What Now?

Students consider their options after high school.

Regan Johnston and Emma Stauffer

Deciding what to do after high school is something every student must face, however difficult it can be. There are many options for students nearing graduation, such as attending a four year or two-year college, going to a trade school, joining the military or entering the workforce. There are many factors that play a part in a student determining which one is best for them, and there are many resources available at LHS to aid in the decision making process.

Two and Four Year College

In a poll sent out to eleventh and twelfth grade LHS students, 51% of the students responded that they were planning on attending a four-year college after high school, while about 10% replied that they were planning on going to a two-year college. It’s important that students find a school that’s a perfect fit for them.

Senior Audrey McBride plans on attending the University of Kansas, a four-year college, to study biology and medicine.

“The pros would be that it’s definitely easier to jump into a career or get into the job market,” McBride said. “It’s definitely very expensive, especially if you are going out of state.”

For some students, a two-year college is a better fit. At two year colleges, students are able to earn an associate’s degree, typically at a lower price than four-year schools.

Graphic by Ashley Tindall

LHS offers the A+ program, which is very beneficial to students, and makes the option of a two-year college very appealing. Once students finish the required 50 hours of tutoring, they can use their A+ hours to pay for tuition at any Missouri 2 year college and can earn scholarships at four-year colleges.

Senior Lillian Gaither is using the A+ program to attend Maple Woods for two years, before transferring to a four-year college to complete her degree.

“I want to become a veterinarian technologist first, so that’s what I have to go through Maple Woods to do, and then eventually
go to Mizzou and become a veterinarian pathologist,” Gaither said. “I decided to do the A+ program because it is a way for me to get the A+ scholarships at many colleges that I was looking at.”

Career Navigator Tim Anderson offers advice on decision-making.

“When you think about college options, a two-year college is going to be a much smaller setting, and it’s going to be a lot less expensive,” Anderson said. “Then you get to four-year colleges, and my experience has been that they are very large. If you are not very focused on what you are looking for in a four-year college, it’s easy to get lost in that, and that’s just something to think about.”

All students can make an appointment with Anderson in the counseling office to discuss college choices.

A+ is a great opportunity for students planning on attending a two year college or trade school after high school as well as for those who intend on enrolling in a 4 year university. It is a great back up plan and I really encourage all students who are eligible to enroll to do so.”

— Counselor Trilaina McCallum

Trade and Vocational Schools

Trade and vocational schools are usually two-year schools designed to teach students the necessary skills for a trade. With a degree from a trade school, a student can become an electrician, welder, computer technician, cosmetologist, construction manager
and more.

Though junior Angelina Billingsley doesn’t know exactly what she is going to do, she is leaning towards trade school.

“I feel like in trade school you can get really good jobs there and it’s a lot cheaper than a four-year college,” Billingsley said. “It doesn’t require a whole bunch of courses to take compared to college and it doesn’t take a whole bunch of money.”

Compared to college, which averages around $127,000 for a four-year program, as stated by Student Debt Relief, trade school degrees average around $33,000. So it is a much cheaper alternative to college, without sacrificing a person’s chance at a good career.

After he graduates, junior Simon Gaughan wants to go to trade school so he can work in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Junior Simon Gaughan is taking Advanced Woodworking and plans on going to a trade school after high school. Photo by Charlene Nguyen.

“I just like working with my hands,” Gaughan said. “It’s something my family has done for generations. I always enjoyed it ever since I started doing it. Originally I wanted to do welding but HVAC offers more opportunities and it pays more.”

Unlike colleges, trade schools give students a more job-oriented education for a specific job, instead of making them learn a variety of subjects, making it a preferable option for students who already know what they want to do when they graduate.

For more information on trade schools, talk to Anderson in the counseling office. If a student thinks trade school is right for them, they need to be sure to do research on the school and job you want and know what to expect.

“Be prepared to do some stuff that you do not want to do,” Gaughan said. “There’s a lot of stuff with my woodworking class or my manufacturing class that I didn’t want to do but I did it anyway. Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes you hurt yourself but you have to persevere through it.”

Military

Some students choose to join the military after high school. The Military has six branches, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and the new Space Force. There are many opportunities that come with joining the military, and they differ based on each branch.

“Some of the great benefits that some people really like is the fact that we will pay for four years of college tuition, there is free healthcare, free housing, free food and a pretty good paycheck on top of that,” Army Staff Sergeant Craig Talley said.

Talley is one of several Army recruiters located in Liberty. They are responsible for talking to people close to graduation or recently graduation about the option of joining the military, and specifically the Army. They visit LHS occasionally during lunch to speak with students.

