It is often argued on what is the "right" path to take after graduating high school.
Should I attend a four year university?
Is it better for me to go straight to work?
I’m a great singer or writer, should I pursue my talent?
I have great crafting skills, should I attempt to start my own business?
Should I take a gap year to travel the world? Or maybe, during the gap year, I can network and reach people and businesses.
What if I apply for a fellowship with a certain company?
Should I join the military?
There are thousands of questions racing through your brain as you attempt to contemplate your future. Now let's discuss the realism behind each “road” that you may be thinking of taking, so that you can make a more informed decision as graduation approaches.
The Many Roads
Employment: Why should I go straight to work after high school?
Sometimes, going straight into a job after graduating is the best fit for young adults. You may need to live independently and afford bills. In this situation, local, full-time jobs will suit you best. You could always work and save money to attend university at a later date or look into free online classes while employed. According to theclassroom.com, there are six advantages of going to work after high school: “saving money, gaining work experience, learning about interests, enhancing college applications, honing job-search skills, and making contacts (The Classroom).”
Young adults who go directly into the workforce after high school typically report difficulty finding employment, lower wages, and dissatisfaction with their job. To prevent this, it is best to make sure you have a resume of strong experience and reputable references. For more information on how to build a strong resume, look forward to our upcoming blog post on resume building on March 8th!
Talent/Craftiness: Is my talent or craftiness viable as a potential career?
We live in the age of young adults exploring and pursuing their talents (singing, dancing, writing, crafting, etc.) How viable is this for potential money making? Creating a clientele, marketing, making an online presence, and creating prices that generate a profit all contribute to the success of a small business. Creating a social media presence to gain exposure of talents can potentially drive traffic and possibly earn an income. This may be a harder jump right out of high school, basically starting your own business, but you would be doing what you love.
Creating your own business is hard work and the revenue stream may not always be consistent. To compensate for lulls in your small business, consider working part time as you begin your journey or not opening your business until you have created a strong savings account.
Vocational School: Should I pursue a trade?
In contrast to the traditional four-year university, trade schools provide education based on technical knowledge and execution required for a specific occupation. For example, the type of knowledge one would need to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, Welder, or Automotive Technician.
These vocational programs vary in length, anywhere from eight weeks to two years, depending on the type of credentials being studied for.
Some of the highest paying trade jobs include Radiology Technicians, Dental Hygienists, Construction Workers, Boilermakers, Electricians, Plumbers, and Welders.
Some people are under the impression that vocational schools and blue-collar employment is less prestigious than office-based learning and working. Put on your hater shades and keep pushing towards your goal!
Military: What are the benefits of joining?
There are multiple branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Space Force. According to goarmy.com there are many benefits in addition to salary wages that make joining the military after high school an investment in lifetime stability:
-Low or No Cost Healthcare
-Better Home Loan Interest Rates, including Zero Money Down Loan Options
-Retirement and Pension Plan Options
-Full Continued Education cost Coverage by the GI Bill
All branches of the military require extensive physical and mental testing more admittance, and once someone signs a military contract they are usually unable to cancel that agreement. The shortest starting contract is typically about three years in length and during that time soldiers are required to move anywhere around the globe. Before applying for any branch of the military, it is important to evaluate your life goal to ensure that this career is right for you because you must complete the contract term.
Taking a gap year: Traveling? Missions? Working?
A gap year is a break period taken in between high school and continued education where young adults have time to really assess their life goals, in order to better decide what their next move should be. Gap years have shown to provide young adults with foundational skills needed for continued education, such as enhanced interpersonal skills and leadership. Those who have taken a gap year tend to have higher college GPAs, are more likely to graduate on time, and are better prepared for the workforce upon graduation (Green Heart Travel).
Taking a year off may seem difficult financially, however there are missions and study abroad programs that can make traveling more feasible.
Working abroad is a great opportunity to travel and earn money at the same time. The most popular fields are in hospitality and food service, which heavily employ a seasonal workforce. Many countries allow for a "Holiday Visa" which allows for people 18-29 years old to work within the country seasonally.
Another plausible option is called "Homestay," which is like being an exchange student minus the school component. During a homestay, young adults will stay with a host family for a period of 1-3 months in exchange for tutoring the family in the English language. Currently the most popular Homestay areas are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, and Italy.
Travel is very expensive and can become lonesome. In order to make sure you are prepared for a life abroad, it is best to asses your goals and begin planning early for your trip. There are creative fundraiser ideas that may be able to help you create a savings account for your trip. Be sure to begin conducting the proper research as soon as possible in order to be best prepared. Also, having a firm support system will help immensely with any feelings of home sickness/loneliness. Knowing that a loved one is one phone call away is a great comfort when living across the globe.
Fellowships vs. Internships: What is the difference?
A fellowship is defined as “ a training program in which individuals perform research and develop skills to apply in a professional environment (Indeed.com)." Companies may offer these programs for graduate or post-graduate college students studying office-based jobs, such as data processing, medicine, history, etc.
An internship, in contrast, "allows students to experience work cultures and environments before beginning their careers (Indeed)."
Universities may provide internship opportunities or helpful resources to that students obtain an internship with an independent company. Some internships may even be applicable towards college credits for a particular course, with prior advisor approval. After completing an internship, individuals can add this credential to their resume to show future employers they have relevant professional experience and in some circumstances companies may offer an intern permanent position. Fellowships tend to focus more on professional development and involves research. Internships have more participation in the work related field.
Fellowship and Internships are sometimes unpaid, which causes an issue for young adults who are attempting to live independently. To get the best understanding of these programs in your area, consult your school counselor to explore all options before making a decision. There may be a paid program available that will provide you with more benefit.
So What Do I Do?
No one can answer that but you!
While you may be receiving "advice" from all angles, it is best to make a decision that speaks to you. This blog post is the first of a series that will address life after graduation, so be sure to follow our website!
The next post in this series will address decision-making and goal-setting, which will help you learn about the tools you need to make a sustainable decision about your employment and education.
Archer, J. (2021, November 5). Why adults benefit from furthering their education. The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://www.theclassroom.com/adults-benefit-furthering-education-7065.html
15 best jobs for Trade School Graduates: BestColleges. BestColleges.com. (2023, February 10). Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://www.bestcolleges.com/trades/best-trade-school-jobs/
Your options after graduating high school . Greenheart Travel. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://greenhearttravel.org/blog/gap-year/your-options-after-graduating-high-school