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The Benefits of College Education

Updated on January 13, 2018

A College Degree Gives Most People an Advantage

A college degree will provide more opportunities than a high school diploma.
A college degree will provide more opportunities than a high school diploma. | Source

Everything Changes After High School

When I was in high school, I never thought of myself as one of the smart kids. My grades were typically in the ‘B’ range, but I didn’t invest much time in studying. Looking back, as an adult it is amazing how wisdom and perspective have changed from those formative years.

Six months after graduating high school, I met a man that would become my husband. We moved to Dallas and he started a new job. Within a year I was hired as a Cash Teller at a credit union, my first corporate job. I thought my wages at the time were fair because I didn’t have a college education. I began to look at community colleges as a way to learn new skills. I choose Economics and Typing as my first set of classes. Within six weeks, more than 50% of students in the Economics class dropped out, but I completed the course.

My Boss Was Temperamental and Unpredicable

I became pregnant the following year and quit my job at the credit union. I still wanted to work with animals and had found a Veterinary Assistance program. There was a tremendous amount of information to learn but the topics were laid out quite well, and we had hands-on labs as well.

I completed the program and accepted a job at a local vet clinic. By this time I was a new mother and had my hands full at home. But I wanted to earn some money and contribute to the household expenses. My boss at the clinic was completely unpredictable, and moody.

One day I skipped a line on a patient chart and she screamed at me for wasting space on the chart. She literally chased me around the pet clinic, all the while - screaming at me. I stopped at the front door, took off my lab coat and said, “I quit”. She didn’t pay me enough to verbally abuse me. When I returned the next week for my paycheck she truly believed that I was coming back to work. I never again set foot in the door.

In-home Daycare


What I Learned From Running a Home Business

At this point, I really just wanted to stay home with my baby, but I still wanted to earn some money. I took classes about becoming a registered day-care home. I also joined a local day-care organization so I could attend monthly training and get to know some of my fellow providers. I also developed a business plan and purchased additional age-appropriate toys. Once these things were lined up, I began to advertise as a day-care provider. I didn’t want to have more than four children because we had a three-bedroom home. I didn’t want to overwhelm our living space with equipment such as playpens and swings.

I charged $100 per week per child and provided child care for three years. It got to a point where I wanted out because I had parents that wanted to stay and chat for an hour after work and because I really needed to earn more money. I had to pay quarterly taxes off the revenue I earned and I wanted to be rid of that burden as well.

During these years I had quit school and my husband had started his education. He graduated with an Associate’s degree in business. I had learned some business sense but I didn’t have much that applied to the working world, or so I thought. In the process of running my day-care business, I had learned to manage the budget, completed state-mandated training and developed a business plan. However, I was not sure how any of that would later to translate into the world of corporate America.

Changing Careers Can Mean Higher Pay

I loved the children in my care. However, the weekly checks written by their parents were not always reliable, and some of them did not have sufficient funds. These were people with nicer cars and bigger homes than mine, but they did not take their child's care as seriously as other financial obligations. As the problem began to snowball, I decided to close my business.

I applied for a job at a company that created Bible study videos and curriculum. They offered an hourly rate of $9.50 per hour and this was the best I could do with my existing skill set. While in the job I was able to streamline some of the processes which created efficiencies. I also worked with cash, answered customer questions and managed the monthly newsletter. I was there for a year and felt that I had gained enough experience to earn more. The problem was that this company was practically broke and they frequently asked a few of the more tenured employees not to cash their paycheck for a few days.

I then applied for and accepted the job of Receptionist at a software company. The hourly rate of $12.50 was an automatic increase in pay of $6,240 per year. Eighteen months after I started the job, the company was purchased by another corporation. Due to redundancies in the workforce, I was let go. That was my first experience with a Reduction In Force and would not be my last.


I Chose Education to Get a Better Job

I had continued to take classes through the community college and was fairly close to the end of a rather generic Associates degree. My big hang up was math. I had started out with Economics which was fine, but put off math classes because I just didn’t get it.

