School is officially out for summer and graduation season is behind us.
As someone who works in education, this time of the year is always bittersweet. The pomp and circumstance of graduation highlights how important it is. It brings one chapter of life to a close and flips the page to what comes next.
After graduation, the world is at your fingertips, and that feeling is exhilarating.
This is particularly true for high school graduates. Sure, college graduates are also starting a new chapter, but there is more at stake when you graduate from high school. Big decisions have to be made.
A college graduate had already decided to go to college, but a high school graduate might still be grappling with such a decision. They may not know what they want to do, and that is OK.
Frankly, there can be a lot of pressure on high school graduates.
As if the months prior to receiving their diploma weren’t stressful enough as they were constantly reminded about scholarship deadlines and other signs of their impending injection into the world beyond the halls of the schoolhouse, likely they were bombarded with questions of their futures from well-meaning people in their lives.
It would be easy for graduates to simply do what people around them say they should do. However, I hope that isn’t the case.
I hope each graduate is following his or her own path and pursuing the interests that excite their minds and warm their hearts. The key is that each high school graduate makes the decision that is right for him or her.
And that’s the point. Everyone needs to make the decision that is best for themselves and their families.
It would be easy for me to suggest everyone should go to college. I work in that world, and I value higher education. Still, I’m not that ignorant. College isn’t for everyone.
Trade schools are a wonderful option, and the income potential makes or eclipses that of some college degrees.
For example, according to U.S. News and World Report, a plumber’s median salary in 2019 was $55,160, an electrician’s 2019 median salary was $56,180, and an automotive mechanic’s median salary was $42,090 in 2019.
Of course, if even attending a trade school isn’t appealing, there are plenty of viable career options that only require the high school diploma that was just received.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the 2019 median salaries for insurance sales agents, flight attendants, sales representatives, and executive assistants were more than $50,000.
Again, it all comes down to what is right for each individual.
Clearly, college was the right path for me. I’m not handy. I would have floundered at a trade school. A few brief forays into sales showed me that isn’t my area of strength either.
But did I know all of this right away? Of course not.
You have to experience the world a bit and be able to make decisions that fit. I went to college because I knew doing something such as plumbing or becoming an electrician wouldn’t work for me. Lucky for me, my lack of handiness revealed itself early on, which made my path a bit clearer.
That’s not the case for everyone. Maybe a gap year is in order then. That can help people grow individually and determine what they truly want to pursue.
Research on the effectiveness of a gap year is a bit mixed from my readings, but there does seem to be evidence suggesting it can help. The key, though, would be to then follow through and apply for the job, go to trade school, or enroll in college.
Regardless of what any graduate chooses, I just hope the decision brings them joy. Don’t get caught up in society’s definitions of success.
If you are happy and enjoy the work you are doing while still being able to support yourself, you are a success.
Todd Vogts is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.