If you are a high school student nearing graduation, I'm sure you've heard many times from parents, teachers, and relatives that you "must go to college".
But what if you're not sure if a four-year college degree is right for you?
Making the decision to attend a four-year college or university is an expensive commitment, and there are reasons to delay getting your degree if you are unsure if it is right for you.
Yes, the ROI (Return on Investment) of a college is still positive, but it has declined significantly from your parent’s day. It still makes sense to go to college if you have the grades and the inclination, and especially to prepare for careers in the medical, scientific, legal or education field.
But what if you prefer more hands-on work? I'd say there are plenty of opportunities for students in the trades and for students who earn associate's degrees in quickly growing fields.
Fast Growing Trade Occupations
Trade occupations will require some level of post-secondary instruction but are primarily taught at special trade schools. Below are several of the fastest growing trade occupations. This data is available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Each of the trade occupations below is expected to see 10-20% growth through 2024 and expect to add about 50,000 or more positions during this time frame.
- Dental Assistants
- Hairdresser\stylists and cosmetology
- Tractor-trailer truck drivers
- Nursing Assistants
The below trade occupations are expected to see moderate growth through 2024 and will average 10-50k new positions during this time.
- Automotive mechanics
- Medical records technician
Most of these careers can be prepared for through an Associate's Degree at a community college or trade school. Some of these jobs can be learned through on-the-job training. Start exploring your options if you see something on this list that looks interesting to you!
Pressure From Every Side
You are probably getting pressure from every side about the need to go to college, the need to find the perfect job and to be successful. Here’s a life lesson: success is what you make of it.
Do you consider “success” is finding happiness? Communing with nature? Working from home? Be sure you consider your desires after you graduate high school.
I'm not telling you to not go to college. I'm just telling you to make a decision you are comfortable with. I've known students who were pushed to attend expensive private schools who ended up working in jobs they could have easily prepared for with a much less expensive degree.
Your Options are Greater Than Ever Before
Did you know that the majority of college students today are considered "non-traditional"?
This means most students attending college are adults going back to school, transfer students, or part-timers. With the availability of online classes, hybrid programs, and other forms of training and education, your options for education have never been more vast!
Take some time out now to think about what it is you're good at and like to do. Colleges have become much more flexible in today’s age of technology and remote education. Work a few jobs and get a handle on what you want to do with your life before committing a lot of time – and money – to going to a college that may or may not help you down the road.
Our minds tend to mature a bit after high school – if you don’t have a passion burning inside you the minute you get your diploma, its okay to take some time to make up your mind. Some research has shown that students who take a year off between high school and college end up being more likely to graduate and getting better grades in school.
Don’t ignore two-year community and vocational colleges. If you want to be hands-on, you can earn some great money in the traditional vocational fields and save a lot by not attending a college that doesn’t cater to your needs.
The truth is, you should get a college degree because you want to, not because you feel forced to. It's expensive, it's time-consuming, and it's a lot of hard work. Plus, the more students who get a college degree "just because", the less valuable it's seen in the eyes of employers.
Instead, find out what gives you passion and drive and pursue that thing. If you need a degree to get involved with it, then get that degree (and try to get it as economically as possible)! But don't be afraid to explore other avenues as well.
Get started today exploring your natural strengths and interests.