What Comes Next?
Planning for Life After High School
You’ve waited for years to get to high school. Since elementary school, you’ve been preparing, doing your homework, heeding teachers warnings, and nervously asking older siblings if it’s really like the movies. Hopefully, high school has met (or exceeded) your expectations- so what comes next? There are hundreds of things you could do after graduation, but there are three major options that apply to most high school grads: university, college, or the work force.
If post-secondary education is not for you, you can get a jumpstart on your career. Without any formal education in the field, the best way to get a leg up is experience. While you can accomplish this through a part-time job, you could also try a co-operative education program (also called work experiences). Generally in grade eleven or twelve, co-op students get placed in their field of interest to sample the career for school credit. This program lets students see if a certain field is right for them, meet higher ups in the profession, and gain some experience for after graduation. Talk to your guidance counsellor to reap the benefits of the co-op placements.
If your ideal career requires some formal schooling, you’ll have to decide between college and university. College is the best place to go for hands on training, or more practical careers. For example, would-be firefighters, paramedics and veterinary technicians would go to a college, where they will learn practical skills. Programs are usually shorter (they can range from one to four years) and focus on hands-on learning with a specific career in mind. If you think college would be a good fit for you and your career goals, the best classes to take are those that pertain to what you want to study. Hands on classes, like auto mechanics, music, or computer studies are excellent to take when they relate to your interests. Be careful, though, not to neglect core classes like english, science, or math; a good foundation is necessary for any program. If you would prefer, you can take these high school classes at the “applied” or “college” level, which focus less on theory and more on application.
If the career you have in mind is something that needs a bachelors degree (think doctor, engineer, or teacher) then university is what you should aim for. For this, you will need a wide range of core classes to help meet program requirements. It’s also necessary to take high school courses at the “academic”, or “university” level. When it comes to deciding what you want to study, you have a lot of flexibility. Since universities are more concerned with theory than colleges, there is also more room to change your major. In high school, the best preparation is a wide range of classes. Your choice university’s website will have a list of class requirements for each program, so take a brief look at it before you decide whether or not to take that extra science class!
If you’re worried about not knowing what to do- don’t be! It’s perfectly normal to change your mind a few times (or ten) about your potential career. As such, the best advice for any high school student is to try everything to see what really is interesting. If your childhood dreams of being a doctor fade once you dissect a fetal pig in biology, try a class, or a co-op program, that you haven’t before. You might find your new ambition, or you might just learn what you don’t like. Either way, high school is the best time to experiment with your interests, and most of all, enjoy yourself.