February 13, 2012

The Value of College – and Studying Abroad

Today’s blog post is aimed at prospective students: Discussing why to go to college. The main answer—I believe—is that the knowledge and skills gained in college will help you find and succeed in your career. There are many other great benefits to college: awesome extracurricular activities, the time to try new things, and the chance to make lifelong friends. But it would be inexcusable for so many students to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars if there were no tangible benefits at the end of college.

First, I’d like to say that Lafayette does an awesome job of recognizing how important this is and does an excellent job preparing their students for success. Our career services department is excellent. They get students building their résumés from freshman year, and are constantly trying to connect with Lafayette students all the way through college. They are forever sending out emails with internship possibilities, which are the real pathways to a job. I’m very glad that they take our post-college futures that seriously. The career services department offers mock interviews, on campus interviews, has a great career vault, and in general makes the process of being successful as easy and painless as possible. I just wanted to say how impressed by them I am, because it’s part of the Lafayette atmosphere that clicks with me.

Second, take a look at these statistics: http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/whatsitworth-complete.pdf

The paper breaks down the earning power of a degree by groups of majors and by popularity of major by gender and race. The paper has two main points of interest: First, those with a college degree earn 84% more than those without a college degree. Second, glance down at the earnings by major. It seems important that those kinds of numbers play a part in deciding people’s college majors without being the deciding factor. Everyone has a viewpoint on the importance of choosing a high earning major, but I’ll only say I hope that everyone will both pursue a subject that they are passionate about, while keeping their futures in mind. At the very least, never be scared away from an interesting or difficult major by the workload. Some subjects aren’t enjoyable until you reach the higher levels or until you master them. Better to put in the work and be responsible now than graduate college and realize you didn’t learn anything useful.

Third, I was thinking about this because I was wondering what kind of benefits studying abroad offers. Does studying abroad help prepare us more for our future careers? Well, learning a new language is helpful for many careers. So is learning how to travel and interact in new environments. For the most part, though, studying abroad falls outside of the more practical benefits of college. Studying abroad is simply one of the most fun things you can do in college. Experience a whole new country for a semester, travel and explore the world, and make great, new friends! Studying abroad can give you a more worldly view on your and the United States’ places in the world. It’s a great way to gain a perspective on your country and on the life you’ve lived growing up compared to other people around the world.

So do I think that studying abroad is increasing my earning power? Not really. Has it increased my future career success? Perhaps not, unless Spanish will be useful. But I’m still working towards all my academic goals, and at the same time, it’s provided me with a unique international opportunity that’s only available in college. So while studying abroad is not part of the core purpose of college, as far as detours go, it’s an extremely fun and worthwhile one to have.

P.S. For those interested in a different take on the value of college, take a look at this quick interview:

http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/why-go-to-college-at-all/?scp=2&sq=value%20of%20college&st=cse

posted in Isaac Lavine

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting points Isaac. Sums up my views on studying abroad quite nicely!

    says Max
    February 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm
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