For some high school seniors, the decision to go to college isn't much of a decision at all. Their parents and grandparents went to college and the general assumption has always been that they would, as well. For others, the history, costs and motivation may not come quite as easily. College is an investment that often pays dividends, but you also need goals and desire to succeed.

Why Go

Motivation or not, the benefits of going to college and getting a degree are hard to deny. Along with the fact that you gain more knowledge, life skills and experiences, data strongly supports that degrees pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed unemployment rates of 6.2 percent and 4.5 percent in 2012 for associate's and bachelor's degrees, respectively. This compared favorably to the 8.3 percent rate for diplomas only. Additionally, weekly median income was $785 with an associate's and $1,066 for a bachelor's, compared to $652 with a diploma.


College does have costs, though. The average college grad had $25,000 in debt, according to a September 2012 U.S. News & World Report article. Actual tuition and fees vary by school. A two-year community college degree can costs as little as $10,000 to $15,000 in many cases as of March 2013. Public school bachelor's degrees can cost that much per year or more, including room and board. Private four-year degrees often reach six figures in total costs. These are all hefty amounts to pay or borrow if you aren't sure you want to go to college.

Online School

Online school or classes are options for students who want to start a college education but in a more comfortable, flexible environment. You can take one or two classes to test the waters or take a full schedule of online classes after high school. Web-based courses involve completing reading work, online discussions and assignments via the Internet. You learn the content and get the credits if you pass the class, but outside the traditional college experience.

Massive Open Online Courses

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are another innovative alternative for students unsure about the traditional college learning experience. MOOC education is also delivered online, but it combines benefits of the typical "one-to-many" model of classroom instruction with collaborative peer learning. Course content is presented to students through video tutorials and training. Additionally, students engage in peer-to-peer coaching, using social media tools and applications to share ideas and to point other students to effective content and topic information. This format may work better for students who don't want to continue in a standard lecture experience or a basic online course.