During my career, I have encountered thousands of high school students. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting the parents of some of these students. They came from all walks of life. In many instances, these students came from families who felt career planning was unnecessary and college was a lofty goal for their child or children. Perhaps they felt college was not attainable due to their own experiences or their lack of financial resources. In these situations parents did not encourage their children to prepare for life after high school or consider what a higher education could mean for them. In addition, some of these very students attended schools where educators and counselors also set low expectations for them.
This was unfortunate for two reasons. The first reason was because when parents and educators would start off with this mindset, they unwittingly set low academic expectations for their children. Far too often the talent, and intellectual capacity of these students was overlooked. Yet, they were actually equivalent in their ability to higher achieving students from other schools and backgrounds. The only difference between the students was, they did not have someone to instill higher academic standards for them. They lacked the confidence they needed to succeed in the classroom. Some were even bullied or teased if they attempted to attain greater academic achievements. These were very bright students who just needed a push. Watching them was like watching a bird that doesn’t know it can fly. Aside from an ostrich, the only other bird I can think of that cannot fly is a chicken. The chicken stays low to the ground and does not go far beyond its boundaries, and that’s how many of these students were.
The second reason this is unfortunate is because this mindset also carries over into a lack of preparation for life after high school. Long gone are the days when someone could just walk into a factory, find employment and live happily ever after. There are so many educational opportunities available that can result in great paying jobs. A great paying job can make a substantial difference in your quality of life. Parents and students need to be educated about these options. There are accelerated college degree programs, traditional universities, licensing programs, certifications, skilled trades, online programs and more. The trick is to learn more about these options in middle school and high school in order to save time and money. Being aware of these options early on can liberate students and parents, reduce anxiety and empower them to make better choices once high school is completed.
While the vast number of people probably should be groomed for college, I truly do not believe that the traditional four year college track is for everyone. I believe that there is something out there for everyone and typically that requires training beyond high school. If you or your student is not bound for the traditional college route, take heart and recognize that there are many viable alternatives available beyond high school. Preparing for life after high school can be stressful enough, but being knowledgeable about additional opportunities can mean a world of difference and motivate students to do their best regardless of the path they choose.