work schedule?
- dealing with the financial burdens that come with college?
- dealing responsibly with the temptations that come with college life, like alcohol and sex?
- dealing with lots of new people, like roommates, professors, and others?
If these sound challenging, you’re not alone. Many incoming college students are overwhelmed with these things. But if this sounds like too much for you to handle, it’s possible that you’re not ready.
Are You Ready for College Financially?
This is a difficult question, and you might need some good advice to find out if you are indeed prepared for college financially. Talk to your high school guidance counselor or a college financial aid advisor about your specific situation.
The first thing you’re going to need to figure out is how much college is going to cost. You’ll need to figure in all expenses, including living expenses, commuting costs, books, travel expenses, and fees.
The second thing you’re going to need to figure out is how you’re going to pay for everything. Again, talk to a guidance counselor or financial aid representative to find out about financial aid and scholarships.
So what if the numbers don’t add up? This might mean that starting at a community college, or a school that wasn’t your top pick, is the best option. Or, in some cases, it might be a good idea to go to school part time and work. However, find out what all of your financial aid options are, because you may very well have access to more money than you realize.
So are you ready for college? This isn’t an easy question, but it’s an important one. Think careful about whether you are prepared academically and financially, and whether you have the maturity to handle college. Sometimes, not going to college right away is the best option.