So many professionals we've met voice one common concern: "We wish we knew back then what we do now about school and loans before we began our professional journeys." And understandably so!
Earning an undergraduate or graduate degree is no easy feat and comes with its own set of financial and professional challenges including, but not limited to:
- Inability to pay for the education and therefore relying on student loans, and entering the real world drowning in debt (the average student loan borrower in the U.S. leaves school $35,000 in debt!).
- 1-6 years of invested time.
- Lack of preparation for the real world.
Earning a degree does not guarantee boosts in:
In fact, many professionals believe academic institutions can be viewed as businesses, less invested in truly giving each student the right real-world skills needed to pursue a career post-graduation and more concerned with using tuition to renovate school property (again, to make the institution more appealing for future students).
So, we're here to tell you that going to college isn't the best decision for everyone. With U.S. student loan debt equaling $1.4 trillion in 2019, we urge you to think carefully through this checklist if you're considering earning a college degree.
"Is This College Right For Me?" Checklist
__Does this specific university have the program that you want to study and will it prepare you for a job in that field? How? What are the exact tracks the school provides?
__Can you contact an academic counselor/adviser at the school and ask these questions in a face-to-face meeting? Ask for the meeting on the basis of, "I'm sincerely considering this university and want to learn more on how I can be successful. Would you be open to setting up a 30-minute meeting?"
__What will this education cost you, including tuition and all additional expenses?
__Is it out-of-state, nonprofit, for profit, in-state?
__The location and type of university you choose will matter. Can you get the same job prospects and educational advancements if you stayed in-state? What is your rationale behind wanting to go out of state anyways? If you seek independence, can you choose a university that is a 2 hours away from home, giving you that independence, but cuts tuition in ½ just be staying in state?
__Are there any other methods that can help you reach your professional goals? See following question below.
__Can you search for volunteering, shadowing, part-time, entry-level, or internship opportunities instead (before starting this educational program) that may open the same (if not, more) professional doors for you than this degree?
__Did you know that experience and technical skills can be more valuable? Employers want applicants that have experience and the right skills to do the job rather than just a high GPA.
__Can you attend a community college for the first 2 years to earn your basic credits (Gen Eds) and then transfer to a larger university? This will cut down your costs dramatically. Remember, prestige and brands of universities shouldn't be your primary goal, and there are always base credits every degree requires regardless of what career you choose.
__Can you attend school debt-free? Think grants, scholarships, award money. Are you fortunate enough to have family members that would pitch in for your educational expenses? Or, are you willing to attend school while working part-time? (It may take extra time to complete the degree.)
Smart Tips To Remember
- Meet with a financial counselor outside of your university sphere to discuss your options first. Many times, school financial aid officers are just coasting along and do not entirely inform students on what borrowing really entails (and are not very experienced in financial health long term). Plus, they may be biased and just cover the minimum facts.
- Talk to a career coach before you make your move to re-confirm your decisions.
- Research, research, research!
Reminder: Borrowing money for school is a decision that can stay with you for over 20 years. Student loans will also have to be repaid, even if you pass away. Sometimes, in the long run, they'll cost DOUBLE what your initial cost of attendance was. Loan forgiveness, repayment plans, and terms can all be hard topics to navigate and not everyone qualifies for loan forgiveness.
At Work It Daily, we want to save you time and money. We're here to help you navigate through professional decisions that can impact your career growth and success.
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