Class of 2020
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What You Should Do NOW:
Think About Life After High School
The Case for College
As summer starts, it’s a great time to figure out if you’re going to college or directly into a career after graduation. Now is the time to become familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of each.
One important thing to consider when choosing whether to attend college is the amount of money you can expect to make in your chosen career. Government research shows that salaries rise considerably when you have a college degree—and the higher the degree, the higher the salary.
Studies show that:
- People with college degrees or certifications earn about 56% more than those who only have a high school diploma
- By the year 2020, 65% of all jobs will require education and training beyond high school
- Few jobs requiring only a high school diploma have promotion potential
Having a college degree or certification opens up more possibilities for your future, including more stable employment, greater benefits, and better career opportunities. In the long term, any type of education after high school can benefit your career.
Median Weekly Earnings by Degree
Some college $756
High school diploma $692
Less than high school diploma $504
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Exploring Alternatives to College
If it will mean taking on a large amount of debt by going to college, you might want to consider working for a time or launching straight into a career, especially if you already know the type of specialized work you want to do. There are plenty of career opportunities for high school graduates who don’t want to pursue college after high school.
Becoming an apprentice allows you to earn money while learning about a specialized, highly skilled career, like carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and even types of engineering.
Check www.dol.gov/featured/apprenticeship for examples.
Internships and Job Shadowing
Consider contacting local employers during your senior year and ask if they offer internship positions for hands-on experience or opportunities to “shadow” an employee and learn more about day-to-day work. You might even be able to participate in these before graduating high school.
The branches of the Armed Services offer specialized training in many fields and teach skills applicable to careers. Serving in the military can not only help you earn money for college, it can offer job and career training.
- Stop by your local military recruiters' office or meet with recruiters during their visits to high school
- Interview family and friends who have served
- Evaluate any physical limitations that might prevent you from serving
- Compare military training
- Opportunities with job positions outside the military
- Compare benefits, tours of duty, training, and promotion opportunities of various military programs
Here are some tips for finding employment directly after high school:
- If you're already working, look into higher-level jobs with your current employer
- Look at employment websites for opportunities and job requirements
- Work with your counselor or the local employment office on developing a cover letter, resume, or personal website to help you apply for jobs
- Consider getting a professional certification license, accreditation, or an employability certificate (like the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate™) to boost your job prospects
One Last Thought
You might have friends and classmates who not only know they’re headed to college but also have already chosen which college, major, dorm, etc.
Take a deep breath. It’s OK not to know what your future holds. Just take it one step at a time.