My next job was a contract opportunity with an oil and gas company in Dallas. A few months later an internal position opened up in the area of Administration for Executive Compensation. I applied for the job, and following a two-hour interview, was extended an offer. I loved the job and I adored my co-workers, but I did not love my boss. He was a true micro-manager and I found it impossible to please him. I knew that I needed to finish my college education.

I had seen an advertisement for University of Phoenix (UOP) but thought that it was limited to online classes. I contacted the school and discovered that they were building a campus in Dallas, and construction was nearly complete.

I met with an enrollment counselor and was excited about the flexibility of the program. I had finally discovered the right program that would help me to accomplish my education goals. I also learned that UOP is an accredited university and my college credits would transfer. A few weeks later I received a Letter of Acceptance.

Classes were held one night a week, and there was a dual requirement of both weekly team projects and individual projects. Each class was five weeks long instead of a regular 13-week semester. Teams were required to meet for a minimum of five hours each week.

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You Can Balance Work, School, and Family

I arrived home after my first class and told my husband and teenage son that I was, “Going to go through school like a freight train. Don’t get in my way and don’t try to slow me down or derail me because I will go right over the top of you.” For the first time in my life, my education really mattered and I would stop at nothing to see it through to the end. And that is what I did. I started in the spring of 2001 and graduated in June 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business / eBusiness.

I still had the matter of eight lower division classes that I needed to complete and worked on those while I worked on my degree. During this time, my husband traveled nearly 100% so I was raising our son alone. However, we didn’t see each other very much. I would arrive home from work, check in with him about his homework, friends and vehicle and head up to my room for 3-4 hours of studying. I set aside one night each week to cook him a hot meal but the stipulation was that he had to help me prepare the food, cook and clean up so that I could return to my studies. My weekends were consumed with research, studying and preparing class presentations.

By the time I graduated, I was physically exhausted and mentally drained. I celebrated with my class and we walked across the stage at South Fork Ranch to receive our diplomas. It was a year later that I finally requested my formal diploma from the school.

I had chosen the degree plan of Business / eBusiness because the internet was in full swing, Silicon Valley was the word of the day, and dotcoms sprang up by the tens of thousands. Although I didn’t know anything about marketing, selling, programming or building a website I believed that this path would give me the foundation to do all those things, and I was right.

Me Education Has Paid Off and I Am Earning More Money

Since I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree in Business / e-Business, I have excelled at marketing for Fortune 500 companies. I have developed email marketing programs, managed promotions with multi-million dollar budgets, built websites, learned how to set up and use Google Analytics and Google Adsense. My income more than doubled in corporate America. Five years after graduating, I went through another RIF in 2008 due to the economy. I began volunteering for an online start-up in 2010. I used the experience I had learned in marketing to increase brand awareness through social media. The startup reached its first million dollars within two years.

My education changed me in many positive ways. It gave me the confidence to challenge myself, to develop my own brands, build my own websites and to test new marketing methods. The other benefits of course include salary and benefits. While it is true that people have built multi-million dollar businesses without graduating college, it is still the best vehicle to better paying jobs.

A 2002 report by the Census Bureau, "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings" reveals the earning disparity of education.

  • High school graduates can expect to earn $1.2 million during their adult life.
  • People with a bachelor's degree earn $2.1 million.
  • People with a master's degree will earn $2.5 million.


Never Stop Learning

I arrived home the night after my last class and told my husband and son that I was parking the train. I had managed to get through a four-year program in less than three years, complete my lower division classes and had two separate surgeries. I was exhausted by the journey, but every step was worth the effort.

I encourage everyone to get a college education. I never thought I was smart enough but I proved myself wrong. I didn’t think I had the courage or dedication to finish school but found I successfully completed my goal to finish school. I was worried about the commitment, but I found the time. I worried about the time I missed with my son, but he turned out just fine. When he was a teenager and would complain about something I would tell him, “Life is an education. Take a class.” I have benefited from my college education in so many ways, and strongly recommend higher education.

© 2012 Michelle Orelup


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