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Your college guide to life after high school

What are your options after high school graduation? Start investigating them now so you’ve got a clear picture of your next step

Your college guide to life after high school

Did you sleep through your guidance counselor’s college prep presentation?

Or just need a refresher on your options? Here are just some of your options for life after high school.

Trade/technical school

the deal: Pick an industry you’re interested in working—from culinary to cosmetology, automotive to medical assisting. Use a college guide to find a trade or technical school in that area, and you’ll get hands-on training using the same kinds of equipment you’ll encounter after graduation. Big selling points are straightforward training and short programs—typically about 18 months.

average cost: Varies greatly depending on the program, school and campus.

what can you earn?: Certificate, associate degree.

from an expert:The best thing a potential technical school student can do to prepare is first figure out what interests him/her the most and tie that into a specific career field,” says Frank Galindo, marketing manager for Lincoln Educational Services. “That way, there is a genuine interest in what he/she is going to be studying, which only helps the students perform at their best.”

Community college

the deal: Attend a community college to earn an associate degree that will either propel you into a career or prepare you to transfer for a bachelor’s degree. You can also take classes there in high school to earn college credit, or fulfill some of your bachelor’s degree requirements at a community college over the summer.

If you plan to transfer to a four-year school after attending a community college, use a college guide and meet regularly with a transfer counselor and ask about articulation agreements. An articulation agreement spells out which credits will transfer to which four-year schools.

Big selling points are affordability and flexibility.

average cost: $2,402/year (

what can you earn?:
Certificate, associate degree.

from an expert: “Professors at community colleges often teach simultaneously at four-year colleges,” says Hadley Camilus, senior special programs coordinator at Quinsigamond Community College ( “Essentially, for a whole lot less, a community college student can be instructed by the same professors as their peers who attend the four-year college across town.”

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)

the deal: Take ROTC in college, and you’ll take classes in military values, history and leadership.

Graduate from an ROTC program, and you’ll be commissioned as an officer in the armed forces. Army ROTC scholarship recipients can expect to spend at least four years on active duty, then four years either on active duty, inactive ready reserve, U.S. Army Reserve or National Guard.

If you receive a ROTC scholarship, you’ll earn full tuition and academic fees or room and board, up to $10,000 per year. Cadets also receive $1,200 per year for books and a monthly stipend between $300 and $500 depending on year in school.

Not a scholarship winner? You won’t get your tuition paid for, but you’ll still qualify for the stipend.

what can you earn?: Commission as an officer and a guaranteed career after college.

from an expert: “I did ROTC, and I feel that every able-bodied American should provide some service back to their country,” says Major Will Laase, assistant professor of military science at Boston University ( “If you’re ready to be a leader and you want to be a leader, then ROTC is a great way to launch any career and give you the skills that any employer is looking for: Army values, leadership and the skills that get any job done.”

Public college or university

the deal: Taxpayers in your state help support the public colleges there. And you might as well benefit; it means a relatively low tuition price for in-staters. A college guide will show you all kinds of campuses in a public university system, from small rural schools to big university centers. Big selling points are affordability, diversity and location variety.

average cost: $6,585/year (

what can you earn?: Bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees.

from an expert: To prepare for a public college or university, take a rigorous schedule through senior year.

“Many students lack a solid senior year and have difficulty getting back into things academically after a whole year of less challenging classes,” says Alexander P. Nazemetz, director of admissions at University of Pittsburgh at Bradford ( “By challenging yourself in high school, your time management skills will already be built in and your success rate at the college of your choice will be much higher.”

Private college or university

the deal: Private colleges tend to be more selective and smaller than your average public university. The price tag is also higher on average. Big selling points are small class sizes, professor attention and financial aid.

average cost: $25,143/year (

what can you earn?:
Bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees.

from an expert: “Some of our students at California Baptist University joke that it’s like ‘high school-plus,’” says Karen Bergh, director of communications at CBU ( “But they are quick to add that the ‘plus’ means you have all the benefits of the drama associated with knowing everyone, and you have the freedom to grow, express yourself and make lifelong friends while you are learning to be an independent young adult.”

Gap year

the deal: A gap year is when you take up to a year off after high school and before college to explore a passion, volunteer, travel or work. “Gappers” can either join a structured program or find their own work and travel opportunities.

average cost: Structured, semester-long programs typically run $8,000 to $14,000.

Read the fine print to find out if food, lodging and transportation are included.

from an expert:Taking a gap year gives students the opportunity to pause and discover something about themselves and about the world they live in,” says Paul Meadows, director of Map The Gap International (


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