While hot topics like student loan debt and virtual learning have dominated recent conversations about college, there's still tremendous value in higher education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary of a typical bachelor's degree holder is nearly double that of someone who only has a high school diploma. College-educated workers also have lower rates of unemployment.
Of course, the financial benefits of college are also intertwined with social experiences and opportunities for personal growth that can be harder to quantify. Talk to your child about these three ways he or she can balance return on investment with Return on Life at college.
1. Explore with purpose.
Expecting an 18-year-old to have clear career goals might be unrealistic. A school with a strong liberal arts tradition can be a good option for students who are looking to round out their general knowledge as they zero in on a major.
But while you want your child to be well rounded, you also want your child to transition from college to employment without a lengthy pit stop in your basement. If your child hasn't narrowed their focus by the start of their sophomore year, encourage them to explore other career-focused resources at their school, such as talking to guidance counselors or trusted professors.
2. One size doesn't fit all.
For many teenagers, "the college experience" means living at a school that's basically its own small town, or a school within a major city. That transition is not always as easy or as comfortable as teens expect, especially if they've grown up in the suburbs. Smaller schools closer to home might appeal to students who want to feel like they're part of a community, and who want to run home and use mom and dad's laundry machine. Students who are particularly unsure about a career path or looking to save money might also consider a year or two at a community college or explore ways to earn some basic credits online.
On the other hand, bigger schools in major metropolitan areas might be a better fit for adventurous students who want to live on their own and have a broader range of cultural experiences. Larger universities might also have better resources to connect students to internships and job opportunities at local businesses. Just remember that the bigger the move, the bigger the travel and living expenses, which could add diminished savings and credit card debt to student loan debt.
3. Life outside the library.
It’s important that you keep your student focused on the goal of earning a degree and finding a job, especially if you’re footing most of the bills for college.
But college is also an investment in your child’s personal growth. The social amenities and opportunities that a university provides should keep your child active and engaged when they’re not hitting the books. What kinds of student and community outreach organizations might your student be interested in? Is there a good intramural sports program? Is there convenient public transportation connecting campus to museums, theatres, cafes, and restaurants? What is campus Greek life like? Does the union help students find part-time work? Does the faculty have a good reputation for connecting with and mentoring passionate students? What’s the quality of student health care services? Are their counselors available if your child feels overwhelmed and needs to talk to someone?
Like any other major transition on your $Lifeline, paying for college tuition should help you and your family get the best life possible with the money you have. We’d be happy to talk to both you and your college-bound student about strengthening that connection between ROI and ROL over the next four years so that he or she can prepare for a successful career and a rewarding life.