Why You Should Wait to go to College After You Graduate High School
Updated: Sep 17
As the end of May nears, many graduating high school seniors are preparing for their freshman year of college to come in the fall. Some of these students will eventually drop out, switch majors, or if they’re lucky, finish their college career in four years. Contrary to what parents, guidance counselors, and universities may want, my personal experience and research suggest that there can be a lot of negative consequences for young people who rush into college too soon.
According to a recent survey, 20 percent of high school seniors say they are now likely or highly likely to not attend college in the fall. I’m here to tell you why this percentage of students have the right idea to not continue their educational career fresh out of high school.
Disclaimer: I did go to college straight after high school and finished my Bachelor’s Degree in 3 and a half years because I knew which career path I wanted to go with, but after starting my own business, I realized that I had to re-teach myself a lot of what I learned in college because I didn’t take the time I spent in college as serious as I should have. I was just chasing a degree without preserving the work it took to get it.
You’re prepared, not forced.
We all know the feeling of being pressured to go to college right after graduation - heck, some of us are pressured to start taking dual credit or AP classes while still in high school. Especially if you’re a first-generation student or the first to go to college in your family. This is where communication can be your best friend. Explain why you feel going to college at a later time is more beneficial than jumping into deep waters that you’re not ready for. I get it, this talk may not even be an option for you, but try to do what is best for you and your loved ones will understand. If not, you can tell them ‘I told you so’ once you’re holding that diploma with an already-guaranteed job after graduation.
Fuel your passion for your college career. You’ll get more out of it than feeling forced, which could lead to finding loopholes just to get good grades rather than putting in the hard work that can help down the road.
You’ll actually retain what you learn.
Instead of sitting in class waiting for a boring lecture by your professor to be over, you’ll actually invest in the information they are teaching. You’ll have a better understanding of what it took for them to become a professor and why their knowledge is so important. From there, you’re likely to take better notes, research more on your own time, invest in class projects, and be a resource for other students. So, the next time you have a 400-page book on your semester syllabus, you’ll think twice about just Sparknoting chapters and using Quizlet to answer your exams.
Of course, the first year is typically the basics that don’t relate directly to your major, but you’ll understand that even information you deem as random can be useful in the future. You never know when your history lesson on the American Revolution could win you a million dollars on a trivia show or just cookie points in an argument with friends.
You’re less likely to get distracted.
We all know the cliché college culture of frat parties, late-night "study sessions", ditching class, football games, and spending more time on what others think of you than investing in what could benefit your career. (As I write this section, I can’t help but have Asher Roth’s ‘I Love College’ playing in my head - Millennials, you feel me. Gen Z’s, please YouTube it.)
Entering college at a later age with a mature mindset can benefit you immensely. You’ll be more focused on investing in your education than falling into distractions that serve no purpose to your being. Besides, doesn’t that sound better than missing your alarm for the 8 a.m. class you regretfully signed up for with a raging hangover and only Snapchat pictures to retrace your memory?
You’ll spend your money more wisely.
This goes back to investing in yourself. Spending more money towards joining student organizations, experiencing study abroad, and other opportunities with a high return on investment are more beneficial than another night at your local college town bar. The high price of these experiences may be more intimidating than the $3 thirsty Thursday shots, but you’ll be able to open doors to new opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise.
It can even be as simple as creating grocery lists. You don’t need a bunch of snacks or to pay for an overly expensive meal plan with your school. All you need is a plan. Point is, take time to spend your money where it can grow.
You’re more likely to take part in beneficial school groups.
Being young and new to the college environment can be intimidating at first. If you’re more of an introvert, joining student organizations probably isn’t the first thing you’re jumping on when you reach campus - I was this person, but I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone and join the college’s Glee Club. Not saying that this was similar to being in Student Government, but it was a networking opportunity nonetheless.
You’ll make more time to research all the benefits of being a college student. If you’re paying a pretty penny, you might as well take advantage of it. So, you’ll come across the many student organizations your school offers and will be more likely to join if you see a benefit. And yes, this is true even for all you introverts out there.
You’ll avoid taking out more student loans.
It’s all fun and games taking out student loans and not having to worry about paying them back until the time comes to pay them back. As a young mind, the thought of easy access to money is exciting. So exciting that you could end up in more than the average $30,000 in debt.
Many freshmen take out loans for on-campus housing, textbooks, rent, car payments...really any expense because let’s face it, being a full-time student is a whole job in itself and we’re paying ourselves by taking out as many loans and federal aid as possible. But, if you wait, you’ll be able to start with a solid plan. This could be a savings account, researching the cheapest places to purchase your textbook (not the on-campus store that costs an arm and a leg), get an apartment off-campus with roommates to lower housing costs, and maybe even have enough money to pay off most of your classes before interest racks up.
You’ll find a community to grow with.
As a first-year student, the closest things to a sense of community may just be your school’s alma mater. You might just be focused on getting to know the star athletes and which greek life house you’re pledging to. Either way, your main focus may just be finding your own community to fit in with. If you take the time to find yourself, you’ll prevent wasting time on things and people that you may not remember long after your college days are over. Socializing then becomes that much easier because you’ll cultivate connections with people that you’re invested in who are just as invested in you.
It’s good to note that creating a community and networking can be some of the most valuable things you do in your college career. You never know who can eventually become a business partner, mentor, intern, or valuable resource.
You’ll avoid having to go back to college after graduation.
This can be seen in one of two ways. I’m not discouraging anyone from returning to college to further their education, I’m talking about those who didn’t take college seriously enough and now have to either self-teach themselves everything (this is me) or consider enrolling back to school. By taking advantage of all your resources and tools while in school, you can lessen the chances of having to go back because of your own oblivion. Going into it with a clear vision and being consistent with doing what it takes to achieve that vision can produce a very beneficial outcome.
Instead of having to go back to school, you can take specialty courses online or read a book about the topic you’re wanting a refresher on. I also advise going to networking and organizational events that pertain to your career field post-graduation.
You’ll have a more elevated skillset from real-world experiences.
Even if you don’t enroll in college, there are still many opportunities for you to get real-world experiences in the field you’re interested in. These experiences can also help you by eliminating careers you realize don’t fulfill you. It’s a cheaper route than switching majors every other year and allows you to cultivate the connections you need that we touched on earlier.
Your skillset will be more elevated from these experiences. How is this beneficial? Because you’ll be able to add that knowledge you gain outside of school to your assignments and any activities you do on campus. Some things you are taught won’t be new, but you’ll be able to expand on these lessons. There’s even a possibility of being published while you’re in college from doing so, adding more value to your portfolio.
You’ll have a better understanding of your path post-graduation.
Starting college when you’re ready and set on what your career path will be post-graduation can benefit you and your wellbeing. Feeling confident about your decisions can prevent the feeling of post-university depression. You won’t look back after graduating and feel like it all went to waste when you aren’t guaranteed a job after you get a degree. Instead, you’ll understand that everything is a process. If you’re taking action throughout your college career, like working multiple internships and networking with the right connections, you’re more likely to land a job post-graduation anyways.
This is in no way meant to scare you from going straight into college right after high school, but just tips to consider. If by the end of this article you feel like you already knew all the information provided, then you’re ready to dive in, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Everyone is on their own journey in life and getting a degree at 30 years old is just as valuable as getting a degree at 22 - you might just get more out of it because you planned ahead.