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It's a Money Thing®

After Graduation: Work or College? 

Choosing a path after graduation is tough. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when tasked with selecting your next steps. And why shouldn’t it? It’s an enormously costly decision, in terms of both time and money. In many cases, it defines your lifestyle: it determines where you live, how you spend your time and what you can afford. It has influence over your stress levels and your general happiness. It’s a big deal and, to complicate matters further, there are over 10,000 options to choose from.

Comparing Options

  • Expenses: Working after high school means you starts making money right away. When you factor in tuition, student loans and interest, getting a degree can be a major debt decision.
  • Time Investment: Depending on the job and the industry, it may take months or years to work your way up in your career. In some cases, you may still need formal education to maximize your position in your chosen industry. 
  • Lifestyle: Time outside of your work schedule is yours to do with as you please. This means more flexibility to pursue your interests. In college, time outside of the classroom is often eaten up by assignments and exam prep. 
  • Career Opportunities: Work experience looks great on a resume and can lead to future employment opportunities. Generally, further education provides access to higher-paying jobs. A degree can enhance both your resume and your reputation.
After Graduation: Choosing between work and college can leave you feeling directionless.

After Graduation: Choosing between work and college can have hazards, like fear of failure or financial stress.

Common Obstacles

  • Fear of Failure: The fear of making the wrong choice can be paralyzing- remember that what you learn from a perceived "failure" can be applied to future decision.
  • Lack of Direction: Do you know what you want in life? It takes time to develop a personal answer to this question- reflect on your values and your goals, and picture yourself five years from now.
  • External Expectations: It's easy to be swayed by our family and friend, but even if their intentions are good, what they want for you may not align with what you want for yourself.
  • Financial Stress: Money can feel like a barrier to certain career paths, but don't be discouraged- figure out what your're willing to take on (or give up) in pursuit of your goals.


Finding Your Way

  • Get to know yourself:Create time for serious self-reflection. Journal about your values, beliefs, and goals. Try a couple of career quizzes just for fun.
  • Feed your curiosity: Research careers and areas of study you're interested in. Attend relevant workshops, meet-ups, conferences, lectures, and other events. Reach out to potential mentors with questions. Volunteer your time. 
  • Design your path: Write down multiple visions for your future. Describe in detail what you want your life to look like in 5+ years. Work backwards from your vision to map out a path. Compare your options- which one is most flexible? 
  • Seeking Guidance: A school counselor or career coach can help you design a path that meets your goals. They may also recommend additional careers tools and resources available to you.


After Graduation: Getting to know yourself and what you're interested in can help you to determine your next steps.

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