For many high school seniors, going to college after graduation is a given. But going to college immediately after high school is not the right choice for everyone. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of attending college right after high school and to learn about some alternative options that may be available to you.
Reasons to Go to College After High School
While transitioning to college immediately after high school may not be the right choice for everyone, there indeed are some significant benefits you need to consider. Here are some things you should think about when deciding whether to take a year off before college:
- Some studies have shown that many students who wait instead of going to college immediately after high school never go. If you take a job right after high school, you may put it off year after year, which could hurt you in the long run.
- According to a Huffington Post report, those who choose not to go to college make as much as $800,000 less than college graduates over their lifetime. Even if you only take a year off, you could be cutting into your lifetime salary.
- If you do not go to college right after high school, you could miss out on some life-changing experiences that can shape who you are and what you believe in. The habits and opinions you form as a young adult will stay with you for the rest of your life – you could miss out on some significant opportunities to grow and mature if you put off going to college until you are older.
- When you are ready to enter the job market, you will likely start at the lowest end of the totem pole anyway, but attending college could give you access to resources you might not have otherwise. Many schools offer internship programs that can help you get your foot in the door, and most schools offer some kind of job placement opportunities as well.
- The friends you make during college will be some of your best friends for the rest of your life, and college is a great place to start building a network. You never know how a connection you formed in college could benefit you later in life when it comes to your career.
These are just a few things you need to consider if you are considering waiting a year or two after high school to attend college. Every person’s situation is different, so all of these things may not apply to you, but they should encourage you to think carefully about all sides of the issue before you make your decision.
In this video, University of Michigan sociology professor Elizabeth Armstrong explains the pros and cons of students waiting a year before going to college.
The Benefits of Taking a Gap Year
Having learned about some of the benefits of starting college right after high school, you may wonder if there are any downsides to making that decision. As it has already been mentioned, there are pros and cons for both sides of this issue, and you should learn about the benefits of taking a year off before you make your decision. Here are some things to consider:
- Many educators say that students who take a year off after high school to travel, work, or volunteer often end up returning to school more mature than when they left. Having some experience in the “real world” can help you to take better advantage of your college education because you already know what to expect, to some degree.
- There are many programs out there that cater specifically to young adults, and attending college first may make it more difficult to take advantage of them. For example, AmeriCorps and City Year are two volunteer programs that provide room and board for young adults who enter their program. For those who plan to travel on their own, it may take six months’ worth of working a job to save up.
- Taking time off can give undecided students a chance to honestly think about what they want to pursue. Not everyone leaves high school with a firm idea of what they want to do with their lives – it may take some time and some “real world” experience to shape that decision.
- Many students who take AP classes and tough class loads during high school end up burning out, and they need some time to breathe before continuing their education. Taking a year off from tests, homework, tutoring, and classes can be very beneficial for some students.
If you know you will take a year off after high school, you should still consider applying to college anyway. Many schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for a year, giving you a backup plan – something to return to at the end of your gap year.
This video explains how, by taking a gap year, students can make sure they're building a life they will want to lead.
Alternative Options to College After High School
It is relatively common for young adults to put off going to college right after high school, and many never attend college at all. Just because you don’t go to college (either right after high school or at all) doesn’t mean that you can’t live a full and fulfilling life. Here are some excellent alternatives to college that you may consider pursuing after high school:
- Travel the world. The world is vast, and most people never see even a fraction of it outside their home state. College can be incredibly transformative for a young adult, but so can traveling around the world, experiencing new customs and cultures. Going with a limited budget will help to teach you the value of a dollar, and you will learn how to live independently.
- Work or volunteer for a charity. Many charities do not require you to have a college degree – they are just glad to have people who are interested in supporting their mission. You can also pursue year-long programs like AmeriCorps or City Year.
- Get an apprenticeship. Some careers do not require a degree but may require an apprenticeship. If you are interested in some kind of trade, look for employers who may provide apprenticeships or who may help you attain the certifications you need for the job.
- Start working early. If you aren’t sure exactly what you want to do with your life, taking a job could help you make that decision. Even if you end up hating the job you will still learn some valuable information about yourself – learning what you DON’T want to do is just as important as learning what you DO want to do.
- Join the military. Many people who feel like college isn’t the right choice for them end up joining the military instead. Not only will you be serving your country if you enter the military, but you can receive top-notch training in a variety of career options, often while receiving free room and board. If you do decide to go to college later, the military may pay for it.
- Start a business. Starting a business is always a risk, and if you are going to fail, it is better to do it while you are young enough to recover from it fairly quickly. You do not necessarily need a business degree to start your own business – you need an idea and a plan.
By now, it should be evident to you that while many students attend college right after high school, not everyone does – this means that you don’t have to do it either if it doesn’t feel like the right choice. Just be sure to carefully consider your options before deciding to ensure that it is the best fit for you.
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