I think every high-schooler has dealt with the stress of college admissions: where will I go? should I go to an Ivy League? do I have good enough grades to go to this school? will me and my family financially be able to support this? should I care where my family wants me to go to school? And lastly, should I even attend college?
The saddest part of college admissions is that this anxiety is encouraged - not only by college admissions officers themselves, but also by high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools. I was blessed with a post-high school advisor in 11th grade of high school that taught me to think outside of the “4-year college only” mindset; and it was extremely hard for me and my family to wrap our minds around. Here’s why: since the golden age of the “go to a four-year college, get a Bachelor’s degree, and get a job immediately after graduating so that you can buy a 200k+ home and have children” philosophy, we as young people have been subconsciously or even consciously believing that we have to achieve the American Dream philosophy.
This, admittedly, was a viable philosophy in our grandparents’ days, where you could not only get a job well-paying enough to purchase a home, but also procure said job with a high school diploma. As the economy and job market evolved and degraded over the previous decades, this no longer became viable; but rather, a pipe dream. As jobs began shifting their goalposts from the familiar; our parents and counselors didn’t pick up the slack.
What does that mean for our futures? While it is important to gain advice and knowledge from your parents and counselors, at the end of the day, it is your choice on which path you want to take. A four-year college is not the only way that you can fulfill your ultimate goal and/or find a job: for example, going to a two-year college and transferring is extremely inexpensive. Additionally, for those who are looking for a traditional “college freshman” experience, some two-year colleges even offer amenities along the lines of traditional four-year colleges, such as bachelor’s degrees, student housing/dormitories, and football.
In the eyes of society, trade schools aren’t glamorous, but people in trades make a lot of money. For example, according to trade-schools.net, electricians make on average $27.84 an hour, which amounts to $54,288 a year. There are schools dedicated primarily to trades, but most two-year colleges also offer trade degrees.
Ultimately, you have to decide what is best for you. In my college admissions process, I decided upon a lot of options that were disagreed upon by my family - in high school, I had the option of taking two-year college classes for free and receiving my associate’s at the same time as my high school diploma. Additionally, I decided in my Sophomore year of college to transfer across the country and receive my Bachelor’s degree, which is certainly an extra expense, but depending on the state you live in, may actually be cheaper than in-state tuition. I had to learn that despite no matter how much I loved my family and valued their opinions even if they highly disagreed with me, I had to be the one to make the extremely difficult decisions about my future in order to be taken seriously.