In the United States, young people are often told that the only path to a successful future is to go to college. However, this is not always the case. College is not for everyone, and there are many other options for young people after high school. It is important for students to explore all available options and find the path that is best for them. They need to be able to make an informed decision about their future. With the rise of technology, the future of work is uncertain. Young people need to be prepared for a variety of careers that may not even exist yet. They need to be able to adapt and learn new skills quickly.
There are many different paths young people can take after high school.
When I approached graduation, I was accustomed to doing as I was told. I was told that college is what happens next. I don’t believe I knew there were any other options. I think of the conversations I had (as a teacher of mostly juniors) with my students. My advice often centered around talking to students about what classes to take their senior year. Should they take 4 AP classes? Should they take 2 science AP classes?
Many high school students are still kids. They don't have the years of experience we have as parents, teachers, and counselors. And many are in a do-as-we-are-told mode because there is a lot unknown about life after high school.
I recently had a conversation with Matt Gilhooly, the host of the Life Shift Podcast, about this very thing. When Matt was graduating high school, he went to college because it was what happened next, and he did not do the things he wanted to do. How many of us in our 30s and 40s did the same thing? Do you have regrets? From our experiences, we know that life has a way of making you who you are, and that is a wonderful thing. But where would we be if we had been given the chance to experiment after high school?
For us adults (parents and educators), it may feel scary, because it wasn’t our experience, and we often rely on our experiences when we give advice.
I keep thinking about this as a parent of a high school freshman. I don't want him to do what every other kid is doing. Will I feel something if he doesn’t apply to and attend college like everyone else? What advice will he get at his school? Others may make him feel like he needs to apply to college. What will our families think?
We need to take ourselves out of the equation. Or, we should be honest about the things we are sharing when we talk about life after high school. Students will do whatever we tell them to do, for better or worse.