The most disturbing trend in America the past 60 years has nothing to do with drugs, over exposure to technology, or Miley Cyrus; it’s this misconception that a top-tier college or university is a student’s lone path to success. A college education simply cost more money than most people have. Tuition is only rising and the U.S. economy is showing no signs of a quick recovery. If current trends continue, higher education will eventually be something only the rich can afford, as it was centuries ago. Since this is still a far way off (things are bad but not terrible), it would make more sense for determined High-School graduates to adapt, rather than expect the educational system to make major changes. For many students, the best path after high-school may be to reconsider going to college and weigh the alternatives.
The alternatives are both quality and in quantity. Don’t let anyone (your single-minded high-school counselor, peers, society…) tell you otherwise.
An ever-popular option is attending a community college. For whatever reason, they seem to have a negative, almost laughable, reputation attached to them. In fact, many community colleges (CC from this point on) have been steadily improving both their campus and curriculum due to a nationwide increase in attendance. Their professors and classes are actually on par with most other universities and colleges. Many students might stay with a CC, or decide to transfer to a university of their choice after two years, or when they finish their General Education requirements. Many also work part-time to afford their future university tuition. It’s a flexible path that gives you enough time to save money and decide on a major.
For some, attending a college of any kind is undesirable. You may not be the “school-type,” and there is nothing wrong with that. Working right after high-school could be a smart option too. For many, this path may seem to be a sinkhole that starts with an entry-level position at a fast-food chain, eventually leading down a series of dead-end jobs. Many don’t realize that volunteer positions and internships offer the experience and connections needed to be a serious candidate for a much better paying job. A summer of unpaid work could be an investment that pays you back for a lifetime. Many also overlook vocational schools. If you’re certain you know what your eventual profession will be, few places offer better experience.
Another path rarely mentioned is joining a branch of the military. The options are numerous: you could join the army, air force, navy, or the marines. Even then, there are dozens of roles you can fill. You don’t have to fight. The real selling point, however, are the benefits. The US government makes sure to look after their soldiers even after they retire (I’m aware of the recent controversies regarding veterans and their lack of support and aid, but the benefits of joining the military go much beyond that). You also can’t forget the less tangible, but equally important, benefits: an immense amount of discipline, self-control, respect, and experience.
Or, of course, you can still go straight to that really good university. Don’t let me discourage you. If you have the money, it could be your best option. Even if you can’t afford it now, a part-time job while you go to school could solve your problems. It’s a great path, just not for everyone.
For those of you still in high-school, look to get a head start. It’s very possible to start preparing for life after you graduate while still in high-school. First, realize that high-school is much easier than it all seems. Getting a 4.0 GPA doesn’t require “talent” or being “gifted.” It requires time-management and hard work. In other words, it’s up to you, not your past or your genetic makeup. Also realize that high-school by its self won’t properly prepare you for life after you graduate (it does prepare you somewhat, but not to be successful). You must do more. Joining extracurricular activities like a club or a sport could teach you how to better manage a busy schedule. By the time you’re a junior, you need to start considering the future. Dual-enrollment at a CC can be a real growing experience and a head-start on college credits. Finding a part-time job, internship, or a volunteer position while still in high-school will all better prepare you. Start planning early and aim-high.
Any one of these paths could lead to success. However, the best path for you might be none of these; it’s completely up to you. I decided a combination of these were best for me. I’m currently working part-time, attending a CC as a full-time student, and currently looking for internships at the same time. I was also dual-enrolled in a CC during my senior year (I wish I did it earlier). Whatever you decide is best for you, just remember to do this: aim-high, think positively, work hard, enjoy what you do and always consider all the options.
That’s the lone path to success.
The above article was written by Oscar Keshishyan.