The Big Decision—Advice For Future Graduates

With graduation coming up quickly, seniors are under pressure to choose what they want to pursue in the fall. Whether that be trade school, community college, university or right into a job, it’s an extensive choice with every option full of pros and cons. 

According to Town Charts, in Oregon, only 47.8% of high school graduates attend college right after graduation, while in Deschutes County, 35.4%, Jefferson County with 20.9%, and Crook County, with 38.9% of students seeking higher education.

While college isn’t necessary for every field or passion, it can be a step in the right direction when pursuing a degree-based career. According to Truthout, 75% of jobs require a bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides data that shows those with degrees make more money compared to those with only a high school diploma. 

Many students would agree that choosing a school and a major can be very overwhelming while still trying to complete their last year. Some teens have always known what their path would be after graduation, but that’s not the case for most. 

Gabriela Chicuellar is a senior at Madras High School and has chosen a university to pursue her career after graduation. 

“The hardest part for me [when picking a major] was that I could be choosing something that isn’t truly meant for me. I worry that once I finish putting all this effort into my education, I won’t be happy with my choice… it’s important to remember that even if you end up changing your mind it will be okay and you’ll find what’s meant for you.”

Another senior from Madras High, Isabella Reynoso, has also chosen a school and major. 

“The hardest part for me was figuring out where I wanted to go to school, considering my top school choice was way too expensive even with financial aid. Some advice I would give the next class of students is that just because you’re not going to the fanciest school doesn’t mean you’ll be any less than those who are, if anything you planned better than they did by saving money.”

Money has been such a definitive factor when choosing a higher institution for this generation of students. People spend thousands of dollars to go to school just to still be in debt later on in life — the price many choose simply for a diploma with higher prestige. 

The idea that you only have one option is old-fashioned. You can do many different things with a college degree. Changing majors, transferring schools or dropping out of college are personal choices, as long as the choice fulfills dreams and is the best option for a specific individual. 

College isn’t the only option after high school. Trade schools are an alternative some choose if they want a career in welding, mechanics, engineering or plumbing. Trade schools can also be more affordable than traditional universities for many families. 

Sam Loza is the Madras High Future Center Coordinator who works with students daily, helping them apply to schools and scholarships. She also works to connect kids to personal mentors for better one-on-one time and attention. 

“College is a big investment in both money and time, so my recommendation is if you know what you want to do requires a college degree, definitely go to college. If you don’t want to go to college then do not go and do not let people pressure you,” said Loza.

Every student has a different passion that requires additional steps after graduation. Whether or not you apply to a college or a trade school, a simple choice doesn’t define how successful a student will be in the future—and comparing choices to peers won’t help. 

Loza explains college is always an option, even later in life—many individuals decide to go back or start college in the future. She also says there’s a lot of value in other programs like internships, apprenticeships, and career technical education. With these options, students can be saving a lot more money and time in a career that doesn’t even require a college degree.  

Even if someone chooses to not go to any school at all and continue to work, they can still be just as successful and fulfilled as their peers. With this in mind, do not try to base your decision on any influence of your family, peers, teachers or anyone else. A student should make the choice for themselves.