You approach a fork in the road. You are pressed to make a decision. Do I turn left, right or go straight? Will my GPS guide me?

Many hifork-in-the-roadgh school students, parents and young adults find themselves in a similar situation when it comes to decisions on a path to follow after high school. Thankfully, there are many, each a powerful choice for an individual to reach their goals and aspiration.

However, over time society has not shinned the brightest light on all options. But why? Attending college right out of high school has historically been the path that students are all encouraged to follow. A path that is appropriate for 75% of graduating high school students to follow, however, for the remaining population other options, equally as important need to be supported and endorsed by the educational community.

Today, is it critical to expose young minds, as early as Middle School to the different types of roles, jobs and professions that as a nation and society we need (will be needed) to remain competitive and financially strong. Roles that many times take different educational paths after high school, but each in their own right are valuable to the student and their future. Paths launched through a high school experience designed around a college prep, vocational/technical education and/or a blended combination. A students academic, personal and financial background as well as aspirations and goals are the key indicators evaluated to determine the path to follow. BUT, to encourage students, all paths must be supported, mentored and celebrated equally by society.

WHICH PATH IS YOURS

HS to College – the traditional route to a 4-year public or private college. Focused on an outcome that provides a gateway to graduate school and/or a professional career in any number of industries. Students who follow this path are typically enrolled in a college prep program (or combination) with a GPA equal to a B- or better and following mandatory state equivalent academic courses for acceptance in a state college. Students take college prep, Honors and AP course. Individuals seek acceptance 4-year public and private colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Canada or internationally.

Associates2Bachelors (A2B) – students who struggle academically in high school and have the aspirations to complete a Bachelor Degree program can turn to the successful A2B program option. Students begin at a Community College, generally enrolling full-time (many work part-time), complete a 2-year Associates Program transferring and completing the remaining two years at their choice of college and/or university. The A2B Program is a very important option for all students including those seeking a financially affordable option to attending college. (example: Mass Transfer)

Earn and Learn – individuals who wish to enter the workforce but continue their educational path attend college. The option for these individuals is general a Community College and/or a Continuing education/Professional Studies Program offered at a local college and/or university. Students can attend full-time but many select this option and attend part-time. Individuals are independent trade professionals, working in financial, health care, retail, hotel management fields. Many states offer programs to assist individuals pursue this option including incentives to commit the this post high school options (example: Commonwealth Commitment)

Gap Year – a timeline between high school and college where students with aspirations for college but are not ready to enroll take a break to evaluate their next steps. Many individuals need this time to mature, evaluate and plot academic and career options. Individuals during this one-year span will pursue volunteer services, enroll in non-academic courses, internships and/or work. This is not a period that this author endorses as a “travel the world” option.

Technical and trade – property owners of all shapes and sizes know the critical importance of professionally trained technical and/or trade personal. But today organizations and companies rely heavily on individuals who can join an organization as a contract and/or permanent employee. Individuals filling these roles can range from technology specialist, cyber security, 3-D designers and other technology proficient individuals. Individuals who fall into this category come directly from a technical and trade focused high school environment.

Military Service – a role that calls for a special type of man or women who is willing to place their county and its citizens before their own Individuals who are called to this role are high school and/or college graduate with academic and personal character positioning them to meet the enlistment eligibility criteria of the specific brand of service. Individuals select from a wide range of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) that include communications, administrative, technology, engineering, infantry, equipment and others. Once one completes their service commitment they are able to take their training and leadership skills in pursuit of an educational and/or workplace path.

SUPPORTING OPTIONS AND CHOICES

Parents and extended support groups, you have the greatest responsibility to be remain the advocate for your student(s). Educating young minds on options need to begin as early as middle school and throughout high school. For some, 17-25 years of old, their conversations may need to continue after high school. Parents and extended support groups need to be vigilant and aware of biases willing to placing barriers in front of students. Don’t be afraid to question WHY, ask questions to probe an individuals interest and goals. Supporting choices that have been evaluated and receive consensus can have strong outcomes.

Civic, business and educational leaders must focus on providing guidance and direction that supports all paths to educational and careers. Championing all paths through greater education and exposure at an early age can plant great foundations for individuals seeking to bridge the opportunity gap and gain financial stability and personal happiness.