As both current college graduates and recent alumni are well aware of, many students are torn between “having some semblance of a social life” or dedicating much of their free time to studying and preparing presentations, working a job, etc. For many students, the struggle to balance a healthy personal life with a successful academic one can often be daunting, stressful, and even unhealthy. Add these stressors to the fact that college tuition is on a steady incline, and you have a recipe for disaster. So, you ask yourself: Maybe I should study abroad for a semester. Perhaps I can extend my education by a semester or two. In the United States, the average student no longer takes four years to receive a Bachelor’s Degree; it has increased to an average of 5-6 years (dependent on various factors, of course).
But at what cost do these factors; these ways in which students “prolong their academic career” bear? The simple answer: Money. Increased payments to the school. Increased debt for the student. More currency to add to the metaphoric “shackles” that many students wear for years after graduation: their student debt. These “actual costs” have a monetary value; climb steadily with interest, and are a measurable quantity in which students directly increase their financial burden, even after receiving that coveted college degree.
The tough decision that each student must make for themselves is a tough one. Analyzing the opportunity costs (deciding not to study abroad and missing the experience, finishing their degree early, etc.) in relation to their actual costs (how much the study abroad program may cost, taking longer to finish their degree to lessen their course load and have more time to socialize, etc.) Each student must decide whether missing a potentially good experience is worth saving money in the long-run, thus decreasing their student debt (and stress levels) a few months or years down the road.
Unfortunately, there is no “right or wrong” answer to this predicament. Each decision must be made on a case-to-case basis by the student. By assessing their career options, the possible return on investment of their degree choice, the financial burden they are currently carrying, and the college experience they wish to experience, it is only then that a student will be able to make the decision that will best be tailored to their needs and desires.