Almost every college dropout I’ve ever met tells me how happily they gave up their education to pursue their dreams. They talk about how much more they learned about life from travel and odd jobs.
They laugh at students struggling with exams, and then twice as hard at the thought of them struggling to pay back student loans.
“Just look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates,” they often tell me. “College is an expensive, and overrated waste of time.”
Behind the Facade
But eventually the truth comes out. In time, they admit that they too have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans struggling to pay back from those odd jobs that taught them so much.
They share the disappointment of finally landing a good job, but missing out on promotion opportunities because they have every qualification – but the degree. And they share the embarrassment of watching someone ten years their junior, fresh out of college, take the job.
So are their truly happy college dropouts out there? Of course, there are. But let’s face it: most of us aren’t destined to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
Why you Should Stick it Out
#1 – College Graduates Make the Most Money
Many people conveniently point to people like Oprah, Brad Pitt, and Eminem to show what little effect schooling has on the amount of money you can make. While all these people failed to finish school and now make millions of dollars each year, they are exceptions – not the rule.
The rule remains that college graduates, on average, make more money than college dropouts, and workers who only completed a high school education. How much more? Try roughly half a million more in earnings through their lifetime.
Far from being millionaires, [college dropouts] earn 32 percent less than college graduates, on average.
#2 – Return on Investment is Highest in a College Degree
Many college dropouts argue that they’re better off investing their money in more traditional investment options like stocks, gold, bonds, or a house. However, the return on investment for a degree is still up to nine times more than traditional investment options.
This means that in spite of the growing cost of attending college, finishing that degree might very well be the best financial decision you ever made.
#3 – Student Loans are No Joke
I once knew of a student who borrowed $2000 to help pay for the last year of computer science studies in Jamaica. When he graduated, it took him years to pay back the sum which totalled $6000 by the time he was done. That’s 300% interest on the original amount!
Of course, not everyone has such high interest rates to pay back on loans, but if you have any loans at all you might as well complete your degree, or switch to another major. Why pay thousands of dollars and then walk away with nothing to show for it?
#4 – College Can Give You More Time to Travel
Many people – men especially – speak of college as though it hinders you from having real life experiences, and seeing the world. But college is just a transitional point in an adult’s life. It only lasts a few years, and the better you do, the sooner it’s all over.
During your college years, there’s plenty of time for travelling and having fun during school-breaks. In fact, the average college student gets way more time off from school to travel and explore than most workers. While in school, I travelled for five months every year and still completed my associate’s degree in the recommended two years, and my bachelor’s in the recommended four.
How? Simple. I crammed most of my courses into two semesters – sometimes taking up to seven at a time. Add one month of Christmas break to the entire summer semester I took off and that was five months each year. The cash might be less for travel than an established worker, but seasoned frugal travellers know how to create amazing trips on a dime.
#5 – College Dropouts are more Likely to be Unemployed
College dropouts often refer to the fact that many graduates struggle to find a job after school. “What’s the point of paying all that money and then you come out and have nothing to do?” they often say. But never mind that, because no matter how tough the job-hunt is for a college graduate, it’s nearly four times as difficult for college dropouts.
These are the 34 million Americans over 25 with some college credits but no diploma. Nearly as large as the state of California, this group is 71 percent more likely to be unemployed and four times more likely to default on student loans.
Sometimes college students have no choice but to make the unfortunate decision to leave or take a break from school. This may result from financial issues, family obligations, health, or other events entirely out of their hands.
Life doesn’t always go as planned.
But if you have the choice to either stay in college or leave, finish up your degree. See it through. It doesn’t magically get easier once you have the paper in your hands, but it does put you in a better position to make a living for yourself… and to pay back those pesky student loans without defaulting.