The decision to go back to school is tough for many people, especially considering the time and cost commitment. As a professor for nearly 20 years, I have seen many students come through my classes. I remember starting my college teaching days at Houston Community College, where many of the students were working adults, otherwise known as nontraditional. After a long day working in the Space City, they would spend several hours in one of my Marketing or Management classes. I am sure many of them questioned if the investment was worthwhile, especially because they were spending long nights away from their families.

I am going to cover three issues to consider when deciding of a college education is right for you. For some of you, the examples shared here might be too close for comfort.

Being Prepared for the Opportunities

Earl Nightingale said that unless you are prepared for the opportunity, the opportunity will make you look stupid. The point is simple, but true. If you fail to have the level of education required for a particular position, the opportunity will go to someone who has made the investment to be ready. A good example is when I decided to obtain a full-time faculty position. I remember making call after call asking for the chance to teach full-time at a university. Invariably, I was informed that individuals with a terminal degree, or those with a doctorate filled permanent positions. After hearing that rejection many times, I made the decision to earn my PhD, and it has opened many opportunities.

Avoid the “Backing Into my Job Dilemma”

The advantage of earning a college education is that you will assume control of your future. I know of many people who accepted a $10 per hour position with the intention of leaving the work as soon as they found something better. After 6 months on the job, however, they were offered a promotion that led to $12 per hour. Six months later they are making $14 per hour and had a nice title to go along with it. Before long, the job they accepted on a temporary basis had become their long-term employment. After 10 or 15 years, they could ill-afford to leave the job because their mortgage and other expenses were aligned with the salary. Given they lack the education to take control of their career, these individuals have little choice but to continue doing the status quo, and hope for the nominal pay increases that come every so often.

A College Education Changes Your Mindset

Those who have earned a college degree understand the hard work required to reach this tremendous accomplishment. The fact is that roughly 25% of the US population has a 4-year degree. Those who go on and earn their master’s are part of the 8% group, and only 1% of the population has a doctorate. As you earn a higher degree, your confidence level soars, and it is not an accident. By learning more from your professors and sharing knowledge with fellow students, your brain is working nonstop. You are thinking of new ways to position yourself better for future opportunities. In some cases, you get that terrific idea that leads to owning a business, and then you can experience the freedom that makes life so wonderful.

Instead of looking stupid when opportunity knocks, you are prepared to accept a position placing you on the path to future successes. You have that wonderful feeling that your future is dictated by your commitment to your aspirations and goals.