Why Go To College?
What is college for? Is it simply a way to make more money? Is a B.A. really worth one million dollars in increased lifetime earnings?
College is more than a job training factory, argues Columbia English Professor Andrew Delbanco in his new book, College, What it Was, Is, and Should Be, published this month by Princeton University Press. He says colleges should open their doors to all “who have the capacity to embrace the precious chance to think and reflect before life engulfs them.”
The college application essay is a microcosm of the college experience itself: it can be an opportunity for serious, life-changing self-examination.
Similarly, high school seniors should embrace the precious chance to think and reflect (in the college application essay) before college life engulfs them.
A well-thought out and written college application essay has two essential aspects:
- It recounts a personal experience of the writer that demonstrates strengths that can help lead to success in college.
- It shows reflection of his or her own behavior—an understanding of why or how he or she acts, what it means, or what he has learned from it.
Of course, a well-written college application essay can help you get into your first choice college. Knowing how to write such an essay can reduce your family stress immensely.
And if you are want to think about college as a job training factory, you won’t be alone. Says Delbanco:
“It’s clear that a college degree long ago supplanted the high school diploma as the minimum qualification for entry into the skilled labor market, and there is abundant evidence that people with a college degree earn more money over the course of their lives than people without one. One authority claims that those who hold a BA degree earn roughly 60 percent more, on average, over their lifetime than those who do not. Some estimates put the worth of a B.A. degree at about a million dollars in incremental lifetime earnings. More conservative analysis, taking account of the cost of obtaining the degree, arrive at a more modest number, but there is little dispute that one reason to go to college is to increase one’s earning power. (This is a quote from page 26 in Delbanco’s book, and he references the earning power study here.)
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