Delaying College After High School: Good or bad?

Questions arise as to whether high school graduates should enter college right away or not. Image Source:

Many high school seniors start planning about their future career paths as their graduation date approaches. Some students want to immediately enter the workforce, while others seek to obtain college degrees to improve their career opportunities. For the latter part, most students enroll for college right after graduation, while the rest delay for a certain amount of time, due to various reasons, such as lack of financial resources, have no clear career goals, or simply just want a break after long years of high school. The question is, should they delay college enrollment after high school? Studies have shown statistical results which do not suggest that. Delaying post-secondary enrollment has been shown to lower the rates of degree completion, or leads students toward choosing shorter and career-specific paths, like vocational schools or associate’s degree.

Delaying college has been shown to increase college dropout rates. Image Source:

Delaying college after high school increases the chance of students dropping out before their degree completion. The National Education Longitudinal Study, or NELS, indicated that “for each month between high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment, the odds of degree completion are decreased by 6.5 percent” (Bozick & DeLuca, 547). That is, a student who enters college after one year of graduating from high school is 78 percent less likely to complete a bachelor degree than their counterparts who enter right away from high school graduation. When taking other factors into consideration, such as socioeconomic support, academic achievement, and socio-demographic characteristics, the percentage drops down from 78 to 64 percent, which is still relatively high (Bozick & DeLuca, 547). From the study, we can see that delaying college enrollment is generally a bad idea, as it increases the dropout rates. Those dropout students not only waste their money and time while attending college, but also on top of that, the time they spent while delaying their enrollments.

Besides the higher risk of dropping out, “students who delay their post-secondary enrollment are [also] more likely than those who do not delay to follow a post-secondary enrollment path focused on vocational training and short-term programs” (Horn et al., 2005). The National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, studied students’ career paths after graduating high school. Its results showed that for all students entering college right after high school, 55 percent went for bachelor’s degrees, 32 percent went for associate’s degree, and 9 percent went for vocational certificate (Horn et al., 2005). For students who delayed 1 or more year, the numbers reversed: only 26 percent went for bachelor’s degrees, while the result for associate’s degrees is 46 percent and for vocational certificates is 22 percent (Horn et al., 2005). A bachelor’s degree or higher will give the student access to more varieties and better job opportunities in terms of salary and growth. Most of those students who enrolled after a delay would enter the workforce with significant disadvantages compared to those who enrolled right after high school, assuming they all completed their degrees.

Starting college right after high school increases students’ chances of success after graduation. Image Source:

From the studies’ results, it is obvious that an individual should attend college right after high school, unless personal difficulties prevent him or her from doing so. Entering college right after high school provides the student higher chance of completing a bachelor’s degree and access to more job opportunities. Many people argue that students should not enter college until they have a clear idea of their career goals. However, attending college is one of the best ways to explore various careers. Colleges offer introductory courses to many different majors, so students can utilize those courses as well as their academic advisors to determine which would be their best fit. It might seem like a waste of money for many students to spend one or two semesters exploring different career choices. However, wouldn’t it be a great trade off in the end, since you are more likely to find the career that you love as well as graduate and enter professional workforce earlier?


Horn, L., Cataldi, E. F., & Sikora, A. (2005). Waiting to Attend College: Undergraduates Who Delay Their Postsecondary Enrollment. Retrieved February 23, 2017, from

Bozick, R. & DeLuca, S. (2005). Better Late Than Never? Delayed Enrollment in the High School to College Transition. Social Forces, 84(1), 531–554.

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