Students seek alternatives to the traditional college path

Abigail Wilson '20, Graphics Manager

College isn’t the only choice for students after high school. Even among those with their hearts set on college, there are lots of options, traditional and otherwise.

Community college can offer a step into the adult world without going straight in. They can provide cheaper classes and more personal attention in a lot of cases, too, according to Grosse Pointe South counselor Aja Perales.

“Community college is right for a lot of kids,” Perales said. “They’re a great way to save some money to get some credits, some under-your-belt experience as to what college classes are like and get some independence (from home).”

At South, while it may appear that every student goes to college, many do not; 14 kids went to community college last year, and 10 had other plans besides college after high school, according to the Tower Volume 90 issue 26.

“I have friends who are going to college and have no idea what they want to major in,” Brian Brieden ’19 said.

Not everyone can afford to figure out what they want to do in life while paying the traditional college prices, according to Brieden.

“For some, it gives them a chance to improve grades— that way, you have a stronger grade point average,” Perales said.”When you’re transferring to a school that maybe has a more specialized degree that you need for six years for, it opens more doors to those possibilities  if high school didn’t showcase you in the best possible way.”

Many students could benefit from a gap year, according to Beardslee. They allow for great resume building and provide perspective and time to figure things out.

“I know that a lot of music students choose to take a year off to get better at auditions and try to get into harder and more prestigious schools,” Beardslee said.

There is an expectation in Grosse Pointe to go to a college immediately after high school, according to Roy Taylor ’20.

“Community college, people may say it’s frowned upon and makes you ‘not that smart’ but it’s a good idea to at least consider it,” Brieden said. “You still get an education and it gives you a more intuitive look towards your future.”

A huge factor in going to college is paying for it, and a lot of students benefit from the comparatively cheaper cost of community college, according to Perales.

“I have a friend who’s at Michigan, and in  order to graduate early, he’s taking some classes at a community college, and those are cheaper,” Billy Beardslee ’19 said. “So that way, you’re saving money on school and finishing early. (Community college) has many benefits that people don’t exactly acknowledge all the time.”

Community colleges offer classes for specialized fields that don’t require four years of school, according to Perales. In addition to that, there are many social benefits too, like staying close to home, getting confidence living on one’s own and giving one’s self time to think about what they want in life without jumping straight in, according to Perales.

“If you don’t go from “A” to “B”, and there’s like an “A and a half” between the two, that, somehow, is seen as not being able to get to “B”,” Perales said. “This happens even though “A and a half” might make more sense for you personally.”

There are still many that see community college not as “real college”, according to Taylor.

“People may think that not going to college as soon as possible sets you up for failure, but I know a handful of people who are not even thinking of college at all,” Taylor said. “Those people have already secured themselves a career– a job with a good pay with middle class wages.”

Many careers don’t require a four year degree, and thus, traditional college can’t be a fit for every person, according to Perales.

“Just because (South) is  really academically inclined in competitive nature, people always want to get into the best school possible; more name-recognition ones,” Beardslee said. “People focus on that more. Community colleges don’t exactly have that. And so people kind of discard it as an option, even though when it should be considered.”

In South especially, there is an extreme pressure to go to the college with the best name recognition, Beardslee said; but all over the Pointes, the expectation and high school preparation is to go to college.

“Many people think that college is the only way to go because parents encourage it, many teachers encourage it as well,” Taylor said.  “Here at North, there are even ‘College 101’ classes that explain how to apply to colleges and what (colleges) want on an application.”

Most people don’t ever think of the options other than college after high school, such as trade schools or gap years, Taylor said.

“It’s tantamount to the American dream: you get a good education, you get a good job, get a big house and a great car and start a family,” Taylor said. “For some people, this plan just doesn’t seem to work; some like the hard work for various reasons and others will go to college for a desk job or something less challenging. It really depends on the person. For some people, they want to get a less demanding job.”

It’s important to be honest with what you want to do after high school, according to Perales. Pursuing a career as a veterinary technician, like Adams, doesn’t always require a four year degree.

“College is a really great option for a lot of people,” Perales said. “However,  I don’t want people to discredit the opportunities that community college can provide, both based upon what you’re studying and what you need from the college experience.”