By DeVry University
As the world currently grapples with unforeseen events, you may be finding yourself in the midst of uncertainty about your future, your job, your daily routine and more. And if you’re struggling to make major life decisions, especially one as important as going back to school, know that you’re not alone. Take a moment to reflect and prioritize your goals. Then explore these six reasons that explain why pursuing a college degree can be beneficial even when the future seems unclear:
1. You Can Own Your Next Play
Not knowing what to expect can feel uneasy, but one of the most rewarding aspects of going back to school is that you can focus on positive aspects of your life that you actually control. Instead of feeling anxious about the unknown, dedicate more time to studying subjects that interest you, pursuing your career and building your skillset. By focusing on life aspects within your reach, you can develop a "next play" mentality—a concept coined by Duke University Coach Mike Krzyzewski that he often shares with basketball players he coaches.
As a term, "next play" focuses on staying committed to the future and not being deterred by events –good or bad—outside of your control.
"No matter what just happened, I gotta be really good at the next thing," Krzyzewski said in an interview. During a basketball game, he doesn’t allow a missed shot—or even a scoring one—cause him to lose sight of the "next play" he needs to make on the court.
"I call it not having a rearview mirror," Krzyzewski said. "Next play is kind of like that, when you're looking at a bigger scope of the next season, or you just won a championship, how can you be as hungry? Well, next play."
"How do I stay balanced, how do I stay me throughout this whole thing while learning from my experiences?" he adds.
Having a "next play" mentality means not letting failure or success override your desire to stay true to yourself, your learning or your future—a mindset that can be very beneficial for anyone going back to school during times of uncertainty.
Pursuing a college degree, even during rocky moments, may help you plan the "next play" for your future and feel more empowered focusing on aspects of your life that you control.
2. You Can Gain Opportunities for Income
Although it's certainly not the only benefit to an education, pursuing a college degree can help boost your earning potential. In fact, "the more you learn, the more you earn," according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Data from the bureau confirms that:
- Those with a Bachelor's degree earn, on average, 64% more per week than those with only a high school diploma.
- Graduates with a Master’s degree earn nearly double the amount of high school grads.
- At 4.1%, the high school grad unemployment rate is more than twice as high as the 2.8% unemployment rate for college grads with at least an associate degree.
Pursuing a college degree may also bode well with potential employers: In 2018 the employment rate proved to be higher for people with greater levels of education. For example, the employment rate was highest at 86 percent for young adults with a Bachelor’s degree or higher while the employment rate for those who only completed high school was 72 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.
3. You Can Explore New Experiences
Apart from netting more money, going back to school can also breathe excitement into a sometimes-monotonous world. Pursuing a college degree in a subject that fits your passion can help you access new activities and topics for exploration.
Suddenly, a classroom becomes a lab for personal growth and discovery. As a student, you don’t have to have the answers. You can ask questions. You can tinker with creations and solve problems. You can plan and wonder. You can set goals and find the support you need to achieve them.
"College is one of those great times in life where people willingly create ways for you to learn who you are and what matters to you," says Terri Wallman, Director of Employer Relations and Internships at DeVry University.
"Yes, you can learn on the job, but that experience isn’t always the same. Going back to school is something entirely different—it’s a chance to find your personal strengths in a setting that the working world doesn’t always easily create," adds Wallman.
4. You Can Develop Skills That Help Build Industries
Want to work in technology, the IoT or a completely different field? No matter the career you pursue, it never hurts to develop (or deepen) your industry-ready skills.
Going back to school offers a chance to learn new skills to potentially use across different settings and industries. For instance, while DeVry offers online degree programs in specialized fields like accounting, technology, business and media arts, the university also accommodates students who may not immediately know what they want to study.
For example, students in select tech programs at DeVry can begin in an undecided option, which allows them to choose a specialty after earning 30 academic credits, so they have a chance to learn, develop a core set of skills and then decide the specialization they’d like to pursue long term. Many undecided students learn about operating systems, programming, hardware, connectivity and security before choosing a primary specialization, so they can broaden their technical skills while exploring various subject areas.
Programs like this can be beneficial if you'd like to return to school but don’t know where to start. The key to keep in mind: every course you take is an opportunity to gain new skills. Pursuing a degree can help you build a new academic foundation as you explore your strengths and options.
5. You Can Help Yourself—And Others
It may be hard to remember, but in your journey to become a better you, you may also improve someone else’s life.
Beyond personal benefits, pursuing an education can generate positive ripple effects on hiring within industries that are deeply embedded in the American economy, according to "Recruiting Trends," an annual report from the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.
For the 2019-2020 report, researchers at the university collected survey data from 2,800 employers on the number of college graduates they’ve recruited and hired in the last year. In the report, researchers found that companies hiring the most college graduates are within the construction, education, finance, health, manufacturing and retail trade industries.
Data from LinkedIn confirms a similar trend of millennial workers switching from their current jobs to roles within technology, finance and healthcare—all industries that can potentially impact quality of life and safety within America.
So depending on your field, education may not only be a personal decision, but one that can impact generations of learners outside of your community. During times of uncertainty, it helps to remember that people are connected. Pursuing a college degree may allow you to contribute to industries that shape how we communicate, connect and live. If you needed another reason to go back to school, you just might consider adding "because it’s the right thing to do" to your checklist.
6. You Can Find Opportunity in Uncertainty.
And lastly, if you're struggling with uncertainty about going back to school, realize that it’s never too late to take action. Sometimes, the greatest certainty we can give ourselves is the peace of making—and sticking to—a final decision.