After drudging along for nearly thirteen years at school, the prospect of a four year university after high school sounds dreadful to some. While societal pressure deems a college education necessary to excel in life, it is not the only option after high school. A gap year, travelling, the military, or an internship or job remain popular alternatives among graduates.
Bea Lazar, a 2019 Drake graduate, took a gap year before heading to the University of Edinburgh for the next four years. Lazar decided to take a gap year to travel and meet new people, claiming that gap years provide valuable opportunities for discovering passions and revealing career paths.
“I met a girl this year who’d just spent two months working at school in Tanzania and she’s now planning on being a full time paid teacher there starting in September,” Lazar said.
She also believed that she should take advantage of her youth and travel.
“It’s honestly one of the only times that you’ll really be able to travel so freely, I think because after college people always say, ‘I’m gonna travel after college. I’m gonna start college right off the bat.’ But I think like right after college that’s when you’re getting offered jobs and internships and stuff and I feel like you’re parents aren’t going to be as willing to help pay for you to go travel when they want you to go into the real world,” Lazar said.
Lazar traveled to Madagascar for a marine conservation program and Cape Town for a teaching and surf outreach program. She would have continued to a third program but her trip was cut short due to COVID-19.
She found these programs through a volunteer placement company called International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), which offers programs in over forty countries. Some are home stays where volunteers live with a local of the city in which they are travelling and others are in volunteer houses where program volunteers board together. Lazar lived in volunteer houses both trips.
Lazar acknowledged that not all gap years have to include travelling abroad. However, she maintains that her experience overseas prepared her for college.
“I feel a lot more independent and self-sufficient now that I’ve been able to travel by myself. It’s kind of the same experience as college where you’re like meeting new people and having to learn how to be by yourself. I feel way more prepared going into college next year,” Lazar said. “[My gap year] was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Lazar also noticed a difference in her ability to make friends from her first program to her second. She learned to be okay with uncomfortable introductions and situations in order to get to make close friends.
Jayden Morgan, a 2018 Drake graduate, decided to get a jumpstart in the firefighting service rather than immediately attending a four year. Morgan knew coming out of high school that firefighting was the only job he felt, and still feels, would be the one he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“It was definitely my goal to end up doing something that is helping people and staying active versus sitting at a desk all day,” Morgan said.
Morgan began his career as a firefighter while attending College of Marin (COM).
“The choice not to go to a four year I think was the smartest choice, at least speaking for myself because I got to take classes that have set me up to go to a four year next if I want but also give me a jumpstart in the fire service, like I just finished my EMT and almost all my classes needed to transfer.”
However, he does feel like he’s missed out on the college experience. He would’ve loved to go out with his friends at night, be in a fraternity, and attend sporting events. After taking classes at COM, Morgan still has the choice to leave Marin for college.
Eric Betz, father of a current Drake student and Drake graduate, joined the air force after graduating high school.
“I decided to go into the Air Force to learn a trade- I was an electrician and radar repairman- and to earn money for college,” Betz said.
While serving in the air force, Betz had the opportunity to travel. He met people of many cultures, allowing him to get a better sense of what he may want to do as a career.
Depending on rank and years of service in the air force, monthly salaries range from 1,733 dollars to 3,114 dollars, according to the US Air Force. Other jobs in the military also range based on rank and years served. However, the marine corps has the highest pay out of all other US military services, ranging from 1,166 dollars to 6,166 dollars a month.
College is a formative experience for education, indepence, and personal growth. Some discover these adventures by going off the beaten path. Life after high school doesn’t have to look like a four year university. It could be a gap year, travelling, work, or the military, each alternative providing opportunities to graduates that may not be available to them in college.