Ending grade school after 12 straight years is perhaps the greatest achievement and relief of high school graduates, but now there’s this whole college thing. Meh. Fortunately, now that students are adults and have a high school diploma or GED, they have free range to their future: university, community college, vocational school, military, and even long-term volunteering.
- The four-year option (which most Mustang graduates will choose) awards higher degrees in challenging higher-education academic fields, but not everyone can, wants to, or needs to take the intensity and expensiveness these degrees require. The next best option is the community and junior college where students earn two-year degrees (usually associate-level) or career certification. Community colleges could be the best option for some students by allowing them to focus on a particular career, make contacts early in the area, save money on education, and only have to bother with two more years of school ever.
- A common path for students expecting to attend a four-year college in the future use community college (best if taken in the same area as the prospective four-year college) as a way to get those lame core and introductory subjects out of the way without wasting money on the same class in a university. Our typical path at Taylor is spending a year or two at HCC or local university and then transferring to a higher-level university like UT, A&M, or an out-of-state school.
- If more school at all sounds either unnecessary or unbearable, try a vocational school. Yes, it is a school, which almost defeats the last statement; however, vocational schools are the real-world, hands-on, get-a-job-now option for students eager to have a normal, comfortable life as soon as possible. Vocational schools provide career certification and experience with usually small class sizes and a direct, easy transition to a career. If anyone considers dropping out of high school (which is one of the dumbest things a student could do, first of all) the vocational school is the best way of making up the education loss and ensure stability.
- The most popular alternative to any further academic/career education after high school is the military. Joining the armed forces is almost a guaranteed job for those healthy and active enough, and financial bonuses can be huge – $40,000 enlistment bonus and $65,000 in loan repayment options. The military is a massive beast, and combat service is far from the only option after enlistment. A recruit could work as a mechanic on fighter jets in the Air Force, computer technician maintaining a missile system in the Army, field medic tending to wounded soldiers and civilians in the Marines, air traffic controller landing jets on aircraft carriers in the Navy, or a rescue helicopter pilot in the Coast guard. Most career fields within the military have on-site vocational training in the field, and there is no question to finding a job and going to work immediately. Touring the world with a steady income and serving your country immediately out of grade school is one of the most directly fulfilling accomplishments one could hope for, and it is entirely doable in the military.
For those looking for an entirely different direction after high school, the volunteer world is hiring. The biggest opportunities are in organizations like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.
- AmeriCorps is a U.S.-based volunteer organization providing opportunities in the states, U.S. territories, and tribal reservations. Some projects are available in exotic places like Hawaii and Caribbean territories like the Virgin Islands. No education past high school is required, but before beginning the 9-12 month terms of service, volunteers must first train in CPR, first aid, public safety, and other skills at local AmeriCorps campuses. Volunteers work on projects for community development, disaster relief, the environment, health, and other public interest fields. Nearly all volunteer opportunities include health insurance, relocation allowance, and a living stipend during service. After the service term completion, AmeriCorps grants an Education Award of up to $4,725 to pay off student loans or to finance college, graduate school, or vocational training. Check americorps.gov to check out all the exciting ways you can travel the U.S., improving the nation and your skills and experiences at the same time.
- The Peace Corps is the international version of AmeriCorps, established in 1961. Peace Corps volunteers live and work overseas in 76 countries, aiding development of education, health, business, environment, youth, agriculture, and other areas. The Corps guarantees full coverage of all living expenses, health insurance, dental care, deferment of student loans, and transportation, so joining is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in a foreign culture and travel the world without much financial consideration. Potential volunteers must apply just like any other institution; helpful attributes could be a college degree (even community college), work experience, volunteer experience, knowledge of foreign languages, and certain skills. Though 94% of volunteers have at least a four-year degree, the only requirements to apply are that volunteers must be U.S. citizens over 18. Terms of service are 27 months of training and service, with two-day vacations every month – many volunteers take this time to explore a neighboring country. After the term has expired, volunteers may leave with a $6000 retirement paycheck. See peacecorps.gov for more information and to sign up for service.
If a four-year college, or any college at all, is not on the horizon, there are alternatives that would help students to be successful. Junior colleges, vocational schools, the military, and volunteer organizations can all ensure a continued education, and the ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.