Many people pursue a higher education for a variety of reasons. For some, they want the college experience to bridge the gap between childhood and the real world. Some have a concrete goal in mind and want to pursue the prestige that comes from obtaining a higher education at some of this country’s more elite universities.  A select few aspire to become our next doctors, lawyers, engineers, or nurses. Then there are the rest of us who simply want to be able to find a damn job after graduating.

The reasons are numerous, but after talking to a few followers and friends on social media, I discovered some who were asked, “What is the value of higher education to you?” They answered with a romantic viewpoint that I could very well relate to, which brings us here today. Today I want to talk more about the romantic value of obtaining a higher education and how it is impractical when it’s time to hit the 9 to 5.

While discussing this so-called romantic value, I’ve concluded it means a person values all of those feel-good moments derived from the experiences that college has to offer. You meet new people, you’re experiencing the world from a new perspective, and you’re able to think for yourself. What’s not romantic about that? It’s freeing and certainly appealing to someone who has lived by another person’s rules for 18 years. The things you learn about yourself during this experience is not something you can put a monetary value on.

My college friends and I still have the closest relationships almost 14 years after meeting each other. We’ve been through hell together, nursed each other through sickness and heartbreak, stood up for each other, fought and bickered with one another, and learned all about adulting together.

I can’t put a price tag on any of this and as much as I hate my student loans, I wouldn’t trade them in for those experiences or my friends. Impractical much? Heck yes, it’s impractical for someone who’s working a typical 9 to 5 and not making half of what she owes in student loans, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without all of that romance college so happened to provide.

Given that these are experiences that make us better people, is the price tag associated with it worth it? Should we have to pay for these experiences?

For those pursuing certain degrees that provide a high return on investment, it’s easy to see where the value of higher education is worth it. If you spend years studying medicine, those costs are worth it if you receive placement into residency programs after completing medical school.

But then there are the rest of us – those who pursue business management, information technology, or teaching degrees. Is there any value in these fields of study alone? Or should those who major in these studies only expect the romantic value that college has to offer and nothing else?

Many of us can agree that going to college is a good thing if you’re actually cut out for school. Nonetheless, those who are cut out for school are still graduating with alarming amounts of debt and no promise of future employment.

It’s almost guaranteed you’ll learn something about yourself during your college experience and if you apply yourself to your studies, you’ll earn some book smarts too. But even with those guarantees, it’s not for certain you will receive the proper amount of aid to attend school and graduate from college debt free.

Even in knowing this, thousands of freshman students happily flood colleges and universities every fall – uncertain of the outcome, but sure about the dream. Their dreams include meeting people, learning about themselves, and obtaining a higher education.

None of them would chalk any of it up as going to school to be wooed by life, but it’s exactly what they are doing. If they were able to take a peek into the future to determine if that romance would be worth the price tag, I would love to see how many alter their decisions of pursuing a higher education at a four-year university.

For many, including myself, I still can’t say I would change the course I took. I’d still happily trample my way onto the University of South Carolina’s campus. Knowing what I know now, I would have explored other opportunities to afford the education I wanted, but I wouldn’t think twice about going after all of that romance. The romance was priceless. The degree, we’ll save that for another day.