College is Not the Only Choice

College is Not the Only Choice

Kaylee Guidice, Writer

From ages as young as kindergarten, many of us were asked the same question. “What do you want to be when you grow up,”? Our responses matured with us, from princesses and astronauts, to teachers and engineers. But the real question is, how do we get there?

Adult figures will often ask students what their plans are after high school, but don’t always agree with the response they get. The outdated mindset that college is the only way to be successful, unfortunately, still exists. Many believe that the only way to obtain a high paying job is to attend a four year program at a college, and they push trade schools out of their minds, but the trades are in need now more than ever.

Trade schools and colleges are equally helpful in preparing kids for their future. Both give students degrees, a chance to make money, and reliable jobs to support themselves. The question is, which students should go where. Depending on what you want to do, this can be answered simply. Everyone is on a different path, and they need to do what is best for them. 

The workforce also seems to be a neglected option in school. Schools always push students to do something after high school, education is their main goal. But what about the kids who already have their lives planned without college in the picture. There are several job opportunities that do not require anything more than a highschool diploma. Especially in a small town like Punxsutawney, people going straight into the workforce is not uncommon. Some may be in this temporarily until they decide to go back to school, but others may be in it until retirement. 

The military is also an option given to students. We do have assemblies and recruiters within the school, but many of the requirements to join are outside of school and require extra research. Students may choose to be in the military for a few years, maybe to obtain the benefits for their future schooling, but they also have the option of being a part of the military career. Here they will serve the military for several years, mayb even decades. Maybe schools could offer more information, or even a training program within the school where kids can do ROTC training while receiving credits. 

Starting as low as eighth grade, we started building skills for future college programs. We learned to write essays in MLA format, write proper notes, learn by lecture, and even fill out applications, but what about the kids who’s path doesn’t involve college? These kids are offered a “resource” list, but are still asked to do the assignments that only concern different colleges. For example, students are offered the chance to apply for many scholarships and financial aid for their program, but scholarships don’t work the same way for trade schools. Why don’t we offer more opportunities for grants or living allowances for those whose plans are slightly different?

Many schools, including Punxsy, require the students to take standardized testing (PSSA, Keystones, PSAT, SAT, ASVAB), take college classes (test prep, AP classes, or participate in programs geared toward college majors (smartfutures). This is extremely helpful for those planning on going to college, but not as helpful to kids planning on joining a trade. They can often be used as graduation requirements, but the classes that could help kids with their future trades are treated as electives. Kids may not be able to fit these extra classes into their schedule, and could be forced to take classes they do not need. To solve this problem we could offer more required classes to show people what is out there, and expand their horizons beyond a college mindset. 

Many people may ask, if you want to work specifically in a trade, why did you continue in normal high school instead of joining a tech program. For example, why stay at Punxsutawney Area High School instead of joining Jefftech. Tech schools have fantastic programs for kids who think this is the best option for them, but they focus more on the trade the student wants to go into. Their focus is not on high academic programs, they have general programs for their students, but high performing trade classes. A student enrolled in the academic program may not have this in their best interest because they want to be challenged academically and shown their future skills. Students also must commit to these schools by tenth grade, preferably starting by eighth grade. This leaves many undecided students conflicted because they aren’t ready to make that large decision. All of these affected students stay in their normal highschool, but this still should never limit any opportunities. 

The solution to this problem is simple. Instead of expecting kids to know what they want to do right away, we can show them all of their options first. We can show them college programs, trade schools, and the workforce options. Students can be shown how to apply for scholarships, but also how to apply for grants. Schools can offer more classes dealing with the different trades or lifeskills, for example engineering classes or classes that show kids how to manage money or file taxes. Just like we have a college fair, military recruiting, and a financial aid program, we should show trade options, grant programs, and show all the licenses you can obtain. Many students will realize that instead of being stuck in a college major, they can obtain a license from a trade school that may help them more. 

All kids are different, and their futures will be as well. Not everyone is on the same path, so why treat them like they are?  College, trade schools, and the workforce should be equally encouraged, not weighted. Not only will high school be more enjoyable for students, but in the end, if we show them all the options they could potentially have, it will be much more beneficial. They will be more prepared for what their future occupation could be. The main objective for high school is to give students the education they need to succeed in life, so let’s give students all the resources they may need. Instead of being a statistic, we could be outstanding.