Ashley, when you finish high school, where are you going?

Well, my family will probably take me to Applebees…

No, I mean…let me re-phrase my question.  What will you be doing the year AFTER high school?

I don’t understand.  I’ve got 4000 pieces of college mail on my floor.  Remember, all that paper that you spill on your video and at your workshops.  I’m going to College, Mr. Szarek.  Isn’t that why my Mom hired you?

You have choices.

What do you mean?

I mean that the best advice that I can give you is to not go to 13th grade.

You mean not go to college?

No, I mean not to go to 13th grade.  Don’t just go to college for the sake of going to college.  Don’t go to college because it’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do.

I will – in all likelihood – strongly suggest that you go to college.  You are a bright young woman who would benefit from the opportunities provided in college.

What other options do I have? 

Let me list the various options for someone who is about to graduate high school.

  • College – 4 year model.  Again, this is probably your best option.  Despite the cost, it provides professional and personal growth opportunities that are unrivaled.  But it is not for everyone.
  • College – 2 year edition.  A perfectly legitimate option for those who have struggled in high school or want to utilize the most cost-effective collegiate option.  And the opportunities to transfer most or all of your community college  credits have grown enormously in the past decade or so.
  • College – professional/trade schools.  While some for-profit schools are to be avoided, most offer practical experience in a tough job market.  However, you’re spending private school tuition for credits that generally won’t transfer.
  • Gap Year/ Post-Graduate Year – If planned out properly, and – again – done with conscious thought – an additional year to mature via a meaningful Gap Year experience or an additional academic year can help you be a much better student and educational consumer at 19 than you would have been at 18.
  • Job.  – Whether it be working ‘for the man’ or growing a business you started in high school, there are certainly reasons when a job can provide better immediate benefits than going straight to college.
  • Apprenticeship.  Military? – Apprenticeships may seem old-fashioned, but there are still opportunities to be an apprentice in professions that are under-subscribed and can provide employment security.  And, of course, the military might be an option for some, as well.
  • Glorious Mosaic. – Maybe the most intriguing opportunity post-high school is the ability to mix and match the above choices.  Go to school full-time and continue your lawn care business part-time.  Or visa versa.  Take community college courses in the summer and winter while attending a 4-year college during the Fall and Spring.  Start your own business online while attending classes.

The bottom line is that this is, ultimately, NOT about college, but about your life and your future.  Your last day at College is called Commencement for a reason.  College is the greatest resource to help you move on to your future.  But it is only a resource, not a substitute for, nor a guarantee regarding, that future.

Every young adult should choose wisely.  All of the bullet points above are legitimate options.  Make conscious decisions to move forward with your life, as best meets your needs.  But, Ashley, while I definitely think your best option is College, do not just go to 13th grade because it is the number after 12th grade.

So, go to College, but by choice, not just ’cause.

Absolutely.  And, by the way – Applebees?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.   And now on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/CCRMichael?feature=mhee.

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