By Melissa Davidson

It’s never too late to go back to college.

In fact, the number of students “returning” to school is now outpacing first-time students.

Traditional-aged students between 18 to 22 are no longer the majority of students in the higher education system in our country.

Attending college is a rite of passage after high school for some, while for others jumping into the job market is the way to go. No matter where you are in life, here are 10 great reasons you should go back to college and get the degree.

  1. Earning potential

Having a college degree not only increases your career earning prospects, it may make you eligible for a pay raise or promotion.

The difference in median weekly earnings between a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree can be $20,000 a year or more, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yes, college can be expensive but the return on investment may be worth it down the road.

More education could qualify you for that promotion you’ve been gunning for.

Likewise, if earning a salary boost means going back to school, it seems like a no-brainer.

For new job hunters, the degree will likely land you a higher paying job with health insurance and vacation time.

  1. Career change

Sometimes we don’t know what we want to be when we grow up, so we work jobs to make ends meet until we figure out something more lucrative.

Or, maybe your current career feels like a dead end and pursuing a different path seems like a logical next step.

In fact, just getting a degree in anything can help you get a better paying job or open up opportunities for more senior positions.

According to Forbes.com, only 27% of college graduates have a job related to their major, so go study  what your heart desires and still have a worthwhile career as anything from an entrepreneur to project manager to a realtor.

  1. New challenge

A mid-life crisis sometimes yields an expensive new Ferrari or an equally expensive divorce.

How about investing in a new life challenge?

Furthering your education! Taking courses is a positive pursuit of a new-found passion or playing off your current strengths. Learning new things keeps life spicy.

  1. Financial aid incentives

This is interesting: Big employers – like Pizza Hut, JetBlue and Starbucks – help older students finish their degrees through incentive programs.

Nearly 3.5 million Americans over 50 years old have taken some college courses, but have not earned a degree or certificate, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

For students like 63-year-old Diane W. Tavoian, the only way to finish her degree was by returning to college at Arizona State University, who partners with Starbucks to provide financial aid for employees.

Tavoian was already a student at ASU, but after hearing about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, offered by ASU, she begged Starbucks to hire her as barista.

Starbucks got a good employee and Tavoian finished her bachelor’s degree.

  1. Positive role model

Your decision to return to school is an inspiring one for your friends and family.

You never know what your determination sparks in others.

It certainly sets a good example about finishing what you start. Good stuff.

  1. Personal achievement

Nothing is more satisfying than earning the degree you worked hard to get.

No matter what you study, your education leads to a richer life experience.

“When I was young for 15 minutes it was fashionable to tell your parents you weren’t going to go to college, “ writes higher education author Donald Asher. “My father, a design engineer, was driving down the freeway trying to convince me of the folly of my ways.

“Do you see that bridge,” he asked me, pointing to an overpass. “Sure,” I said, the typical insolent teenager. “Well, you see something different than I see. You see an overpass, and I see stress analyses, load factors, and fifty-year cycles of planned obsolescence. So I am getting more out of life than you are, and it’s because of my education.”

He was right, of course.

  1. Confidence boost

Learning new things makes you feel smarter, right? When you feel smarter, you’re enhancing your self-esteem. With a healthy self-esteem, your confidence shows, which shows your employer how valuable you are.

  1. Flexibility

You don’t have to attend a brick and mortar college or university to get your degree. Many students prefer online classes, especially busy people with families and current jobs to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

You find a way to fit distance learning into your life in a timeframe that works best for you.

  1. More job options

Acquiring a new skill set makes you more marketable.

Not always, but college grads tend to have more job prospects because of the specialized skills they gain.

For example, many hospitals in the country will no longer hire registered nurses without a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Nurses who’ve worked in the professional nursing field for decades are now going back to school to complete their degrees, sometimes on the hospital’s dime.

The degree also gives them more job options within the field.

  1. Meet new people

Classmates sharing the same interests is a good way to make connections that could eventually lead to a new job.

Having fun and meeting people is just part of the whole “college” experience.

If you’re nervous, like I was, about starting out on your college path, there are some things you can do to prepare so you will have the best time, like researching which campus group looks the most fun, or seeing if there are any out of the box classes that your school might offer that you could take for fun.

Plus, practicing those networking skills could serve you well in your new career.

Financially fit?

As you can see, going back to college has many advantages.

You’ll have to determine if the financial investment is worth it.

If you’re going to accumulate debt by going back to school, evaluate whether your potential salary will allow you to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time.

The goal is finding a career in a growing field with a paycheck that will do more than offset the costs of getting your degree.

But maybe the paycheck isn’t what it’s about at all.

College graduates tend to be happier and healthier and more optimistic about their past and future progress.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Vincent LaConte/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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Melissa Davidson is a freelance writer & social media marketer based in Boise, Idaho. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Montana and is a former newspaper reporter. When she's not hovering over a keyboard, Melissa can be found in the pain cave of endurance sports.

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