Numbers Matter

Numbers Matter

Make Them Work in Your Favor


If you’ve been thinking about applying to college but are unsure about how you might benefit from the experience, you’ve probably seen the number. You’ve looked at it and thought about whether it’s really true. You know what I’m talking about…

Over a life-time, a college degree is generally worth almost a million dollars” (Roth).

This figure has been quoted for years and I have used it at the beginning of every semester for just as long while teaching at Westchester Community College. Now, in all fairness, the number needs to be put in context when inflation and the expense of a college degree is factored in, but it is a fairly reliable (and enticing) number. If you want to look a little closer, you can think of it in terms of annual salary. The U.S. Census Bureau has produced this chart to show the average annual income, and percentage increase, by degree.

Education Avg. Income Increase
Drop-out $20,873
High school $31,071 48.9%
College $56,788 82.8%
Advanced $82,320 45.0%

For most students who are contemplating whether to spend the time and money to a complete degree, this is all the research that is needed. However, there are many other compelling reasons to pursue a college degree and most have nothing to do with income or money earned over one’s lifetime. According to Katharine Hansen at
Quintessential Careers, a college education is associated with other benefits, such as:

  • longer life spans
  • better access to health care
  • better dietary and health practices
  • less dependency on government assistance
  • greater Internet access
  • greater participation in leisure and artistic activities
  • greater community service and leadership
  • more self-confidence
  • and less criminal activity and incarceration

So, you get it. A college degree can add tremendous value to your life, your family’s well-being and the sustainability of your community.  It’s a no-brainer, you’re going to college.

However,  it can get pretty overwhelming when you think about preparing for college, what you would like to study while in college and what job you would ultimately like to have after college. Students usually start by thinking about what job they would like to have and which academic major will prepare them for that job. But here is something to consider, “In the United States, only 27% of college graduates end up in a career related to their majors” (Burnett, Evans). This means that the experience of completing a degree and all the transferable skills that you are able to master in any major will prepare you to pursue most any profession you choose. You don’t have to worry as much about your future career or what degree you will pursue, but you do need to think about which college will be the best fit. And this is where it gets tricky. The best fit…

Most people are looking to go the “best” college, but this is a numbers game that usually does not allow a person to find their “best fit” college. It is in the best interest of selective colleges to have as many applicants as possible and reject as many as needed in order to select an incoming class whose achievements in course grades and test scores (numbers) are at the top of a national cohort of incoming college freshmen. This is how the college rankings are determined, which in turn influences the number of applicants and ultimately how exclusive the college becomes. This creates the numbers game in the admissions process.

Luckily, the numbers that seem to matter the most are course grades. According to the National Association for Admissions Counseling,

“For high school seniors applying to college, performance in core classes is especially significant, with 79.2 percent of institutions attributing “considerable importance” to grades in college-prep courses. In comparison, 55.7 percent of colleges placed the same level of significance on admission test scores for first-time freshmen applicants”.

However, test scores are still significant and there are several reasons why performing well on the PSAT, PREACT, SAT and ACT can have a positive impact beyond the admissions process.

  • The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has required test scores in order for student athletes to be eligible to compete.
  • Academic advisors will consider a number of factors, including standardized test scores, to help determine your path to a college degree.
  • Course placement is often determined by a combination of your high school course grades (Advanced Placement) and test scores.
  • Scholarships and grants are often awarded based on standardized scores.
  • Selective colleges use student performance on standardized tests to begin the recruiting process.

Numbers do matter. Your job is to seek out the resources that will help you make them work in your favor.

Work hard, be prepared, get Prepified!

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