Getting More Thoughtful about Postsecondary Options for Students

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When we think about postsecondary options for students, we immediately think about education options like public or private universities or colleges, community colleges, career/technical schools, vocational/trade schools, centers for continuing education, campus transition programs, and apprenticeship programs. As a result, our postsecondary programming and planning often focus exclusively on these education options. The truth is, we as practitioners know that many students do not pursue education beyond high school and our programming leaves them out.

In reality,  postsecondary options for students should include joining the military, going on mission trips and entering the workforce. Therefore, it is incumbent upon caring adults and education professionals to be more intentional when advising students so they can be adequately guided to get to their desired postsecondary option.

As students advance in their K-12 education – specifically in high school – they begin to seriously consider their next steps. Caring adults and practitioners should, however, be more deliberate about discussing postsecondary options (college and career options) with students starting in the middle grades so that students can adequately plan and utilize available resources that can better place them in careers they intend to pursue. If a student determines in middle school that they would like to become a chef, he/she can be encouraged to take Culinary Arts classes in high school. This will not only save the student money but will save the student time in the long run in starting off in the Culinary Arts career. Or, consider a student who wants to become a firefighter – such an honorable career. That student does not necessarily have to earn a college degree to become a firefighter. With good guidance, students can enter some professions sooner by taking relevant courses or pathways in high school.

We realize not all students will know their college or career path in middle school, but for those who do, careful planning and course mapping in high school is very beneficial. Clear pathways and guidance for all students regardless of their postsecondary paths or interests will help ensure all students are prepared for a full range of postsecondary options. Guidance includes, but is not limited to, the development of required academic, money management, soft and social-emotional skills. Furthermore, encouraging students to take relevant classes based on their postsecondary paths or interests, may help improve attendance and school dropout rates. School could become more relevant and engaging to students and make them attend and actually graduate. We should strive to ensure that all students are adequately prepared for whatever postsecondary option they choose – continuing education, going into the military, or entering the workforce.