A World Without College


Jack Nelson

An infographic pondering if a college education is the best option

It seems as though after high school, there is only one option: college. Any other course of action is less desirable, and less discussed. At Westminster, it seems like college is a predetermined course of action for all enrolled.


And college is a wonderful opportunity for all sorts of things, not just getting a degree.


I think college is a great opportunity to expand your social circle and start living by yourself,” says Deborah Kim, junior.


However, college costs have been on a steady rise for a while.


“Between 1980 and 2020, the average price of tuition, fees, and board for an undergraduate degree increased 169%,” according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.


Though college is a valid path out of high school and into the world, it might not be best to delve into it immediately, or for some people, at all.


The first option to explore is a gap year. A gap year is simply a break from school that can be taken before, during, or after college. It is a chance to explore passions, learn new skills, meet new people, experience new ideas, prepare for college or a job, or just enjoy yourself.


Most students that take a gap year do so to go on mission trips, travel the world, get some experience at an internship, or some sort of a combination. Many gap year programs exist to facilitate such activities.


In addition, taking a gap year might make colleges and universities more eager to have you, if the gap year is structured and productive.


“A gap year can make your application shine, showing evidence that you have extracurricular interests as well as a solid foundation made up of personal and professional skills,” according to GVI, an example of a volunteer organization one might enroll in during a gap year.


Taking a gap year might not be the perfect move, though. “If you take a gap year, you may find your [federal aid] amount changes,” according to Go Overseas, a site dedicated to discovering and exploring gap year programs.


It all depends on what is done during the gap year. If the college looks at the gap year and sees little productivity, they will find that student less favorable, and if the gap year is very productive, the college will find that student more favorable.


Overall, it is a break from the rigorous, graded academics of the education system, and a chance to reflect on yourself, and what is the next best step in life.


Another option that is often overlooked is vocational school, or trade school. Instead of being educated on general education or liberal arts, trade school curriculums offer dedicated training in a specific, skilled vocation. Trade school is also much more affordable than your regular college.


A private nonprofit college costs an average of $37,600, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That adds up to $150,400 for a four-year degree, which is just about impossible to pay out of pocket for. That means many college graduates will have to take out loans, and those loans have interest rates, so students will have to pay even more than that.


Meanwhile, trade school costs from $5,000 to $15,000, in total. Not only that, but it typically only takes two years.


These vocations include construction jobs such as plumber, electrician, carpenter, industrial jobs like welder and mechanic, and even jobs you might not expect, such as IT work or architectural technician.


Many of these jobs are needed everywhere, like electricians, so job security is not much of a worry. Salary is not a concern either. 


A tradesperson can earn 46k to 70k a year, according to talent.com. Of course each trade job pays differently, but they all pay fairly well, especially for a job without a college degree. 


Trade jobs aren’t the most glamorous, but they are always needed, and it isn’t very expensive to get the required education.


Another untraditional path out of high school is one taken by a student named Charlie Baden


“I am a part of the St. Charles County CAPS program, specifically a part of their technology solutions,” she says. “Basically I go here for half the day, rather than normal school, and learn business-like professions and techniques relating to technology.”


The St. Louis Center for Advanced Professional Studies are nationally recognized, innovative high school programs. Students are fully immersed in genuine work culture, to solve genuine problems, to gain real work experience.


“I wouldn’t say the program itself is a college alternative. But what I’m doing with it is,” says Charlie. 


“I’m going back next year for a full year internship with a company, and that can lead to a full time job in the higher ups right after high school,” she elaborates.


There is no set-in-stone course of action to take out of high school, or into the real world. Some people get lucky and get rich young, and never even have to worry about getting a higher education. Other people have to fight as hard as they can. But no matter what, there are a thousand ways to approach life.