Higher education provides students with a wide variety of options, though it can be a confusing road to navigate if families are unaware of their choices. Today, schools can be investigated online, but there is still value in reading promotional material, having conversations with staff and making visits to campuses.
Ultimately the selection of a school should be dictated by what a student wants to do with his or her life and what is realistic in terms of options. In addition to life goals, a number of logistical issues also must be addressed. However, as noted by George S. Bridges, president of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., higher education is worth the cost so that individuals can continue to be trained for positions of future leadership.
The community college. The community college is intended to make higher education accessible to a wide spectrum of the community. For many students, the community college is a more affordable way to start college in their immediate geographic area. The downside to community college is that students can get only so far academically, and they may have a harder time getting connected with the college environment.
The four-year college or university. Many students attend a four-year school with the intention of attaining at least a bachelor's degree. The four-year school often has a wide variety of majors, as well as a number of student services and residential options. Depending on the specific school, the four-year school may be more costly and may require a student to move outside his or her home state.
Tech and trade schools. The definition of a vocationally driven school can be fairly broad, as career-oriented schools can include a number of different options and institutional types. In general terms, a trade or tech school will often have shorter programs that are intended to teach students how to work in a particular field. These schools may get students into the workforce quicker, but may not provide an academic education that is as comprehensive.
Advanced degrees. Depending on vocational and life goals, certain students may pursue an advanced degree. This can include a master's degree, a doctorate and professional certification. These types of degrees will typically require students to get a baccalaureate degree first before moving on to more advanced programs. Advanced degrees may prepare students for research, teaching and various professional jobs.