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September 20, 2017

As high school students consider what's next, how to navigate the difference between a four-year college and trade school

With high school back in full swing, many students are considering their options for post-secondary education. As the school year goes on, students are often expected to visit colleges, send in applications, and talk with parents, guidance counselors and teachers to discuss the next steps in their lives.

However, for some individuals, a four-year degree may not be the right fit, and depending on the career path they are seeking, it might not even be required. According to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, 66 percent of the expected 55 million job openings in the economy through 2020 won't require a bachelor's degree.

Why Trade Schools?

Career education or trade schools focus on a specialized skillset that is related to a particular industry or career path. The programs often feature an accelerated learning format that combines traditional classroom learning with hands-on training through industry-modeled programs. Along with the course curriculum, students are taught the soft skills employers are seeking, including interpersonal skills, teamwork, and critical thinking.

If you never considered career education or trade schools, here are a few steps to determine if this offering would be a fit for your high school student.

Recognize That One Size Doesn't Fit All

What works for one student may not work for another, and that's why there is a vast array of options for students after high school. While a four-year institution may have been the best fit for friends or family, it might not be the right choice for the student in your life.

Start the Conversation Early

Even if students are only in their freshmen or sophomore years, it's never too early to start talking with them about post-secondary options. Guidance and career counselors often start meeting with students early in their high school journey to discuss their future plans, and families can have those conversations at home in order to guide students to success.

Families should ask students what school subjects interest them the most, and what kind of careers they are curious about in order to determine what path fits their needs best. Outside of school, make sure to pay close attention to what hobbies and interests your student pursues.

Schedule a Visit

Every high school has a guidance counselor who is willing to help find the best post-secondary options for students. Don't be afraid to schedule a visit with the counselor so you can see what the local options are for trade schools. Some guidance counselor offices even conduct career aptitude tests to help determine a student's strengths and interests. Even if guidance counselors emphasize four-year or two-year degrees without considering the student's interests or career goals, parents should ask about all options in order to provide the best opportunities for the student.

A student's decision for post-secondary education may seem like it's far away, but it will be here before you know it. If your student is interested in trade schools as a post-secondary option, then schedule a campus visit today with Dawn Career Institute to see if our school and programs are a fit for you!