Normalizing options after high school besides going to college

Isa Grunwaldt, Staff Writer

East Grand Rapids is a privileged and educated area, and the pressure for students to go to college after high school is high. However, there are still some students who are choosing to defer their admission or not even apply at all. Gap years and internships are becoming more and more popular choices for seniors. 

College is expensive and can lay on huge debt before most people even start their real job, and a bachelor’s degree has begun to mean less and less to employers. Nowadays, everyone has a bachelor’s degree, and many job offers with comfortable wages require a master’s degree or higher education. This disincentivizes some kids to put in the time, money, and effort for little true reward. Why shouldn’t kids go and start their careers out of highschool if what they want to do doesn’t require a college degree?

Odin Gollannek ‘21 has known for most of his life that he wouldn’t want to attend college. Gollannek sees himself designing parts for cars, trains, airplanes, and other modes of transportation, but he claims his preferred method of travel is teleportation. 

“I am going to get a workplace apprenticeship in an area of my desired field: industrial and mechanical engineering,” Gollannek said.

He wants to be on a design team for an engineering firm somewhere in the area. When asked what he is most excited about, Gollannek responded “not having student loan debt.” For him, going to college is unnecessary at the moment but he is not a proponent of no college at all. 

“It depends why you don’t go to college,” Gollannek said. “If you don’t go to college and just work at McDonald’s for the rest of your life, there aren’t really a lot of plus sides to that. If you have something lined up where you can make any amount of actual money afterward, then you can always go to college later. I don’t think going to college while you are at your poorest is exactly a good idea.”

Sarah Whiteside ‘21 is another student at East who is thinking about opting out of immediate college. She is considering taking a gap year where she will be able to work and save money for college costs later and also be able to avoid the effects of the COVID virus on education. She also believes that her desired field wouldn’t be very applicable to college learning.

“I would like to do something I love, which is doing anything with animals or nature,” Whiteside said. “I’d like to move out west and pursue something in agriculture or animals. Seeing as most colleges don’t provide this, I have to find my own path.”

Whiteside says she does plan on working in-state and maybe going to community or state college later in life but is worried about not attending right away because of the East community atmosphere.

“Growing up in East, everyone goes to college after school, so not following that trend is odd and scary. I feel you don’t need a degree to be successful. It’s either you do what you love or find a way out and begin a business as an entrepreneur,” Whiteside said.

Overall, as college becomes more and more expensive and degrees begin to mean less and less, the cost of education has begun superseding the payment benefits and many seniors recognize this. Going to college doesn’t mean true success in every field, and some seniors are grasping at other opportunities to further their education or get a jump-start on their lives. For some kids, at least, the going-to-college stigma is breaking its hold.