“What should I go to college for if I wanted to go back to school?”
That’s what a buddy asked me the other day. I wasn’t sure of what to say because going back to college is a heavy investment of both your time and your finances. Going back to school requires a lot of thought.
Is it worth spending the money on going back to school as an adult? Yes. There’s just one condition though. Keep on reading to see if it’s worth going back for more education…
“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” — Jim Rohn
I’ve written about alternatives to graduate school, the benefits of graduate school, the economics behind attending college, and going back to college. One topic that I never covered was the idea of going back to college in your late-20s or 30s if you don’t like where you are in life.
I was chatting to a buddy who had just been turned down for a dream job. He went through the interview process, made it pretty far, and just got cut at the last stage. His plan now is to go back to college to earn a new degree so that he can give something else a shot.
Long story short: He’s frustrated with the workforce and wants to go back to college to figure out things.
Since I write about personal finance, I wanted to cover this topic from a financial angle.
Is going back to college worth the investment?
Yes, it makes sense to go back to college. Under one condition and one condition only:
That you earn a degree that guarantees you the fat paycheck after college.
I know that this sounds arrogant at first, but why else would you want to go back to school?
If going back to college will guarantee you a job that pays well, then I think you should go back to school. If you’re not sure of what you want to do, are afraid of the real world, or just want to kill time, college is absolutely not worth it. In your late-20s you shouldn’t be spending thousands of dollars or getting into debt to go back to school.
There’s also the opportunity cost involved. Four years of not making money and spending money at 28 is an absolute killer on your finances and future plans. This means that you can’t contribute to your retirement savings, save for a home, or move on with your life. This trade-off is only worth it if you land an exponentially higher paying gig after spending the time in college to offset all of this.
Too many of us want to hide behind college. We want to go back to college to avoid the real world. We think that more education will solve all of our problems.
What else do you have to think about before going back to college?
You want to ensure that you can earn more money with your college education. There’s also one other important factor to consider before going back to school.
The opportunity cost.
You’re going to be in college for about four years. This means that your income will drop drastically, you’re going to be spending money, and you won’t be saving money this entire time.
You have to factor this in because this time in college will take away from your future retirement plans. You’re also putting your life on hold by going back to school.
Why if I want to attend college to learn, Martin?
I understand that going back to college is about learning and trying to pick up new skills. There’s just one issue with this.
College is the most expensive possible way to learn. You have other options:
- There are things called books.
- Listen to podcasts,
- Watch videos.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a formal education to learn. Pick up a book. Read it. Apply what’s in it. Watch some videos. Learn from mentors in your field.
While you can learn a ton of cool stuff in college, you can just as easily learn this same content outside of the classroom. I easily learned more from reading books and attending conferences than I ever did from my textbooks. All I got from my college degree was the piece of paper and some wild nights.
It makes absolutely no sense from a financial point of view to pick up student debt for a degree that doesn’t pay after college. It’s noble that you want to learn, but college isn’t the only way to learn something new.
What about the whole college experience as an excuse to go back to college?
You don’t have to be in school to party on a Wednesday or to be care-free. You don’t have to go back to school for the whole college experience. My solution here is pretty simple if you want the college experience in your older years:
- Move to a college town.
- Find a job.
- Go out on random nights.
- Enjoy cheap drinks.
- Hang out with young folks.
There’s your college experience. You don’t have to be in school.
At the end of the day, the choice is yours. You shouldn’t always just accept conventional wisdom on education. My suggestion is that you don’t go back to college in your older years unless it’ll land you a fat paycheck. I urge you to take advantage of opportunities around you, or to at least try to create your own opportunities.
I would love to hear stories from those who want back to college or chose not to go back to college.