Education matters! A college/university education matter even more! I realized how much it mattered two years after graduating from high school, faced with the reality of not being able to progress beyond an entry-level position because I had no advanced education or training. A college degree became a necessity back then, and is a requirement even more today.

My advanced education, however, was more than obtaining a degree. It was an opportunity to move beyond my comfort zone, learn from academia, listen to others’ perspectives, expand my views and thinking, stretch my imagination, explore new opportunities, and apply new ideas as I progressed to a career in finance.

Today, a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite to even be considered for entry-level positions in most professional fields. A degree, however, isn’t the final answer or the finish line. I see it as one factor in a much larger equation and the starting line for where life will take you.

One of the greatest changes and challenges in today’s economic times is that a college degree no longer guarantees immediate employment or a successful career in most fields of study. The degree puts you in the running for a better future, but it provides no guarantees, especially in a depressed economy. And yes, higher education is very expensive, but loans, work/study programs, and scholarships can help. The bottom line: Research shows that in terms of future earning power, the advantage goes to the person who extends his or her education. When considering a 22 to 26-year-old graduate will most likely be employed for more than 30 years, the overall impact of advanced education on his or her career will make the investment worthwhile.

When planning for the future, both parents and children have a lot to think about beyond just classroom time—after-school jobs, volunteering for nonprofits, actively supporting a cause, internships, networking, and doing well—both academically and socially—while in high school and college all contribute to your future readiness for the job of your choice. It was important so many years ago when I was in school and is more important now. I cannot overestimate the importance of a good education to achieving your goals. I think everyone should at least give it the “old college try.”