Not all students are created equal. Luckily, the options for post-high school education are just as diverse as the upcoming batch of high school graduates. But with so many options, how do you help your future grad select the best path toward success? Post-secondary options exist for every type of student and career aspiration, so work with your child to assess his or her skills, interests and abilities. Set your student up for success by understanding the options for continued education:
Some students know exactly what they want to be when they "grow up." If your teen is eager to get started on a career, trade school (also known as vocational or technical school) puts students on a fast track toward a professional career. Courses couple hands-on experience with specialized teachings tailored for select occupations. Because trade schools offer a targeted curriculum, students can complete their specialized degree program in less than two years. Trade programs provide intensive training in fields such as cosmetology, medical imaging, welding and veterinary assisting, among many others.
Pros: Lower tuition costs, a flexible schedule and hands-on training. Additionally, the job prospects are bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that middle-skill jobs (jobs that generally require some significant education and training beyond high school but less than a bachelor’s degree) will make up approximately 45 percent of all job openings projected through 2014.
Cons: Unlike credits at community colleges and universities, credits earned through trade school curriculum are seldom transferable. Should your student have a change of heart in career interests, he or she will have to start another degree program from scratch.
Going to a four-year university is a huge time commitment and a substantial financial undertaking. Considering 40 percent of students at four-year colleges drop out before completing their degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, your tuition dollars are at risk of going to waste. If your student is hesitant to select a major or uncertain of a career path, consider starting him or her out at a community college. Additionally, if your child struggled getting through high school coursework, community college provides an opportunity to raise a poor GPA to meet admissions requirements of a four-year institution.
Pros: Two-year institutions give students an opportunity to acclimate to a rigorous college schedule at a third of the cost of a state university. Students with associate's degrees can seek gainful employment after program completion and then decide if further education is necessary or desired. And credit hours earned at community colleges usually transfer to four-year institutions, enabling students to readily pursue a bachelor's degree.
Cons: If your student is not self-driven, he or she may not thrive in a community college environment. It takes personal ambition and accountability to gain the most out of this two-year education.
Long considered the go-to route for most high schoolers, four-year institutions are the best option for a broad, well-rounded education. Though this option is the least cost-effective, statistics show that those who hold a bachelor's degree earn significantly higher lifetime earnings when compared to an associate's degree or less. For students who excelled in high school and got good scores on the SAT or ACT, a bustling four-year experience presents a welcome challenge. With opportunities to earn a more flexible degree, students also have a wider spectrum of job options post-graduation.
Pros: Larger campus settings offer students a world of extracurricular opportunities and events. Students can join various clubs and organizations, attend lectures by prominent guest speakers and take part in cultural campus events. With a wider scope of course options, students uncertain of a future career path can test introductory courses in a variety of industries to find their niche.
Cons: Co-eds seeking personalized attention and smaller class settings won't find it at a large university. And a four-year institution is the most costly post-high school education option; The College Board reports in-state students can expect to spend an average of $17,860 annually for tuition, fees and room and board.