Finding your way in higher education is no longer a choice between Business, Engineering, or Communications. It is a full-on design challenge with 138 variables, 42 knobs, 17 passcodes – and an outdated Instruction Manual. It is also an abrupt awakening. For most high schoolers the most choice you have had to in your learning was a few electives in high school!
My goal is to change that. I offer resources and coaching that make it easier to navigate the space that opens after you complete high school. Some topics ExpandEd covers include: What your options are, how to recognize your learning preferences, a glimpse into what companies hire for, recent evolutions in education, and why guidance at this stage is critical. It’s a lot and it is going to be a journey. The good news is you only need to take one step at a time.
To get started, let’s look at what types of opportunities you might pursue to continue your learning. I have broken them into 8 categories to give a sense of the different types of learning options that are out there. The categories are based on the primary method of learning used in each category. This is meant to give you a high level overview of which options align with your learning preferences, which we will get to in the next post.
- Traditional Colleges & Universities
- Lecture halls, dorm rooms, final exams, research opportunities, and abundant extracurricular activities are just some of the defining characteristics of most colleges in the US. Universities offer no shortage of resources which means there are endless ways to personalize your experience and make it work for you. Get involved in research, clubs, or professional opportunities. Meet people. Make the most of your breaks with internships, international travel, service projects, or entrepreneurial activities.
- Best for: Students who feel confident navigating large classes and limitless options, students who are comfortable learning in classrooms.
- Less Conventional Colleges
- All colleges are unique, but some stretch the boundaries more than others. If classrooms, standardized curricula, and grades don’t match your learning style maybe you want to explore some of the less conventional options for getting a degree.
- Where to start: This list, This list, or This list
- Best for: Nonconformists, students interested in a unique college experience.
- Community Colleges
- A typically underrated option, community colleges offer smaller class sizes, lower tuition, and often passionate, personable professors. Community college can be a great place to get an Associate’s degree or start your college experience. Most offer the same courses you would take during your first few years at any college. Plus transfer programs often guarantee you admission into partner schools if you do decide to pursue a Bachelor’s degree.
- Where to start: The website or advising office for your local community college
- Best for: Budget conscious students, students who prefer smaller class sizes, anyone who wants a bit more space and time to explore.
- Online learning
- The internet has made learning more accessible than ever. You can take classes with world-renowned teachers for free. You can earn degrees from your couch or while traveling a new country. Choices abound so it helps to approach online learning with some strategy. Are you looking to receive college credit? How much (if anything) are you willing to pay? Do you want live classes or to learn at your own pace?
- Where to start: Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, Open Culture, Skillshare, Tuts+, Udacity, Udemy…. The list goes on
- Best for: Dabbling in different subjects, Budget-conscious students, Part-time students
- Coding or Tech Skill Bootcamps
- Like problem solving and the appeal of the startup world? An increasingly common option for learning the latest tech skills are through intensive 3-12 month “bootcamp” style programs. Programs can be taken online or in-person and cover skills like full stack development, data science, graphic design, and UI/UX.
- Where to start: General Assembly, Galvanize, or simply searching “best coding bootcamps”
- Best for: Anyone interested in the tech or startup world
- Gap Years & Work Exchange Programs
- Exploring the world is one of the best ways to discover what you want your role in it to be. Gap years are growing in popularity and quickly proving their value. There are tons of options that allow you to focus on service, language acquisition, or professional development. You might also consider work exchange programs that allow you to travel for less by volunteering at organic farms, nannying abroad, or working in tourism.
- Places to start: American Gap Association, Workaway, WWOOF, GoAbroad
- Best for: Explorers and those yearning to get out of a classroom and into the world
- DYO – Learning (a.k.a. Design Your Own “Degree”)
- If you really want to channel your independence there are plenty of ways to use the world as your classroom. This could include apprenticeships, internships, self-directed learning, or any number of other options. Learning certainly doesn’t need a classroom but keep in mind, there is a difference between existing in the world and being a student of the world. To keep yourself on track we recommend: Having stated learning goals or questions, a plan of how you will learn, and some form of accountability to keep you on track.
- Places to start: Resources on Self-Directed Learning, The Experience Institute, Unschool
- Best for: People who are self-motivated, go-getters, independent learners
- Trade Schools
- Most of these programs offer options that take less than 2 years and lead to entry level salaries of $50,000 and above. They also are some of the fastest growing and most stable professions. This includes careers in science laboratories, dentistry, electrical and construction, architecture, and design.
- Where to start: Many resources can guide you through lists of options
- Best for: Students who want stable careers, people who are eager to start applying their learning, the financially-wise
If this was helpful and you are looking for personal guidance, schedule a free coaching call.