How to Tell if College is Worth the Struggle

As I look forward to graduating next semester, I have begun to ponder over my journey through college as a financially independent student. Two-and-a-half years at USF and five figures in student loan debt have raised the inquisition of whether it has all been worth it.

Has it been worth it? For me, it most certainly has. My grandmother was always my example of just how valuable the pursuit of an education is. As a single mother who, alone, raised six kids, she put herself through college and went on to become a teacher. She has never questioned the tough fiscal decisions she had to make to allow her to continue her education. It was a lifelong investment that would not deteriorate in value and whose worth was based on her own subjective experience. I too share that view.

I realize that when my grandmother was going to school in the sixties, economic factors surrounding education were entirely different. However, my struggle reminds her of her own and vice versa. Her stories of barely being able to keep her lights on, of the fatigue of working three jobs as a full time student, were all worth it to her — and to me — in exchange for a quality education.
To really get an understanding of whether college is worth it to you or not, you have to ask what are your expectations are from attending college. Is college simply a means to an end? Can you see yourself being successful without going to college? What about going to college will motivate you to grow into the person you wish to be?

I must be clear in stating that seeking an education is possible outside of the confines of a university or collegiate institution. While the resources that are available to a student within these settings are unparalleled compared to those of the independent scholar, to be educated and to attend college are not always synonymous, contrary to popular belief.

For me, a college education is not worth the cost if one expects to learn what to think as opposed to how to think. Struggling to come up with tuition because you’ve been told that’s the only way you can get a decent job is not a reason to attend college. I would not willingly suffer the sleepless nights of thinking about how to repay future loan interest just so that I can work a job I hate for the rest of my life. If those were my expectations, I would not be at this university today.

So is college worth its cost? Yes and no. The answer you arrive at will depend entirely on what it is you hope to gain from your experience and your certainty that the institution you’ve invested in is necessary in helping you make those expectations a reality.


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