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We know it’s intimidating to think about your future after high school, especially if you have no idea what you want to do. Take a deep breath! We have some ways to help you discover a path that works for you.

Questions to Think About

Start by thinking about the type of lifestyle you hope to live. Do you have a particular career choice in mind? When you think about your future, how do you imagine your life? Be specific! How much will it cost to get to where you want to be?  The answer to these questions can impact how you get to your career. As well as the length of time it will take to get there, and the lifestyle you choose to lead.

What is College?

When we talk about college, you might immediately think of a 4-year university with messy dorms, large lecture halls, and students tossing frisbees in front of colonial brick buildings. For the sake of clarity, we will define college as any degree-earning formal education after high school. With this in mind, know that there will be multiple pathways to accomplishing your goals and aspirations.

Types of Degrees

If you search for a degree associated with a job or field of interest, Google will likely give you one of these responses: Certificate, Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Graduate. So, what does this mean?

Certificate Programs

A certificate is a credential aligned to specific career pathways with classes focused on a specific job. For example, the certificate of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) helps you become a mechanic. These credentials are typically earned by attending a community college and/or technical school. At a fraction of the cost of a 4-year school, they offer the same quality of education. They are also very flexible to a variety of lifestyles. If you hope to work part-time or full-time while attending school, this could be an option for you!

Associate’s Degrees

An Associate’s (also known as a “two-year degree”) can have the certificate as part of the program, but also offers more general education classes that can make it possible to unlock more earning potential, career paths, and educational opportunity. For example, an Associate’s degree with the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certificate helps you become a mechanic, but also prepares you for a pathway to manage a team of mechanics or even own your own shop!

Bachelor’s Degrees

This type of degree is earned at “4-year colleges” and is considered the next level of education after an associate’s degree. You can often transfer an associate’s into a Bachelor’s degree, but be sure you do some advance planning. Generally, community college credits transfer well to any state school, so it’s important to have that 4-year school in mind. This can save you a lot of money if you are certain they will transfer and your admission counselors and academic advisors can help you understand how to make that happen.

A Bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, and is what most popular culture references mean by a “college degree,” although we at myOptions prefer a broader definition. It is generally the standard for entry into many professional fields. In a Bachelor’s program, you can gain specific field knowledge while also building your general education knowledge to help you be well-rounded potential employee and educated citizen.

Graduate Degrees

Graduate degrees refer to Master’s and Doctorate programs. These degrees are tailored to specific professions and some career fields will require this advanced degree. You almost always need a Bachelor’s degree before entering one of these programs, so as you consider your career path, be mindful of the time you are willing to be in formal schooling.

Minority Serving Institutions

You may wish to consider selecting a school where you can thrive with specific attention to what makes you, you. Minority Serving Institutions (MSI’s) are colleges built with the mission of designing curriculum and social programs specific to serving historically underrepresented populations of students. Some of the categories include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), or Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). They offer more specific scholarships, degree tracks, and a community that reflects the students they serve.

College – the time and money you spend there – is a true investment in yourself and your future. We are here to help you make great decisions. We know that is a lot of information, but we also know that you’ve got this!