The Epitaph Issue 4 

Published: January 29, 2015 

By Shauli Bar-On

Graduating from high school marks the first time students can decide their path for themselves.

“I haven’t thought about not going to college,” sophomore Emi Kong said. “Both my parents and my sister have all gone to college and I was taught to go to college in order to be successful in life.”

However, there are many paths besides college that American students can take to be successful in life.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 68 percent of high school seniors enroll in a two- or four-year college immediately after high school, while 32 percent of Americans choose a different path, such as working, enrolling in trade school, taking a gap year or joining the military.

Due to a variety of reasons, students may decide to join the workforce immediately after high school. While many of these students enroll in college a few years after working, some decide not to enroll in college at all.

Another option students choose, in lieu of attending a four-year college, is trade school. According to Dictionary Reference, a trade school is a vocational school that teaches students skills for a job in a specific field, such as fashion, culinary science, and flight training.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that a trade school’s average cost is $94,000 less than bachelor’s degree tuition, and those who attend trade schools will be able to join the workforce two years before bachelor’s degree students can.

Studies by organizations such as Simply Hired found that trade school graduates make $3,000 a year less than bachelor’s degree workers. However, this excludes the two-year advantage trade school students have.

Taking a gap year is also becoming more popular among high school seniors, especially for those with an undecided major. In addition to giving students a year to relax and lower their stress levels, gap years prove to be academically beneficial. according to TIME Magazine, upon returning to college, gap year students have a GPA that is 0.2 higher than expected.

Many colleges provide scholarships for students who take a gap year. This one-year break allows students to think about what they want to major in.

“I would definitely take a gap year,” sophomore Ron Hasson said. “Most people don’t know what they want to be when they come out of high school and traveling around the world exposes you to new things and really gives you a chance to see what you want to do.”

Another option students choose is to join a branch in the military. According to GlobalPost, The U.S. military provides students with free college educations, a stable and interesting career and a $50,000 average salary.

Until the completion of one’s commitment, however, the military makes students’ life decisions for them, and can order them into isolation and danger.

Several Israeli students return to Israel and serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In Israel, all citizens are required to serve in the army upon graduating from high school. While these students are not required to return to Israel to serve, they often decide to do so.

Hasson’s two older siblings have served in the IDF and he is considering following their footsteps.

“Going to the army helps you be disciplined after high school,” Hasson said.

No matter which one of the diverse paths students chose to take, the main priority is their happiness and their positive influence on society.

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