Share Tweet For many people, there seems to be a natural progression in education from high school to college that is expected of them. A college education used to be the ticket towards success and earning potential, so many parents of the younger generation are pushing their children towards college to help them get on a successful career track. For many young people this is the case and a college education is required in order to work in many fields. However, a 4-year college education is not the only path to success. Many students feel the pressure to enter college without understanding the issues with college debt or the options available to them. Feeling the Pressure Parents, teachers, and other adults can all be guilty of pushing a college education on young people. This is not done maliciously, of course, because when the older generations were attending college and furthering their education it was a great option. It was a sure way to increase earning potential and give them a career opportunity they would never have had otherwise. This is still true for many career paths and in some cases a college education is the only way to obtain certain careers. However, a college degree isn’t the guarantee that it used to be. Young people feel the pressure to attend a college or university from the adults around them but sometimes aren’t sure what they’d like to do for a living, how difficult it will be to obtain a job in their chosen field, or the earning potential of that career path compared to the cost of a college degree. College degrees are not as rare as they once were and the number of people that attended college without a realistic view of the job market with that degree is rising. The truth is that the regret associated with attending college is a regret that holds an average of $37,172 US dollars. Young people feel the pressure to attend a university but it is an expensive option. Mounting College Debt Student loan debt in the US has gone up 6% from last year and it just keeps getting bigger. American’s owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. The mounting college debt issue has been called a crisis at this point. Students are so bogged down by their debt that they can’t be an active member of the economy and are finding that the investment they’ve made in their education is not so easy to pay off. Many degrees and the corresponding careers do not earn enough to manage the debt that was accumulated to obtain the degree. With the student debt crisis surpassing credit card debt and putting young people in debt immediately upon joining the workforce associated with their degree, attending a 4-year college education should be a much more thought-out plan than the expected course for young people. If their passion does not require a 4-year degree, they should rethink obtaining one. Following Your Passion They key for young people discovering their next step after high school is to first discover their passion. Instead of parents and teachers pushing a college education, they should push discovering their passion instead. Whether its carpentry, finance, science, writing, travelling, law, or photography, there are many career options associated with those passions that don’t require a bachelor’s degree – and some that do. Instead of just assuming that the best route for each student is a college degree, all of the options should be discussed. In reality, many of the best paying and successful career tracks start with trade schools instead. Many of the best paying and successful career tracks start with trade schools instead of 4-year universities. Many of the best paying and successful career tracks start with trade schools instead of a 4-year college education. Understanding the Options The key to a college education should be educating students about their options after high school. An understanding of the options associated with various trade schools is important for students considering their education options. Many jobs in healthcare, technology, and skilled trades start with a trade school and pay extremely well. These are some top careers available in the trades that pay as much or better than a career requiring a bachelor’s degree: Dental Hygienist Sonographer Web Developer Electrician Plumber Paralegal Heavy Equipment Operator Computer Programmer There are trade schools that focus on culinary, art and design, digital arts, cosmetology, criminal justice, mechanics and so many more. These options offer many of the same opportunities as a 4-year degree without as much student debt, so these options should be considered as well. In reality, there should be a higher consideration on passion over salary when deciding on a path after high school. On average, the salary for a person with a bachelor’s degree is higher than someone with a high school diploma or a 2-year degree, but that’s not true for everyone and salary isn’t everything – especially when you take debt into account and the amount of job opportunities for trades with Baby Boomers beginning to retire. Making Smart Decisions The options for students leaving high school and looking for the next stage of their education path should not be limited to finding the right 4-year college for them. Pushing past the pressure to attend college, understanding the student debt crisis, discovering their passion, discovering trade school options, and knowing the options within a 4-year degree are all extremely important aspects to the next step for students. Trade school doesn’t mean becoming a carpenter or a welder, it can mean that, but more students should understand the wide variety of 2-year options in the trades that carry just as many opportunities for students. Pushing past the notion that the only way to make money and become successful is to attend a college or university will help students find their passion, lower the national student debt number, and help the US economy overall. Our opportunities don’t start and stop with a 4-year degree and students deserve to know their options before settling with debt and no way to repay it.