Goodbye, high school; hello, reality

Post-secondary education options


Photo courtesy of Evan Long

Five seniors who have committed to Tech sported their Georgia Tech outfits on College Day of Spirit Week.

Sania Chandrani and Amy Pan

“Summer, summer, summer,” Parkview’s student body murmurs just 13 days from the end of the school year. For many seniors, only 10 days remain, and with AP exam days, perhaps even fewer. As the year comes to a close, many seniors cement their 4-year college plans while others plan to attend vocational school or transition directly into the workforce.

With graduation caps and gowns hanging and ready to go, Parkview is imbued with excitement and nerves as students wait for their futures to take shape. For many years, the typical post-high-school plan was a college education followed by a shift into a secure job.

However, this direction is not for everyone. Not every high school student wants or needs to go to college in order to acquire and sustain a career. In today’s society, a college education means less than it did a few decades ago. In 1992, 55 percent of Georgia high school students went to college post-graduation. In 2010, this statistic reflected 68 percent (NCHEMS).

Interestingly, 60 percent of the total increase in college graduates over the past two decades became employed in careers that did not require a degree (Center for College Affordability and Productivity). There are hundreds of lawyers, doctors and teachers out there, and simply not enough jobs to satisfy them. Therein lies the issue.

Language Arts teacher Tara Finco remembers, “There used to be a stigma against not going to college, but now, more and more people are seeing other options.”

The military is one such option. Senior Jude Gebert has enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a combat engineer. He said, “I’d always wanted to be in the military, and ROTC opened my eyes from already being interested to deciding to enlist.” Gebert explains that while he has not qualified as an officer yet, he plans to enroll in Officer Candidate School in six or seven years as part of a 20-plus year military career.

There are too many individuals graduating from high school and going to college simply because they believe it will get them a high-paying job. Then, upon graduating college, when the job offers do not come rolling in, students are devastated and continue searching as their loans build up and their parents or friends become irritated.

Fellow senior Nick Turner is another one of several students who sees the value in not attending college directly after high school. “I plan to work for about a year as a locksmith and photographer and get my finances straight before getting my core classes out of the way at GGC,” Turner said. “After that, I’m planning on enrolling in engineering school.”

Technical paths such as Turner’s are becoming increasingly useful in today’s economy. While some college graduates wait for job offers, people are driving their cars to the same generation-old mechanics who are collecting cash like never before. Plumbers, contractors, trash collectors, and technicians largely went to vocational school after high school without spending the pretty penny on college, and now, they are reaping the benefits.

More than ever, it is important for students in high school to realize that college is not the only way to go. Some people thrive in that self-motivated academic environment while others prefer the dictated feel of high school. Others simply want to learn on the job through skill or vocational training. Regardless of what it is that students choose to pursue, Mrs. Finco advises everyone to “continue on learning after high school, whether it’s through university, technical school, or work.”

At the end of the day, the modern world presents an endless list of opportunities to high school graduates. Now more than ever, Gebert said, students must “consider every option” as they transition out of high school. Whether it be vocational school, college, on-the-job training or even a gap year. Turner puts it all into perspective as he reminds younger students, “Just think about what you want to do [in the future], and make sure you’re comfortable with your decision.”