As high school draws to a close, your future as an adult begins. No doubt almost every adult (and every peer) will be asking you about what your ‘plan’ is after you’ve finished your senior year. If you’ve got one – great! If you don’t – that’s okay! It’s perfectly fine to feel unsure about what you want to do with your life, what career path to choose, where you want to go and what you want to experience in your first years of adulthood. If you think you’re falling anywhere in the latter, we at VocaLady have compiled the pros and cons of a College Path vs. Other Path for your first year after high school and have put together some alternatives if you’re not sure whether college is right for you just yet.
– Knowledge is power! Gaining a higher education past a High School Diploma or G.E.D will lead you to qualifications that can help you move up in your chosen career path and potentially earn you more money in the long run as you gain higher roles in employment. 9 out of 10 times, employers will hire a candidate if they have some form of higher education over someone who doesn’t, as a degree shows hard work, knowledge, commitment and time management – key skills employers always look for. And don’t worry – you probably won’t be stuck in the same career forever! No matter what degree you gain (save for the specifics like a Law Degree or a Doctorate), you will almost always be able to switch and merge through different places, jobs and careers within the work force.
– College is excellent for those who favour or excel in a certain area of study. Unlike high school where subjects are compulsory, gaining a degree in college allows you to focus on subjects, fields of study, and topics that you are interested in or are passionate about. College also offers a broad range of studies (ie: the Bachelor of Arts or studying Liberal Arts) if you’re not 100% sure on a specific thing you’re wanting to study yet and want to try out a bit of everything. You can always change your major!
– Overall, the college experience opens your mind up to ideas, careers, or other topics of study you might not have considered before. You also get to meet a broad range of people and demographics from around the country, international exchange students, as well as students and lecturers from different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and religions.
– The opportunity to travel is a great perk that hundreds of college students take up every year. With hundreds of universities across the country and thousands around the world, you can study your degree pretty much anywhere! If you’re not quite ready to leave the nest, you can choose to study close to home at a local or community college either commuting from home to campus, or living on-campus in student dorms or halls. For those who want to see the world, loads of colleges accept international students every year, or your college may offer the chance to study abroad for a semester through student exchanges.
– Interning is another bonus of the college experience. Many degrees offer interning as a paper requirement in your final years, gaining real-world work experience in a field of study or industry – and more often than not, you can intern for a company or organisation you’re interested in. You could also try a remote internship. Some internships even pay! Not only does interning look fantastic on your CV, they allow you to gain contacts and connections in the industry, network with individuals currently working in your chosen field, and give an insight onto what your chosen career path may look like.
– One of the most controversial, talked-about, and daunting aspects of college is the cost. Whilst there are hundreds of scholarships available and almost always one that will fit your demographic, relying on financial aid to fund your time at college isn’t always the best idea. Often, financial aid can fall through or you may lose your scholarships by not performing to a certain level, grades dropping, disciplinary action, or other reasons. Loans are a reality for a lot of college students and they can trap an individual in years of debt.
– Student Life, although fun and exciting, is extremely expensive – especially if you’re living away from home. Even if you get some form of grant or allowance or manage to juggle a part time job in-between classes, you’ll probably still be struggling to afford things like food, textbooks, or a social life. There is also a lot of pressure in college to balance work, internships, good grades, leadership responsibilities, clubs and extra-curriculars and still maintain a normal social life and good sleep schedule. You have to be consistently on top of things throughout the semester, especially academically – and if you weren’t big into academics in high school or you struggled in this area, this can be an issue. However the Student Life allows you to quickly learn how to manage your schedule, flex those time-management skills, and building up a sense of resilience.
– If you’re living in Halls of Residence or Dorms, it can be a blessing and a curse. Living on campus teaches you how to maturely live in a community or share a living space with a roommate, guaranteed to make friends, and is great practice for flatting or renting in the future, should you decide to move out of the dorms whilst you’re in (or have finished) college. On the downside, if you’re living in a traditional, non-suite style arrangement you may have to sacrifice some privacy for the sake of a roof over your head. Dorm life can also be somewhat frustrating if you’re in conflict with the people you live with or don’t get along with your roommate(s).
