Alternatives to College

High school is a critical time in every student’s life: we are shoved into the deep end and forced to choose what we want to do in our adulthood almost immediately. Most people go for the college route, as it is seemingly the only option available if you want to achieve the quintessential image of success. If someone does have a route they want to take that doesn’t include college, they feel pressured to apply to colleges anyways. They do this so as to not disappoint the people around them, like their parents, who make it seem as if not going to college makes someone less likely to be successful. College is a topic that students cannot escape, which results in most people going to college even when it is not what they want. High schools must start exposing students to other options, besides just college, in order to accommodate to the ambitions of everyone. 

People have dreams that follow unique paths. Not everyone will get to a point in their life where they are satisfied by taking the same route as everyone else. When we are all pressured into one similar mindset—such as by being assigned college application material in class—we lose sight of other possibilities that may be better for us. We do not make the realization that there are many other paths to take after high school and that college is optional.

Alternatives to directly going to college include the military, trade schools, apprenticeships, or even gap years. Many of these options are frowned upon because of the stigma that surrounds them. What makes pursuing a future in the military or having an apprenticeship less valid than a profession that can be obtained through a college degree? They all pay bills and provide a person with valuable real life experiences. They all teach people skills they can use in the future, just like any college course could.  

Another option that is the least talked about is creating a business. All throughout high school, students are encouraged to express creativity and follow their passion. However, they are forced to throw that away in search of a good future. Jobs in the arts are generally discouraged because they tend to make less profit than a white collar job. Students are faced with picking between money and doing what they love. Fear of failure pushes them to the former. It does not take a college degree to develop a passion and make money off of it, yet students are not taught how to create a business. Instead, they are taught how to join one through earning some sort of college level credential. 

 It is hard enough to spend money on college and face the unknown with no guarantee for success in the long run. High schools, by not providing students with adequate information on college alternatives, simply make our decisions for the future more difficult.

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