The Importance of College

I finished my bachelor’s degree in 2002.  I started my college career shortly after high school, and I took at least one class (almost) every semester, with a break of a few years in the middle.  All in all, it took me about 21 years to actually get my degree.

Along the way, I took any courses I could get my respective employers to pay for. I seriously pursued at least four different degree programs, because I switched based on tuition reimbursement policies. I was able to finish because my current employer would pay for an English degree, and I was at the point in my life where I knew that was the degree I wanted. Synergy.

Some of the classes I took were INCREDIBLY boring or frustrating or just hateful. Some were completely unrelated to anything in my life, but I had to take them for the degree program. For years and years and YEARS as I was working full time – and mostly working a second part-time job as well – I slogged my way to school. What did I get out of it all? Was college really important?

In a lot of ways, going to college saved me. After high school I felt trapped and without direction.  Then I took a class at the community college and doors seemed to open. I found that there were possibilities in my life I’d never seen. I learned to communicate, I learned to love learning. I was able to grow. I might have been working two jobs, I might have only been able to take one course at a time, but I suddenly had options.

In my opinion, the importance of college is not necessarily the degree itself. Yes, having a college degree is important – even necessary – when you are out looking for a job. Most employers require some sort of a post-high school certificate or degree.

But even more vital is the way the college experience can open you up if you let it. No matter what degree you’re pursuing, you are exposed to different people, different ideas, and you have to deal with them. It’s far too easy for us to get stuck in our little rut. We interact with the same people and the same situations day after day. Just the fact of going to college takes you out of that.

Being exposed to different ideas and options forces us to look at ourselves and decide where we want to go. It took me 15 years to realize I was never going to be a business major. On the other hand, the information I got in those business classes and computer programming classes and accounting classes has been incredibly valuable in many ways. Knowledge is power, and you can’t have too much of it.

Then there’s the achievement itself.  You have met this challenge, you have decided to do it, you followed through, and you have succeeded. I think that’s especially true for the non-traditional students (like me). Many are returning to school for the first time in years. In a lot of ways, the challenge is greater, but so is the achievement.

That being said, college is only valuable if you value it. As with everything else, you only get out what you put into it.  If you sleepwalk through college or party through it or just ignore it as much as possible, then it won’t mean anything to you, no matter your age.  And you’ve lost a precious opportunity.

Congratulations to all of the graduates of 2012! If you finally have your college degree, you should be so very proud of yourself. If you are still pursuing your degree, I hope you enjoy it. This is a wonderful and important thing you are doing. And if you are looking forward to beginning college this fall, I wish you joy and luck in your journey.

Gosh, now I wish I was going back too. Hmmm…maybe a Master’s…



  1. Excellent post, Betsy!! I’m currently studying for my second MA, a Master’s in Education! I do love learning, just wish there was more time in the day to do everything and do it well!! 🙂

    • Betsy Horvath says

      @Julie Moffett: I am seriously in awe of you, Julie, because I look at everything you do and I just don’t know how you get it done. Now that I’ve been out of school for a little while, I look back and wonder how I managed it all! Two years ago I seriously debated going back for my master’s in English, but then my book sold and I decided I wanted to try to get this writing thing off the ground. Well, that’s what I told myself anyway 😀 Rationalization, thy name is Betsy. LOL

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