In a nutshell: After your collect your high school diploma, there are two paths you can follow. How do you know which one is right for you? There are benefits and drawbacks to both enrolling in college and gaining real-world work experience. 

You just graduated high school. Now what? You can either continue your education and go straight to college or get some work experience first. There is no right answer. One path may work better for you than the other. Below, we provide points you should consider before making your decision.

Working First

You may be tired of tests and essays, and college will only bring more work than high school. You must be prepared for what will come your way if you go to college first. And, that might be the very reason you want to get to work instead. You’ve probably heard the saying, “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and this can be true for your education as well. Sometimes all it takes is a little break away from classes to value your education as you should.

Going to work right after high school may help you make a better decision about schooling in the future. According to NBC News’ “College Freshmen Face Major Dilemma,” 80% of college-bound students don’t choose a major, and half of those who do declare one eventually change it. If you get a sampling of work experience first, you’ll probably make a surer decision about what you should go to school to be. You may take it more seriously too because you understand what the world of work is all about.

You’ll be able to earn money by working, which will give you a sense of independence and confidence that you can make it on your own. It will also give you life experience and force you to learn how to manage your money responsibly. You’ll have to in order to survive!

So, getting some work experience first sounds good, right? Not so fast. Below, consider the benefits of going to school right after earning your high school diploma.

College First

Going to college straight from high school is the popular decision. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 66.7% of 2017 high school graduates age 16 to 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities in October 2017. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best plan for you.

Statistically, those with a college degree earn more money and are less likely to experience unemployment. The BLS reports a 4.6% unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma, compared to 3.4% with an associate’s degree, 2.5% with a bachelor’s degree and 2.2% with a master’s degree. And median usual weekly earnings tally in at $712 for a high school diploma, compared to $836 with an associate’s degree, $1,173 with a bachelor’s degree and $1,401 with a master’s degree.

If you’re already in a routine of scheduling study time and you have a good system for keeping class notes organized, you may want to power through and get college out of the way. You’ll have to relearn (or at least revisit) those skills when you return to the classroom. And, after a long break, they may not come back as easily. Plus, college will earn you some new soft skills that will be helpful in the workplace, like time management, accepting criticism, collaboration, interpersonal communication, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Something scary about not going to college right away is that you never know what life will throw your way. Will this lead to prolonged procrastination? It might not, but it’s something to consider. Some people just need the little break to recharge, but others will find it hard to go back after time away. You’ll have to decide for yourself. If you find a spouse and have kids, will you still be motivated to continue your education? Life could get in the way.

As you can see, there is no right path. There are pros and cons to each journey. And the decision is ultimately yours. According to Fast Company’s “A Definitive Guide for Making Better (And Better Informed) Decisions,” you should listen to your gut. Your instinct will take your emotions into account in the decision-making process, which may lead to a more satisfying outcome. Additionally, know you’re not fully committed to any decision and you can experiment to see what works best for you. Lastly, think for the long term, but savor the present. Consider how you’ll feel about the decision in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years to put it into perspective.

And, whatever you decide, best of luck on your adventure!

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