The only bit of certainty in the world right now is that things remain uncertain. The global pandemic has put many people in the hospital, out of work, and home from college for the foreseeable future.
Now that some academic institutions are reopening, you may be wondering, should I go back to college?
While there is no single right answer, there are seven critical considerations you should assess in order to make an educated (and financially savvy) decision.
Should I Go Back To College?
Let’s dive into exploring whether or not going back to college with the COVID pandemic underway is right for you.
1. Is Your College Allowing On-Campus Housing?
One of the biggest considerations when weighing whether or not to go back to college amidst the pandemic is whether your academic institution is allowing students back on campus.
Over 25% of colleges in the United States have reported they will hold classes fully or partially online.
Only some of those schools are allowing students to live on campus in dorms or similar shared-space housing.
So far that the decision about whether students will be allowed to live on campus is up to the discretion of the school. This decision is often being made last-minute due to the constant change in COVID infection rate.
Before making plans on going back to college, research what your school is planning to do with student housing. If living on campus and getting the full frisbee on the quad feeling is important to you, then you could consider deferring for a year.
If your school is letting students live on campus and is taking appropriate precautions that make you feel safe, then going back could help you find some normalcy in the world again.
2. Risk of COVID vs. Reward of Education?
Your parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends are probably worried about you going back to a college campus and getting sick. But, if you are prepared to return to college and your independent lifestyle, then the decision is up to you.
If you are returning to campus full-time or partially for classes consider that your risk of contracting the virus is higher than if you were to stay home. However, for some people, that is not a good enough reason to interrupt their college education.
Certain schools are also implementing quarantine regulations on campus, requiring face masks, and reducing the number of campus gatherings.
If you have other serious health conditions or are immunocompromised, it may not be within your best interest to return to school, at least on campus.
3. What’s Your Opportunity Cost?
Without lectures, labs, club meetings, and social events to fill up your time, what will you do? But seriously, how will you spend your time? A few weeks of binge-watching TV and home workouts sounds nice, but a full semester or year of it will get boring.
Think about what options you have to jump-start your career or continue your education in a non-traditional way. Or, think about how you could earn some money during your time off and start saving for your future.
Research opportunities for free online classes, internships, and digital careers that you could pursue during your time off.
If you have one or more years left of college that you elect not to pursue, then you’ll want to assess the opportunity cost of that decision.
An opportunity cost is defined as the potential loss (or gain) associated with other alternatives when a specific path is chosen.
If you can find a valuable project or work experience that excites you more than returning to online college classes, then assess it logically. What are its financial implications? Its time implications? What about its skill, networking and experience implications?
Asking and honestly answering these questions may change the course of your future forever.
4. How Does Your Area of Study Translate to Online Classes?
Certain classes have content that is easy to consume online. Watching lectures, reading the text, and submitting writing assignments can all be simple, depending on what you’re studying.
Business classes, English seminars, history and some of the sciences do not require physical practice in the same way that a biology lab, chemistry experiment or geology class might demand.
If you are wondering should I go to college this fall, do some research on what that would mean for your particular schedule. If you feel that the classes will be as valuable online, then fantastic.
If you worry about your ability to absorb the information via your computer screen, then maybe going back to college could be a wise decision.
5. What’s Your Learning Style?
People learn in different ways. Four common learning styles include:
- Auditory: Auditory people learn through listening. They learn rapidly and effectively from verbal presentations.
- Visual: Visual people learn through watching. They tend to like PowerPoint presentations, images, graphs and other types of visuals.
- Kinesthetic: Kinesthetic people learn best through a hands-on approach. They tend to prefer physical learning that involves moving their body.
- Social: Social people prefer learning within a group situation and benefit from interaction with others to best integrate new skills.
For those who are auditory or visual learners, listening remotely might be ideal.
However, if you are a kinesthetic or social learner, then remote learning could prove to be a big challenge.
6. Are You a Procrastinator?
You should also consider whether you can complete your work with potential distractions. If you are a consistent procrastinator, the remote learning environment could be very challenging.
You’ll want to consider the distractions that will be present in your life if you choose to study remotely versus in your dorm or at the campus library.
However, if you feel confident that you can learn rapidly while studying remotely, then going back to college may not be necessary for your situation.
7. What are Your Post-College Plans?
Taking some time off from college could be an exceptional opportunity to decide if you are in the right field of study. You can start to research potential careers, do informational interviews, and think about what your life after college will look like.
However, if you are already certain of your track after college, taking a break in your classes could delay your path to success.
If you are determined to graduate in 4-years or immediately apply to graduate school, then you’ll want to make decisions that will allow you to stick to this timeline.
So, Should You Go Back to College?
Let’s return to the question at hand, “Should you go back to college?” After exploring these considerations, I hope you have context for better evaluating this decision.
If not, then take a few minutes to make a list of your pros and cons. Or, talk to trusted friends and family members who can be objective in their analysis. If you’re still struggling with what to do and want another perspective, then drop me a note here.
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