There Are Other Options Besides a Four-Year University Experience

Lucy Dahl, Staff

Four years of high school followed up directly by four years at a University. For many at B-CC, that’s the expectation. While this may be a common route at B-CC, it’s not for everyone. Community college can be discounted when thinking about higher education. Trade schools, gap years, joining the military, or taking some time off from school for a job are all wonderful options that B-CC high school students should not overlook.

When considering community college as an option, one of the biggest advantages is its affordability. Tuition fees are significantly lower at Montgomery College (MC)  with a $10,254 fee per year, while University of Maryland is double at the price of $28,075. This is particularly important for students who want to avoid taking out large student loans or who need to work while they study to lessen the financial burden on their families.

Community college is an option for those who want a traditional college education, but this route is not desired by all. Trade schools are programs that provide training which can lead to high-demand and high-paying jobs. In Montgomery County, this can even start in high school for students who enroll in the immersive experience at Thomas Edison High School, which offers programs that teach students a trade, ultimately enabling  them to become well-versed in their field.

Emilio Villitaro is a junior at Paint Branch high school currently enrolled in a program at Edison: “My main goal is becoming a certified auto technician. To get there, I might go to a trade school or community college, eventually transferring into a 4-year college.” Programs like Edison’s give a head start that allows some students to skip college or trade school as they can acquire enough training in high school to immediately enter the workforce after graduating. 

This path differs from the norm and leads to students missing out on the traditional college experience; however, everyone has their own agendas. Villataro adds, “Sure, I’ll miss out on the partying and everything else that goes along with the experience, but I’d rather focus on something I enjoy and am passionate about instead of following what everyone else is doing.” 

High school students are often consumed with academic and extracurricular activities, leaving little time for self-reflection and personal growth. A gap year can change that dynamic by allowing students to step back and assess who they are and how they can achieve their goals. Ms. Heald, the College and Career counselor at B-CC explains, “Students need to be able to figure out for themselves without others’ involvement, what’s right for them, and develop a sense of independence in their formative years.”

According to Forbes, taking a gap year can lead to better academic performance when college finally starts, with 60% of study participants seeing improved performance. During the gap year, students can recharge, refocus, and gain insight into their academic goals. This gap year grants time for students to pursue interests that may not have received attention in high school, such as learning new skills, or simply taking a break from academia. In lieu of this break, students enter college with a renewed sense of motivation that can lead to improved academic performance.

Junior Lola Bouquet confessed, “One of the reasons for me wanting to take a gap year is to be able to go back to Italy and improve my mental health and gain experiences outside of academics for my future memories.” Whatever choice is chosen after graduating, everyone has their own path that will ensue and nothing is set in stone in the oncoming years.