By Jeannie Dimaline
During my many years as a high school counselor and in my new role as Churchill’s College, Career, Military, Readiness Specialist (a new position at each NEISD high school), I have seen multiple changes in opportunities for seniors’ future successes. Attending a four-year university after high school may not be for everyone. Students have many more choices!
The different path to travel…
Students can choose their own unique path. Parents often want to choose for them, but based on my experiences, when a parent forces a student to attend a particular college, the results do not always turn out the way the parent expected. So, when I am discussing post-high school options, I like to offer a variety of choices for students to make their own decisions about their future. My questions to students are, “What will make you happy? What do you see yourself doing in 5, 10 years from now?” Most seniors really do not know the answer! I tell them that it is their own choice and encourage them to dig deep into their heart and think about what they enjoy and what they are good at. Their answers to these questions might take them outside the traditional route.
Here are just a few options students can pursue beyond going directly to a four-year university:
Technical/Trade school professions are just as important as professional jobs that require a four-year degree. Learning on the job can be very valuable for students. The “hands-on” approach can be more meaningful than reading a textbook. These types of schools offer specific vocational training that can lead to lucrative salaries. Industry certifications such as dental hygienists, radiology techs, plumbers, electricians, and automotive technicians typically require two years or less training. Avoiding college tuition can lead to saving thousands of dollars that might have been spent on a student attending a four-year university.
Gap Year: What is it? Students may want to take a year off before heading to college to explore other interests. Maybe your kiddo is not ready for college right after high school and needs a break from the classroom setting. Some students may want to travel, volunteer, or maybe work for a year to save money to help pay for college.
Did someone say, “Get a job?” Moving right into the workforce is an option. Having a job will help with the financial obligations of eventually attending a four-year university if that’s what the student wants (room and board, lab fees, tuition, supplies, books). Working can also provide many valuable lessons for life. Learning to pay attention to a first-time bank account or even set an alarm clock to wake up on time can be just as important as classroom learning. The value of empathy, learning to work with people, and treating customers and others with dignity and respect are critical to success in any career. In some instances, businesses even offer scholarships to help their employees with tuition or books.
Serving in the Military… Joining the military after high school, with various branches to choose from, can offer many benefits to students. While serving our country, students can earn a salary, receive paid college tuition from the GI Bill, have room and board, train for future career paths, and qualify for retirement after 20 years of service.
More than ever, counselors have been working hard to guide students throughout their high school years. These past several months, Covid-19 has added additional stress to students (and parents). With all the challenges of career choices, educators and counselors have learned that we are partners in listening to students’ needs. For some students, a four-year college education is the right choice. For others, it may be a path different from the traditional one. Understanding that it is perfectly okay to walk that different path is what is important!
Jeannie Dimaline was born and raised in northern Indiana, attended High school in Edinburg, TX, and graduated from the University of Texas, San Antonio with a Bachelor’s of Art Undergraduate Degree and Masters of Arts Graduate Degree. She and her husband, AJ, have two boys, Joseph (25) and Jonathan (22). Jeannie has been a counselor with NEISD at Winston Churchill High School since 2003 and is currently serving as WC’s College, Career, Military Readiness Specialist 2020-21. She can be reached at Jdimal@neisd.net.