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Paths After High School

Every high school senior –at some point– secretly dreads graduation. As much uncertainty surrounds that day as does excitement. It’s a bitter-sweet ending that does not necessarily mark the beginning of bigger and better things. High school, with all its faults and failures, is easy, predictable, and safe. It’s the final place where students can ignore that nagging question: What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

Sadly, many students pick the wrong path after graduation simply out of indecisiveness or ignorance. Often eighteen year olds do not understand either themselves or their post-high school options well enough to make an informed decision.  Fortunately, with a little self-awareness and research students can discover the right direction.

Before deciding on post-high school plans, students must honestly assess their likes and dislikes. Students who do not like spending long hours studying probably should not enter fields that require years of education. Likewise students who really enjoy working with people should look into jobs that allow them to interact with other individuals on daily basis. Being authentic to oneself is the first big step to finding a fulfilling career.

Students do not necessarily have to decide on a specific career path before they can pick their next stage in life. All they need is a general idea of what they want to do and decide what route will allow them to do it. Although the most common post-graduation plan is going to college, students should evaluate their own personal goals before making that commitment. There are many options beyond a four-year university, e.g., community college, technical/vocation school, the armed forces, or the work force. Each post-graduation plan has its own advantages and disadvantages and will take students down a different route. While choosing one direction does not eliminate the other possibilities, it does get more difficult to switch courses later on in life.

Students who choose to go to a traditional college or university will spend an average of four years studying for their Bachelor’s Degrees. College students will declare a major or majors in a particular field, but have the opportunity to take a variety of classes unrelated to their chosen field of study. Schools also offer a variety of both on and off campus activities. The best way for university students to get “real world” experience is through summer internships and semester practicums.

Community colleges offer students an inexpensive means of receiving their Associate Degrees, which usually allows students to enter the work-force in half the time as it takes traditional college students. This educational path allows students to focus mainly on their chosen fields and spend less time gaining a broader education. Sometimes high school students will go first to a community college then later transfer to a four-year university.

Technical and vocational schools teach students do to very specific jobs, like plumbing or electrical work. Students do not earn degrees at these types of schools, but usually receive licenses or certifications. These types of schools offer a practical means of pursuing hands-on career paths.

Students who are interested a dynamic career choice should consider the military. The United States Armed Forces are made up of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Each service is unique and offers diverse opportunities for those involved. Every branch is made up of both officers and enlisted men and women. The length of a student’s military contract is different for each branch and anyone interested should discuss opportunities available with local branch recruiters.

Many people choose to go straight into the work-force. Students who have an entrepreneurial spirit can start their own businesses or join start-up companies from the ground floor. Those who are less adventurous can simply apply for jobs in any of the fields that interest them. Students can become bank tellers, construction workers, secretaries, and personal assistants with only a high school degree.

Every student is different and there are many roads to success. High school students should decide for themselves where to go after graduation. Following the crowd or simply doing what is expected is often a poor choice. Life after graduation doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, with some honesty and open-mindedness, it can be positively exciting.

Jean Burk is a homeschooling mother and author of College Prep Genius: The No Brainer Way to SAT Success! She has been the featured SAT expert for FOX, CBS, NBC, and The Homeschool Channel. Both her children received full-ride scholarship offers because of their SAT and PSAT scores. Her revolutionary program is taught in schools and homeschool co-ops across the country and helps thousands of students raise their SAT scores as much as 600 points.

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