Overall, college is a big commitment and investment on many different levels – especially in your first year when everything is new and exciting (and sometimes scary!). You’re spending a minimum of 3 to 4 years of your life at college, so make sure you’re confident that college is the right path for you. Add on the costs (especially if you’re living in halls or in an apartment near campus), work load and time away from family, college can be a strain physically, emotionally and mentally at times. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, however, and by the time you’ve graduated and are ready to face the world you’ll be wishing you were back in class slaving away through textbooks on those end-of-term assignments or cramming last-minute for finals!
NOT-COLLEGE – WORKING
– Let’s keep this short and sweet – money! Who doesn’t love money?
– Being in the workforce is so fulfilling, and not just for the work experience on your CV. Working will allow you gain so many skills and bits of knowledge that you otherwise wouldn’t find anywhere else, such as how to manage your money, people skills, how to work with a range of demographics and people, public speaking, being independent, dealing with clients and customers in a professional manner, learning about taxes, business skills, self-confidence, savings and interest, what the workforce is like, dealing with managers and bosses, and so much more. Some companies even offer the chance for you as an employee to move up from a starter/intro position right up to a manager role as time passes, without needing a college degree or higher education to do so.
– If you’re still not sure about college but think it might be something you’d like to do in the future, working for a semester (or year) gives you time to think about your options for college whilst spending your time doing something beneficial towards you and your future. Earning money before getting a loan and going to college is a great way to save and put money aside for textbooks, student fees and other costs, and will be one less thing to stress about once college starts. Working also allows you to earn money for future investments like travel, a car, your first home, etc.
– Going straight into the work force from high school with no higher education or qualifications past a High School Diploma can potentially lead you to feel stuck in the same position or job for a number of years, not feeling like you’re going anywhere with your career or landing you stuck on the same pay wage for the rest of your life.
– Whilst your college buddies and high school friends are partying, gaining a social life, sleeping in, or hanging out on weekdays between classes (or on the blessed free day on a timetable) and overall have loads of free time, you’re on the 9-5 grind every week day and may only be able to see your friends on the weekends – and more often than not, those college students will be working part time jobs or using their weekend time to finish assignments and attend school-related events.
– Another issue with launching straight into a career from high school is finding yourself too busy with working to invest time into potentially looking at options for college or tertiary courses if you’re unsure of whether or not you want to continue working or go to college.
– By choosing not to go to college you will be left with no higher qualifications past the HS Diploma, which can be a huge burden if you’re wanting to apply for a different career or roles higher up than your current job. Almost all employers look for a tertiary degree or some sort when hiring, and many careers require this form of higher education in order for you to be able to carry out the weight and expectations of said career or job.
NOT-COLLEGE – TRAVEL
– Overseas Experience is so enriching, as you learn so much from visiting other countries such as culture, history, events, background, fashion, customs, and you get to meet people from around the world on your journey! It’s amazing to go out and see the world and how other countries operate, learn or practice a foreign language, and compare where you’re from and what you’re used to to another place on the globe. Travelling offers amazing stories, experiences and memories that you will treasure for life, and there is no type of learning quite like the knowledge you gain from travel.
– There are loads of companies, organisations and opportunities out there that allow you to both travel and work at the same time, such as nannying children overseas, being a tour guide, working at Disneyworld, volunteering or working at summer camps or boarding schools, waitressing, working in the travel and tourism industry, flight attending, etc. Why not kill two birds with one stone?
– Travelling whilst you’re young is arguably the best time to explore the world. You’re fitter and healthier, making you more able to do things like physical activities or staying awake for long journeys or early flight times. It’s also much easier to travel now whilst you’re not tied down with things like kids, a mortgage, a full-time job, school, etc. and far easier to save when you don’t have so many bills and expenses to cover.
– The cost of travelling isn’t cheap. You can usually score some great deals throughout the year, get great student discounts on flights or attractions, and can save on accommodation if you stay with friends or family, but the costs still rack up. A Contiki (also known as a European Experience) alone can cost upwards of $15k USD, so you’ll have to start working from the get-go and save, save, save!
– Potentially, you may have to quit your job to be able to travel. This can cause stress if you haven’t sorted out a job or means of supporting yourself for when you return, and after spending all your savings on your overseas experience you might not have a lot left in the bank.
Most importantly, no matter what option or path you choose, make sure that you feel that it’s right for you, you’re comfortable, and you’re doing something that makes you happy. Big thanks to our wonderful editor Chelsea for her help, advice and input for this article!