Why Students Need a College Diploma, and How You Can Help Get Them There

Is a college degree important? If so, why? What does it take to get there? And what does it take to stick it out all the way through?

These are questions that we need to answer as we look at Allendale. In Allendale County, only 65% of those age 25 and older have a high school diploma, and only 13% in that age group have a Bachelor’s degree.

A college diploma is important for financial reasons, increased opportunities, and internal encouragement. So let’s see what we can do to help students get to and finish college.

Why Is College Important?

The Alliance for Excellent Education reports that a high school graduate will earn $260,000 more than a high school dropout, over a lifetime. And a college graduate will earn $500,000 more than one who only has a high school diploma. So inspiring a child to stay in school, and continue his studies, can mean the difference in annual income of nearly one million dollars. Money is not (or should not) be the best motivator, but let’s not discount it either.

A college diploma opens the doors to more opportunities than one would have without it. The quality and quantity of available jobs increase significantly. There is nothing wrong with a working construction or on a production line, but is that the job that someone wants (or is able) to do when they’re 60? And will it provide financial security when they can no longer work?

And besides money and opportunities, earning a college degree is a encouragement. Anyone who has walked across that stage and has been handed a diploma knows the euphoria that comes with accomplishing a momentous task. Those positive sentiments last for years, decades, and a lifetime.

Getting to College

In order for students to pursue a higher education, they need a model, a vision, or a push; all three would give the highest chance of success. Sadly, many students in Allendale receive none of these.

Model.  A few months ago, after thinking about this issue of encouraging students to go to college, I asked my own kids, “Do you think you’ll go to college one day?” Without hesitation, and with a look of slight confusion, they all replied, “Yes! Of course.”

I can’t remember if we ever specifically told our children that they must go to college. But my wife and I both have 4-year college degrees, and we regularly talk about our experiences. Already in their head they have a positive image about college.

Most children in Allendale do not have a Dad and a Mom who have Bachelor’s degrees. Since the model they see is “high school to work (or unemployment),” that is the predominant expectation they have for themselves.

Vision.  Earning a 4-year college degree is no easy task. It requires hard work and sacrifice. It requires enduring night after night of study, and day after day of note-taking and tests. Constantly and consistently, month after month. It’s easy to not finish.

Some students head to college without good study strategies. And others appear to know their stuff, but flounder in college due to an overall lack of comprehension. We need a vision to not just try out college, but to finish it. And we need to give students the vision and tools they need to succeed.

Students need to know that college is going to be difficult. It will be challenging, even for the best of students. But they also need to know that completing college is worth it. They need to have a vision that college won’t be easy, but it’s worth it in the end.

Push.  Along the lines of a vision, students may need a push to go to college. They need to be pushed out of the comfort of their home, community, and circle of friends. Going to college involves breaking relationships, even for a short period of time.

Like baby birds pushed out of their nests, many students (especially those from a culture that puts a high value on community), need to be pushed towards college. They need to be pushed towards a bigger vision of success than they could imagine on their own.


Children of Allendale need a college degree to help them achieve financial security, meaningful employment, and the encouragement they need to succeed in life. But to get them there requires more than wishes — they need a model, a vision, and a push.

You can read more about The Importance of Family in College Success.

Related Link:

**first image courtesy of _rockinfree via flickr

**second image courtesy of LouisvilleUSACE via flickr

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