The question of whether or not to attend college is probably one that has followed you around since your freshman year at school, and perhaps prior to those days. Regardless of whether or not you’ve a career in mind all that time you’ve no doubt spent countless sleepless nights, and anxious days trying to work out whether college is really for you. It’s a big decision and one that’s likely to affect the rest of your life for better or worse.

We’ve compiled just a handful of the benefits and disadvantages to a college education, and have thrown in an option you may not have considered at all.

Reasons for college

There are numerous reasons you may be considering college, least of all the opportunities you’re likely to be afforded during your time away from home. That first night in your dorm room, or shared house, may well be your first experience of living away from your parents; your first real taste of the independence you may have been craving for many years. Indeed, there’s something liberating about moving away to college, and some students choose to do so simply for the lifestyle – and for the friendships and mentorships they’re likely to enjoy during that time. There can be little doubt that attending college is an experience; one that countless college seniors are keen to embrace.

Of course, there are the academic and career benefits of attending college, too. Gaining a good degree in a relevant subject will often place students in a better position to get a well-paid job once they graduate, and afford them the opportunity to enter companies at a high level than non-graduates would be able to. There’s no substitute for the useful networking opportunities many college courses provide that can eventually lead to job offers. Besides, some roles will demand that applicants have a degree in a particular subject, closing certain careers to non-graduates. Attending college is a great way for high school graduates to experience the expectations that may be placed upon them by employment; the world of work can be tough, and college may well be the education you need to succeed.

Reasons against college

The most obvious argument against college is the cost; the rising cost of education is forcing many students to reconsider their positions long before they’re due to apply for their chosen degree. Living away from home accrues all kinds of expenses you’d possibly never considered before, and financial woes can put a huge dampener on the adventure before it’s begun. There’s also the matter of income – or, to be more precise, a lack of income. Though you may endeavor to hold down a part time job to fund your studies, there can be little denying that four years in college will be four years less in the workforce. Can you guarantee that your college education will be worth the investment?

Just as there are arguments for the merits of the college experience, there are those who maintain that college life is relatively insular and lacking in real world experiences. Although college is a great place to meet new people, embrace new things, and get to grips with living alone, it offers very little in the way of guidance when it comes to the world beyond college. Will all of those days spent in the library revising remind you to do your taxes? Does an open-book exam prepare you for paying bills? While there are those for whom college is an opportunity to grow up and gain independence, there is a real fear that others are simply using higher education as an excuse to delay venturing out into the world of work.

Working out where your priorities, and passions lie will be vital as you choose to attend college, or not as the case may be.

Is there a compromise?

There is one more option that you may not have considered yet, the world of online education. Indeed, many high school graduates and mature students are looking towards virtual colleges and Internet-based courses to achieve a degree or diploma without the necessity to attend college at all. And why not? Courses such as those offered by UAB online are rising in popularity at a rate of knots, proving that the Internet really does have the edge over many traditional institutions. Online education offers a wealth of opportunities, least of all the choice of hundreds of subjects, a program of study to suit you, numerous resources at your fingertips, and a chance to pick up a new skill while you may be working or undertaking any number of other commitments; web-based learning is flexible, meaning that students can complete their qualifications at a pace that suits them. Perhaps best of all is the affordability of an online education. Most courses cost far less than their traditional college counterparts, and students won’t be paying campus, travel, or living costs on top of tuition fees.

If you’re undecided about college, an online education may be the answer you’ve been craving.

There’s only one person who knows whether college is for you, and that’s you; there’d be little point anyone else making such an important decision on your behalf, after all. College isn’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing to forge a career rather than hitting the books for a further four years – as long as your dream job doesn’t demand those qualifications, of course. However, before you dismiss college completely, it’s essential to consider the opportunities that you’d miss out on and to weigh up the facts accurately. We are incredibly blessed to be able to make such choices, particularly when it’s still possible to receive a college education without moving away. The benefits of online education are quickly proving themselves, and it’s up to you to listen up and take notice.