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Beyond College: 3 Valuable Options for Life After High School

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Tierney Cashman is a teacher and post-secondary counselor at Fusion Academy Austin. She spends her free time writing, reading, and loving her family. She has almost received her Master’s in Counseling and is working toward her LPC. Her goal is to help adolescents get the mental health support they need.

You Deserve Options!

Let me first be honest and upfront– I loved college. I wouldn’t trade my four years at Virginia Tech for anything in the world. On top of that, I’m working on my Master’s in Counseling. I love school. I love learning. I love college.

AND options are valuable too! 

College can offer so many opportunities for students– it certainly did for me. In our society, however, we need to stop forcing college upon those students who would better thrive in a different environment. 

The thing is, there are other options. Whether you’re a student who really doesn’t want college at all or wants to take some time to decide, there are options for you to consider.

Trade Schools

But you just said college isn’t for everyone. Why are you on here suggesting another type of school? Stick with me for a moment.

Trade schools have been a forgotten realm among post-secondary options for a while now– and that’s just wrong. Trade schools offer a wide range of on-the-job training and courses in fields like nursing, heating and air, visual arts, dental hygiene, medical assistant, software development, etc. 

Trade schools offer much more affordable opportunities to learn a new trade and the certification required to get a job immediately upon graduation. Typically, trade school certifications take less time than a four-year university and offer excellent outcomes. If school isn’t your thing, but you know what field would be the best option for you, look into the programs at your local trade school.

Community College

If you’re unsure about college and you want to get a taste of college-level education before investing tens of thousands of dollars to figure it out, community college may be a good option for you. Not only are general education courses offered at a much more affordable price (the same gen ed classes you have to take your first two years of college), but you can work towards an  Associate’s Degree. This degree enables you to get a job in the workforce with a specialization in your particular field.  Smaller class sizes and flexible schedules offer students an opportunity to continue their education without feeling the pressures of a four-year university. 

Another  thing I really love about community college is how thoroughly they work with students who want to transfer. After a year or two at the local school, you may decide you’re ready to earn that four-year degree. Perfect! Your advisor would be happy to help you apply to your dream school and transfer credits. Badda bing, badda boom, you get a four-year university experience at half the price. Plus, you’ve spent time finding yourself and knowing more solidly what it is you want to be. 

I love community colleges.

Gap Year

Say you’re pretty set on attending a four-year university, but your heart and soul aren’t ready–  take a gap year, or a break, between high school and college. You can use this time to travel, learn a trade, work and save up for school, or just mentally prepare for life after high school.

For people who need a bit more structure (aka people who get a little too comfortable taking a break), I recommend joining a gap year program. You can join a program based on your area of interest. For example, there may be programs for students who want to learn music abroad or spend their year snowboarding. You could even get an internship for a year before returning to school. 

If you plan to take a gap year, I would suggest looking into universities that offer deferment options. Deferment will allow you to postpone admittance for one year after you’ve already been accepted. That way, you already know which college you’re going to attend, but you’ve got some time before you enter that world.

So…How Do You Choose?

I know. The world is scary. I get it; truly. Think about where you are in your life and think about what you want to do. There are options out there for you, and not all of them have to be college. 

Talk with your guidance counselor and parent about possible next steps. Explain your perspective and hear theirs. Give yourself time to research, reflect, make decisions, and maybe even change your mind.

For any other post-secondary guidance or advice, please feel free to email me. I would love to help you on your post-secondary journey. I can’t wait for you to see what you’re capable of. 

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