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Going to College Right After High School Can Be to Your Advantage

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 4/23/2011

For those that are contemplating becoming a non-traditional student, learn the advantages of going to college right after high school. Are there pitfalls experienced when one pushes off school for a later time?

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    Good Reasons for Going to College – Now or Later

    A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsburgh University Commencement by Kit/Wikimedia Commons (CC) The numbers(1) bear out that a high school graduate can expect to earn an average $1.2 million over the course of his working life. When this worker holds an associate degree, he is likely to increase his earnings to $1.6 million. For a bachelor's degree holder, this amount goes up to $2.1 million. A master’s degree holder may expect(2) to make about $2.5 million over the course of his working life, while a doctorate degree increases earnings to $3.4 million. Finally, a professional degree may offer the opportunity of earning $4.4 million.

    It stands to reason that furthering his career right after high school makes fiscal sense, since it sets the worker on the path to increased earnings early on. So what are the advantages – if you factor out the increase in earnings potential?

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    What are the Benefits of Going to College … Later?

    The advantages of going to college after taking a year or more off are obvious: high school graduates are young, eager to explore the world and perhaps have some money squirreled away from graduation gifts that may now become a travel fund. Spending a year abroad or even just traveling around the United States provides the graduate with insight, life and work experiences and an overall maturing that could not be garnered by merely hitting the books at a college.

    Understanding the value of going to college, these recent high school graduates may follow up on their ideas for college majors by trying out temporary jobs and seeing if they are truly as certain about a lifetime career as they were in 12th grade. This has the potential of cutting down on requests to change majors once enrolled in college. Unfortunately, going to college as a non-traditional student does have serious drawbacks.

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    Benefits of Going to College without the Gap Year Break

    There is a chance that a gap year becomes a lot longer than 12 months. The loss of momentum that 12 or 13 consecutive years of learning and studying have built up can make it hard to get back in the swing of things. A good-paying job – at the time – makes hitting the books a lot less attractive; over the course of a year or two it is also possible to enter into familial obligation that suddenly make it difficult to contemplate time away at college or university.

    Going back to college after many years is a difficult decision. Consider that currently 13 percent of college students(3) are single parents. In 1993, this number was only 7.6 percent. While it is true that in 1998 about 41 percent of college students were older than 25, it is also true that 57 percent(4) of these students wish they had gone back to school sooner. While weighting the advantages/disadvantages of going to college right after high school, consider also that less than one percent reported wishing they had waited with going to college.

    When discovering what the advantages of going to college right after high school might be, remember also that older teens and adults have different learning styles. Professors in freshmen classes habitually adjust their teaching styles to accommodate recent high school graduates, which can make it harder on non-traditional students.

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    In Conclusion

    It is apparent that there is no easy answer when it comes to making this education decision. That being said, facts and figures do bear out that foregoing the gap year in favor of the benefits of going to college after high school does help the average student to come out ahead.

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    1. ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC,
    2. University of North Texas,
    3. Back to College,
    4. Capella,