Every parent hopes their child will graduate from high school ready to take on the challenges of college. However, this is not always the case. Some teenagers want to explore other options before committing to a four-year degree plan. Others have mental, physical, or health challenges that make going away to college more difficult. Still others, especially those who have just completed a high-pressure high school term, need a bit of time off before starting the next phase of their lives. And some families just don’t have enough money to send their kids off to college, even if the child is ready to go.
Luckily, there are many options for your teenager. Yes, many students go straight from high school to a traditional four-year college, but many others choose online schools, community college programs, full-time jobs, entrepreneurship, gap years, and the military. Your job as a parent is to provide guidance and support to your child as he or she makes this choice.
Here are details on the available options:
The gap year, a common European tradition that is quickly gaining traction in the United States, is a “year off” in between high school and college. Don’t worry — your child won’t spend this year sitting at home watching television! During gap years, students take on service projects, take time to travel overseas, or spend a year completing a project, such as writing a novel or building a robot. The goal of the gap year is to provide a break from traditional classroom education while giving your child an opportunity to learn in a more hands-on setting. As the Huffington Post notes, even Harvard encourages its accepted students to take gap years before enrolling.
Online schools provide the same rigorous curriculum as traditional four-year colleges, but allow students to complete their degrees from home. Online schools are excellent options for students unable to attend traditional colleges for medical reasons, or for students who have strong ties to their hometowns and do not want to move.
Online colleges are also good choices for students who want to start a full-time job after high school; since these classes can be completed at any time, your child can work and earn a college degree simultaneously. Online colleges are also designed to be affordable. Bryant and Stratton, for example, notes that many of its students graduate without any outstanding student debt.
Community colleges are another option for students who want to avoid student debt, or for students who need to brush up on academic fundamentals before transferring to another college. Many students choose to spend two years at a community college, often supplementing classes with online courses, before transferring to another school. This option lets students experience multiple educational environments while giving them maximum flexibility.
Sometimes young adults don’t want to spend four more years in school; they want to see what they can achieve in the real world. Both the brightest, most gifted students as well as the students who thrive in a non-academic learning environment often find more success as entrepreneurs than they would in a college classroom. Starting a business after high school, whether it is a web development startup or a local auto shop, gives young adults a sense of agency over their own lives and teaches them skills that no classroom can offer.
It also gives them a huge boost in the workforce, especially if their business becomes successful. Yes, they can always go back to college if they choose, and it is likely that your child will still pick up an online degree at some point, when he or she decides to learn more about business, marketing, and other aspects of entrepreneurship.
Many students elect to join the military after high school, often out of a sense of civic duty, a desire to see the world, and a way to earn money for a future college education. There are numerous benefits to joining the military after high school, instead of waiting until after college; funding for a college education is one benefit, as is earning a steady paycheck, learning high-demand skills, and starting a career where one can retire as early as age 40. If your child plans to enter the military after high school, be proud that your son or daughter wants to take on this important role.
These are only a few of the many options that your child can choose after high school graduation. All of these options lead a young adult towards a full, rich adult life; all of these options include learning and growth.
As a parent, your job is to make sure your child understands that there are multiple paths available after high school, and to support whichever path your child chooses.