IMG_8868 (1)Story and photo by Zakiya Austin

 

As the third quarter comes to a close, the end of the year means arrangements have to be made for seniors set to graduate on the first day of  June. Although underclassmen are not graduating quite yet, it’s never too early to start thinking up a plan.

College is not the only thing there is to do after earning a high school diploma. There are programs that take new graduates around the world, there are the armed forces, some prefer to work for a while before going to college, and some people prefer not to go to college at all. Whatever path is taken, there is an adventure for everyone.

College is the widely accepted next step for young adults who have graduated from high school. Although a college degree is not necessary to be successful in life, a degree could mean a higher paying job or a stable career in a professional setting. There are programs, even locally, that can help achieve or advance whatever career you are planning for. Midlands Technical College is a popular choice with an accessible campus in Irmo, financial aid is easy to comprehend and readily available and the programs are hands on to help you become more acquainted with the professional atmosphere.

In state, the Palmetto Life and Hope Scholarships help to get South Carolina citizens financially taken care of for their secondary school careers. There are other scholarships that you can find and apply for online on various scholarship websites. The school counseling office recommends www.fastweb.com as a way to find scholarships. There are scholarships for students based on GPA, SAT/ACT scores, nationality, ethnicity, place of residence, parent’s educational history, etc. There are also other databases that apply to select groups. For example, the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is a collection of scholarships for African Americans and minority students. The trick with online scholarships is that, even if you don’t quite meet the requirements, still consider putting in an application. If no one applies that fits the requirements, the organization still has to give the money away and, if you’re in the pool, you are automatically given consideration, even if you didn’t meet the original requirements.

Once you apply at the school of choice, you could be considered for merit scholarships or other money that the school has organized to give to students with exceptional academic or athletic ability. There are also factors like being a legacy student, meaning your parents went to the college you are attending, that could get you some extra money toward your college fund. Always be aware of what resources are available to you and take full advantage. It could be the difference between debt free college and having to pay back student loans after you graduate.

Another popular choice for students after high school graduation is joining the armed forces. This is also a choice for those who are considering college because the government will pay for secondary school for those who have served. The armed forces instill discipline, work-ethic, determination, loyalty and patriotism in an individual. These values enrich the lives and prepare military personnel for the future.

There are five branches of the armed forces: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and the Navy. There are also reserves for the Army, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. If you are interested in enlisting, you can contact a recruiter or go online to one of the websites that represent the branches. The prerequisites of joining the military are the ASVAB test (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery), a physical examination, a meeting with a career counselor, the oath of enlistment and completion of basic training. For those who plan on enlisting, research all of the time and effort that goes into being in the Armed Forces, because it is a commitment. That is not to discourage enlistment, because there are also a lot of great benefits that come with being apart of any of the branches of the military. The encouragement is to learn everything there is to know about each branch before making the decision.

There is also the choice of taking a gap year between high school and college. This is not commonly recommended because, according to www.americangap.org, 10% of students who take a gap year do not return to school within a year. This is not to discourage those who want to take a gap year. American Gap also states that 60% of students who took a gap year said it helped them decide what they wanted to study in college.

There are various programs available for students who choose to take a gap year. Just googling “gap year programs” will bring up a variety of places to go and people to see. You can see the world and gain some experience that will stay with you for a lifetime or maybe you want to stay home and work for a while before going to college. Either way, take it carefully because sometimes dreams defer when you get caught up in something else.

If you’ve decided that you do not want to go to college, there are things you will be missing, but there are also things that you will experience that those that are going to college may miss out on. Be aware of educational opportunities outside of school or things that will enrich your life and change your perspective right where you are. Don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t be successful without a college degree, because you can. Steve Jobs of Apple, Dave Thomas of Wendy’s and Michael Dell of Dell computers are largely successful and none of them have a college degree. Success is not dependant upon how many books you read. It depends on how happy you are with your life.

At the end of the day, you have to look at where you want to be in life and start on the track to get you there. You should have goals and you should set out of high school ready to achieve them. No matter what your idea of a successful life is- degree or no degree- set out to be happy.