Plans After Graduation: Exploring Career Opportunities Beyond College

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Rethinking Higher Education

Every year in the United States, another wave of young men and women graduate from high school to begin their adult lives. Each one tries to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life. The culture, and most likely their family, expects them to graduate from a 4-year college with a degree and a high-paying job waiting for them. However, as the price of college rises ever higher, the crippling debt of student loans prevents most students from fulfilling their dreams (Reynolds). Which begs the question, if college most often results in debt and disappointment, why pursue a post-secondary education?

Most Americans believe the purpose of college is either to gain special education for specialized jobs or to learn and develop their minds and character (Busteed). When perceived that way, one can see that a four-year college experience does not have to be necessary to grow as a person or get a job. Two-year community college, trade school, a gap year, or even just jumping into the workforce could produce the same results, depending on the person and what his talents are. The vehicle of education is not as important as the plan and passion of the individual student. Not all careers require a bachelor’s degree, and few require a masters or doctorates. What is more important is learning what one is enjoys and succeeds at doing, and using that knowledge to pick (or create) a career and plan a way to it.

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Many students have trouble deciding what career they want to pursue, but a few have been certain of what they want for a long time. For those few, it really depends on the type of career they have chosen to choose what to do after high school. If they chose a career that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, than a four-year university is for them. But some careers only require an associates, certification training, or less. For example, being an entrepreneur does not require a business degree, only the willpower, ideas, and knowledge needed to successfully sell a product. Maybe they need to take a gap year to save up until they can afford the education they need for their chosen career, but either way, they have a plan and a purpose to pursue.

For the students who enjoy learning struggle with deciding on a career, a four-year university is not the best idea. They would end up spending about two years figuring out what they want to do, while possibly wasting their money on classes not needed for the career they choose in the end. The best decision would be to attend a 2-year community college getting an associates degree while they explore a variety of career choices without the huge price tag of a university. Then, once they have figured out what they want, they could transfer to a four-year college if they need a bachelor’s degree.

Finding Success Beyond Traditional College

Some students dislike learning in a school environment and would better benefit from entering the workforce directly or learning a hands-on useful skill at a trade school. Getting into the workforce early could benefit them in the long run as they would gain basic skills and experience early and hopefully advance to higher up jobs. However, those with college educations do earn more than those without (Torpey). But the salary of a job does not determine its worth; if one works at the career one loves and excels at, then it does not matter how much one earns.

Whether a student attends a four-year, two-year, trade school or nothing at all, what matters most is having a plan to get to the career which gives them joy and fulfillment. Whether to grow as a person or gain a satisfying career, college is not the only way. High school seniors do not need to worry as they see the rising cost of university and feel the expectation to attend; they have other options. Americans should be grateful for the variety of paths they can follow in the land of opportunity.  

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