Army Recruiters come during lunch to inform students of the benefits of joining the army after graduating. Photo by Pearl Pritchard.

Senior Elaina Blodgett is participating in the Show-Me Gold program after graduation, which will allow her to simultaneously be a student at Northwest Missouri State University while training to become a captain in the Army National Guard.

“It does help me pay for my college, so I will get a diploma with no student debt,” Blodgett said. “I’m going to meet so many great people and I’m going to be able to help our country.”

Each branch of the military has different benefits and is appealing to different people for various reasons.

Junior Ian Wooldridge will attend William Jewell college to study international relations and political science. Afterward, Wooldridge is considering joining the Navy.

“We have the largest Navy in the world, and so we are literally protecting the seas not only for America’s safety but for really the world, so that would be a cool, big thing to be apart of,” Wooldridge said.

Junior Ian Wooldridge. Photo by Pearl Pritchard.

Tally agrees and urges any student that is thinking about joining the Army to talk to a recruiter.

“A lot of people don’t realize all the benefits and all the job options that are available,” Talley said. “I think if students have any interest at all or are weighing their options for, after high school, the best thing to do would be to just come and talk to us. We are here to advise and to put people on the right path and show everybody what the Army has to offer.”

Workforce

Going straight into the workforce right after high school is a good option for students who need to save money, are unsure about their career goals and are ready to start working.

“I can get some quick money, pay some bills and pay off anything my parents need to pay off,” junior Chris Ketchum said. “I have an offer to go to my friend’s dad’s body shop up in North Kansas City, so he’s going to train me and I’m going to go do that after school.”

Going to work right after high school can also give people a head start on life, given that they don’t have to spend more years in school. This gives people like senior Daniel Fulton the opportunity to plan out what they want to do after they graduate.

“For now, I’m probably just going to keep on moving up in my current job and when I turn 21 I want to join the police academy,” Fulton said. “I’m a shift manager at Wendy’s, but then I want to be a patrol cop first and work my way up to detective.”

Joining the workforce is also a good option for those who still want to go to college or trade school but can’t do it immediately after graduation.

“You’ll save some money at first because even if you still wanted to go to college you could save that money from working and then go to college in the future,” Fulton said.

Junior Chris Ketchum plans on going straight into the workforce by working in an auto body shop after high school. Photo by Kylee Williams.

If students in high school are considering joining the workforce after they graduate, they should consider the different programs and resources provided to help them prepare, including NCAPS, Career Center, KC Tech Academy and internships.

“I think they are beneficial because it’s a different way to learn, it’s learning by doing not learning within a traditional classroom,” Anderson said. “I think that’s just different. Some people really appreciate that. I know my personal experience was that I really benefited from being out and learning by doing and being hands-on. It’s nice that we are able to offer those things for that type of student who wants that opportunity.”

Going straight into the workforce takes commitment, so be prepared for that.

“Make sure that you actually work,” Fulton said. “There’s a lot of people that get a job and then leave and quit, or they’re lazy and get fired. If you want to join the workforce, make sure you are serious about it because you will eventually be fired if you’re not working.”

Advice for Entering the Workforce

Counselor Trilaina McCallum. Photo by Charlene Nguyen.

“For students planning on entering the workforce, I think there are two things students can do while still enrolled in high school. One, create a resume and begin the job searching before you graduate. Two, take advantage of hands-on experiences while in high school. A great experience for students are the Shadowing experiences, as well as our Network 53 Internship opportunities that our Career Navigator can help connect students with.”

– Counselor Trilaina McCallum

Career Navigator Tim Anderson. Photo by Alyssa Griffith.

Anderson aids students in planning for their life after high school. He helps students with the intern program, NCAPS and the Career Center and other programs offered by the counseling office. If you need help planning or have any questions contact Anderson. Schedule a meeting with Anderson in the counseling office, or email him at [email protected]

Still Not Sure?

It’s OK to not know exactly what you want to do after high school. 10% of students who responded to the poll question“Do you feel like you are aware of the different options that are available for after graduation?” said they were not. What is important is for students to be searching for ideas and options that interest them. LHS has numerous resources available.

Graphic by Ashley Tindall

One place to begin is the counseling office with your counselor or Anderson, who specializes in helping students explore career choices.

Junior Julia Justice has advice for students.

“I’d say if you don’t know what you’re doing you should look into jobs around you to get a start, or find a college near you then get a stable job or you could ask people around you what they did to get an idea,” Justice said. “It’s fine to be confused as long as you are passionate and happy with your decision. Don’t be afraid to take your time.”

There are plenty of options after high school that students have the ability to explore. From college to the workforce, or to simply being undecided, students are definitely free to choose their path.

Graphic by Alyah Craig