Why is a college education important?

By Sydnee Conroy

I’ve always dreamed of where I’d attend college. As a little girl I imagined what it would be like to spread my wings and leave the nest. Would my future home be small or large? Would I be far away from my family or close by? What college would be like was a thought that consistently flowed through my mind as the years passed.

Something I didn’t think about though was why I was planning to get an education. My parents drilled the idea of going to college into my brain at a young age, so I had always just known it was something I’d do. I’d never considered an alternative. Because of this, I was muddled the other evening while reading a scholarship’s essay question that asked why receiving an education is important. “I don’t know… it just is,” I thought to myself. I knew it made you smarter, but besides that I didn’t have a very convincing answer. At least not at the time.

I began thinking about my peers who had gone to college and what they’ve learned and received thus far. It occurred to me that most of them have gotten both “book smart” and “street smart.” They’ve grown up a lot. It was then that I realized college is much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Sure, the main reason you go is to get your diploma. And yes, your diploma represents your classroom success over the years. But going to college is also an experience. You learn what it’s like to be living on your own. You’re forced to become more independent. With that you become self-motivated. You start waking up and going to class even though your parents aren’t there to make you. You begin studying for a big test all night even though there’s a big party down the street. You work hard to pay for college, learning how to manage money in the process. And when it’s all said and done, you’ve become self-sufficient. However, this only happens when you work through the struggles each day brings. Although college is a large challenge, it’s worth it. You walk away with so much knowledge in so little time.

Some may disagree with me. In fact, today it seems like more and more high school students are heading right into the work field or dropping out of college. Often times they believe receiving an education is a waste of time and money. They may say it’s expensive and that college graduates aren’t always placed into a career right away. “Why not start working to begin making money now?” some may wonder. After all, there have been cases where high school graduates have gotten lucky and been successful without going to college. Maybe they took on the family business, or maybe they started in a low position and worked their way up in a corporation. Either way, they’re doing well.

Despite these claims, I would argue that college is not a waste of time or money. An education is irreplaceable. Imagine yourself peering silently through a glass door. The door is the only barrier between you and a large room full of clothing. There are lab coats, business suits, and uniforms galore. Each piece of clothing represents an opportunity you’d love to seize. Once inside you can choose your garment and ultimately your career path. You can’t contain your excitement any longer and you attempt to push through the door… but it won’t budge. It’s locked. Success is so close you can almost taste it, but it’s out of reach. You frantically scan the area until your eyes catch something shiny. A key! The key is education. You wrestle with it until the door unlocks, and the moment you step inside the opportunities are endless. You can become whatever you want!

This is what an education is like; and this is why an education matters. Nothing can replace it. Yes, there have been cases where people have gotten lucky and had no struggles living off their high school diploma; however, the cases are rare. Going to college is much more reliable. And yes, college can be expensive, but remember . . .  you get what you pay for. Quality almost always comes with the quantity of dollar bills. This is unfortunately true for many things, however, you can make your dollar count by investing in something that will pay you back your whole life. An education improves you in many aspects. It makes you smarter, provides experience, and allows you to take on the world.

After realizing all of this I took a deep breath and felt rest assured. I now know that when I leave my home, I’ll be making the right decision. I won’t have to worry about my future. I have the power to choose what it looks like; and it’s the greatest gift I could ever receive.

Photo credit: Commencement Ceremony 2012 by Illinois Springfield on Flickr