When I was growing up, it seemed to be a given within society that after you graduated high school, you went off to college. The idea was that you must obtain a higher education in order to become a productive member of society. Leaving home to attend University is how you did just that. In some people’s minds, there was no other option. Even if you had no idea what you want to do with your life, you were still supposed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure it out. In others’ minds, there were very few alternative options. Many people refused to believe a four-year college isn’t for everyone.
Thankfully, my parents left it up to us to decide whether or not we wanted to go to college. In other words, this meant they saw our value without a degree. Now that I am an adult and I have older teens of my own, I’ve notice there are many more parents like this. Other ideas about what to do after high school have become more acceptable. There are many more teens choosing to pursue alternative avenues, and are supported by their family to do so. It turns out, society has evolved a little in their thought process.
A few reasons why 4-year college is not for everyone
Many students leave high school ready to take on the world. Numerous others leave high school completely unprepared for life. A four-year college isn’t a magic solution to this unpreparedness. (Nor does it necessarily give you what you need to conquer the world.) Statistics show that only three out of every ten college students obtain a degree, even after spending up to six years working toward it! For many, especially those feeling unprepared, the atmosphere and pressure of college proves to be too overwhelming.
There are also a high number of students who decide to change majors or pursue something else in the midst of their college education. This potentially means a lot more money shelled out for the new path. The amount of extra time spent is also a factor. This can be avoided by taking a gap year, or even two, to figure out their path, so as not to waste valuable time and money.
Trade school as an alternative
There will always be a need for workers in the trades, and there are plenty of trades to choose from. Electricity, Plumbing, HVAC, Construction, and Carpentry are just a few of the most common ones. You can learn some trades via classes and/or apprenticeship in as little as six months. Most trades take no longer than two years to obtain the licensing and certification needed to perform. Young adults learning a trade are most often able to land a job immediately, potentially earning $60k-$90k a year.
The draw to the trades is two fold: For starters, you obtain your certification in an average of half the time as you spend at a four-year college, with little to no residual debt to pay off. Second, working with your hands is very good for your brain. It increases serotonin and endorphins, which are pleasure hormones, and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol. The increase in the integrity of neurons is always a plus, too!
Finding a different path
Some people just don’t thrive in the type of atmosphere college will provide. Their goal in life might not even be to obtain a degree, but family or society often pushes them toward college anyway. A person’s value is not found in whether or not they’ve gone to a four-year college and obtained a degree. Plenty of jobs out there don’t require a degree, and can be more fulfilling. The pursuit of a different path than four-year college is now more widely acceptable, and can lead to a happier life.