Finding The Right Fit To Flourish After High School: The Options Are Endless!

As the school year approaches, many high school seniors are preparing to say goodbye to high school and look forward to the next step.

Friends and Families of High School Graduates Enjoy the Ceremony // Photo Courtesy of The Montclair Dispatch
Friends and Families of High School Graduates Enjoy the Ceremony // Photo Courtesy of The Montclair Dispatch

For many, college or university is the answer. And in certain geographical areas, where higher educational attainment among parents is the norm, college is an expectation. But for many high school seniors, traditional four-year colleges might not be the right place for them at that moment in time, or in many cases, not at all.  

Some high school graduates are not emotionally or academically ready for a college environment. Many academic seniors just want to spend a little time away from the classroom. Certain kids are interested in pursuing more vocational careers. Regardless of your situation though, there are many options for everyone who is not quite ready to hit the lecture halls right after high school graduation. Barbara Gottesman of College Help! Organization and Advising Services provides some ideas for those high school seniors looking for a slightly different path.

For some high school athletes looking to eventually play at the higher level, taking a PG (postgraduate) year is a common step in the college athletic recruitment process.  This usually means attending a boarding school for a year. And some students take a PG year for academic reasons, maybe to boost grades to eventually apply to a four-year college, or just to gain an extra year to be better emotionally prepared to live away from home for a long period of time.

Another more common option could be a Gap year. Barbara advises students and parents to choose Gap year programs wisely. She believes that spending tens of thousands of dollars to complete a community service trip sends the wrong message. Barbara stresses the fact that one can always volunteer for free, and make an extremely positive impact on a community.  That money could be put toward college or a training program in the future. For students choosing to take Gap years, Barbara recommends full-time work, living away from home in another state or country, or working through a government program such as AmeriCorps, Conservation Corps, City Year, etc. Also, Habitat for Humanity offers long-term programs where students can live away from home.

Many students just want to take some time away from an academic environment to pursue passions, spending time working a job they love, training for future careers such as working at Club Med for a taste of the hotel and hospitality industry, or working at a ski resort just to get a change of scenery and take time away from home.

Certain schools provide more practical programs, such as Embry-Riddle, Johnson and Wales, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Drexel, Alfred State (State University of NY), University of Tennessee, University of New Hampshire-Durham. These colleges have good vocational and/or Associate degree options. Additionally, BMW and other automotive companies provide training for young people who are passionate about cars and the automobile industry.

Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is giving your student the opportunity to succeed away from home, to launch. This allows them to grow, and even more likely to figure out what they want in the next step of their journey. Even living with a relative in another town or city while working full-time could be beneficial.  Non-college options can be just as exciting and life-changing as traditional college ones and ultimately most of these students will end up in some kind of formal education environment anyway.


The author of the article is a Montclair native class of 2017, currently a student at McGill University, studying history and communications within the Faculty of Arts.

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