College is just one of many options open to high school graduates. Here are a few paths you could choose.

Oh, the Places You'll Go! 7 Potential Paths for the High School Graduate

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! 7 Potential Paths for the High School Graduate

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High school students need to start thinking about the path they want to take when they graduate. As their teacher, you can help them discover all of their options and choose which one is best for them. Talk over these seven different paths with your students and discuss how each path could help them reach their goals.

High school can be a confusing time for your students. Show your seniors these 7 potential paths once they graduate. If you’re a senior in high school, you’ve probably been working hard on earning stellar grades, getting knee-deep in extracurricular activities, and possibly even fighting off a case of senioritis. The big question mark is what the future holds when you graduate. And as you venture out into a world filled with vast possibilities, don’t focus on just one option — consider a few of them.

1. Large, Public Four-Year Universities

Attending a four-year university is a popular choice, but you’ll want to factor in the costs. According to the College Board, the national average for one year of tuition and fees at an in-state public university is $9,410. The cost for out-of-state students? A whopping $23,890.

“Cost needs to be a huge consideration when weighing the pros and cons of higher education because it determines your return on investment for your education,” says Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor. You’ll need to spend some time with your parents figuring out what all the costs are (including room, food, books, and supplies), how you’ll pay for it, and weighing the pros and cons of attending college to determine if it’s ultimately worth it.

2. Small, Private Four-Year Universities

If you want smaller classes, an emphasis on teaching over research, and an easier time getting to know fellow students, then look toward attending a small, private university. Small colleges also tend to specialize in the liberal arts. However, you may forgo the name recognition and athletics department that many larger universities boast. Are you someone who likes to get lost in a big crowd? Or would you get more from a close-knit environment?

On average, small, private colleges come with a heftier price tag: $32,410 per year.

3. Two-Year Community Colleges

Looking for a less costly alternative? Consider going to a two-year community college before transferring to a four-year university. The average cost for one year of tuition at an in-state, public two-year college is $3,400, according to the College Board. Plus, there’s a good chance you can attend community college while living with Mom and Dad, which could save you money on room and board. If you’re not sure yet what you’ll be majoring in, it’s a great way to get your general education courses out of the way before delving deep into courses that pertain to your major.

4. Trade or Vocational Schools

Traditional colleges might not be the right path for every high school graduate. Trade schools are a great way to graduate with skills that let you pay the bills. You can learn anything from electrical and automotive to architecture and vet tech skills. For those with a creative bent, you can learn visual effects or music engineering.

While the average cost for all four years of a more traditional college is $127,000, the average total cost of attending a trade school is $33,000. And even aside from the lower cost, it takes on average anywhere from just four to 18 months to complete a trade school program, so you’ll be entering the workforce sooner.

One of the drawbacks to attending a trade school, though, is that you’re limited as to the kinds of jobs that you can do.

5. Military

The perks of joining the military include getting to see the world and learning skills that you can take with you down the road, not to mention generous retirement benefits, healthcare, and tuition reimbursement.

There’s also the U.S. Army Reserve, which you can enlist in while attending college. You can also join the military after you earn a college degree, which will broaden your options as to which posts you can occupy.

6. Online Classes

There are plenty of opportunities to further your education after high school with online courses. From massive open online courses to sites like Udemy, Coursera, and Skillshare to university extension courses, you can learn anything from Photoshop to financial planning to blogging . The best thing about online courses is that some of them are totally free.

While you won’t earn a degree, you can earn a certificate of completion. Plus, online classes are a great way to hone your marketable skills.

7. Straight to Work

Of course, you can decide to go straight to work. This may be a good idea if you want to gain some real-life experience right after college. Maybe there’s a family business you can work at. Or maybe you can learn sustainable living skills at organic farms in different countries through programs like Willing Workers on Organic Farms.

Farrington strongly recommends that those who don’t know what they want to do after high school get out there and work for a few years. “Explore different jobs and careers,” says The College Investor’s Farrington. “Travel if you can afford it. The thing is, you can always go back if you need to get an education. But don’t waste your money if you don’t have any clue why you’re doing it.”

Check List

  • What kind of career are you interested in?
  • Do you need a college education to do what you want to do?
  • Have you considered going into a trade?
  • List some reasons that trade school might be a good fit for you.
  • Do you feel pressured to attend college rather than going into a trade?