The Intangible Value of a College Degree

November 4, 2013

With student loan debts at historic highs and tuition rates increasing, many have been questioning the value of a college degree. Is it a good investment? What will a degree ensure? While the answers to those questions may seem ambiguous, certain facts remain about the value of a college education.

mini graduation cap on money

The truth is, the ROI of a college education needs to be assessed with a long-term view. It is estimated that people with a bachelor’s degree will make $1 million more over their lifetime than those with just a high school diploma. Furthermore, a recent report by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that by 2020 the US economy will generate 55 million new job openings, and 65% will require training beyond a high school education. So while a degree may or may not immediately open doors, it will undoubtedly expand the number of doors that may open in the future.

These numbers alone are impressive, but there are also intangible values to a college education that are tremendous assets. These include developing life skills, networking and becoming a part of a campus community. The relationships you develop during college can carry over into your post-graduate career and favorably impact your career path.

So how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of your college education when it comes to the intangibles?

  • Develop relationships. Get to know your professors and advisors, join professional associations, and connect with other students in your major. Online networking resources, like LinkedIn Groups, are a great way to connect with peers and others in your prospective industry. Networking and using a platform like LinkedIn to connect with others will not only help your professional development, but it could also provide great resources for internship recommendations and even job opportunities once you graduate.
  • Take advantage of your school’s career resource center. The career resource center isn’t just for college seniors or recent grads. Many offer resume workshops, interview prep, help with internship placement, and career and course planning for all students, no matter how far off applying for that first job may seem. Become familiar with the career services your school offers and use them to get a head start on developing professional relationships and establishing career goals.
  • Leverage your resources to gain experience. The best way to learn about a particular career or job is to actually do it! Use your connections, both on LinkedIn and within your school’s network, to seek out internships or volunteer opportunities so you can get hands-on experience that complements what you’re learning in class.
  • Identify inspiration for your career path. Apart from giving prospective students a wealth of information on different colleges and universities, LinkedIn’s University Pages are also a helpful resource for current students who are exploring different career paths and interests. Researching alumni that work in fields of interest and looking at their career paths can be inspiring and spark ideas. This will help students make informed decisions on what courses of study, academic experiences, and internship or job opportunities to pursue.

Undeniably a college education is a big investment. It is important for students to be aware and take advantage of all the resources available to them during this time. The true worth of the investment lies in each student’s hands as it’s up to them to make the most of it!

Photo Credit: Flickr/safari_vacation