Diverging paths: alternate options after high school

Rebecca Herz, Staff Writer

While some students may itch for a “magical” letter of acceptance from a top university like Harvard or Yale, many have different, less ordinary plans in mind for their futures beyond high school.

With the price of a college education skyrocketing, students and their families have to somehow conjure up enough money to afford an average annual tuition fee of $20,000, often more.

Aside from the current economic situation, the extreme prices are often a terrible addition to overall expenses for students.

Even though there are programs designed to waive fees for those who can’t afford to pay full tuition (such as community colleges, financial aid and scholarships), many students still find the idea of paying for an expensive college education from a formal institution unrealistic and stressful.

Some feel that it is not worth it to go to college anymore, and many vouch for alternate options.

Some of these students have clear goals for when they graduate. They may envision themselves with a sixty-pound backpack, trekking through the mountains of India with yogi ashramites, or at a cubicle in the New York Public Library, self-teaching the classics.

Some may study Torah in Israel, while yet another member of the graduating class could take a full time position working at a local bakery, and spend the rest of the time playing energetic music with their Ska band. It all depends on the individual and his or her individual life goals.

Sometimes, unconventional life experiences that are not offered in a traditional college education are more beneficial to the individual and can provide experiences that a formalized institution cannot.

“Just getting experience in the world is important,” said junior Emily Lipstein. “There are many programs out there that for some may present themselves as less threatening than college, both in terms of tuition and what they offer. There are ways to cater to individual interests that are not along the conventional lines of college and the culture associated with it.”

Some students elect to start college halfway through the school year, as opposed to starting in the Fall. These programs start in January instead of September.

This affords students some “gap time” to explore other options and to enroll in less expensive classes at community colleges.

“There are a lot of mid-year students doing programs — I’m taking classes at Queens or Nassau before starting mid-year at Brandeis University,” said senior Brittany Nachamie. “I believe that a gap year can provide many benefits and enhance a student’s resumé.”

Many other students decide to enter the workforce directly after graduation. Although the job market seems unreceptive in today’s recession economy, this is still a viable option for many high school graduates who plan to join their family businesses or find a trade to work in for life.

“If you can’t afford school, then look for a job,” said sophomore Luke Grieco. “Do what you feel will best help you to succeed in life. There’s no reason to go to college if it doesn’t make sense for you on multiple levels, and finding a job can pay off in the long run.”

There are still others who will opt to join the military. Many of these students will leave for either Parris Island, South Carolina, or the Virginia Military Institute for training.

“If you’re doing any of the ROTC programs, like the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, you can be either an active duty service member or a reservist,” said junior Robert Gray. “High school graduates can also try to directly enlist.”

For anyone who has decided against a college education, there are clearly several viable alternatives that prove that college is not the only choice in life.

No matter what sort of trajectory a student chooses, there are several paths to success.

One does not reach an inevitable dead end without college, and people who swim against the current may come out the other side just as ready to face “the real world.”