Preparing for Post-Secondary Education: College Versus Vocational Training
When parents begin planning for their child’s transition from high school to post-secondary education, it is important to remember that the concept of post-secondary education is not synonymous with college. There are many venues where education can occur, many of which do not involve a traditional four-year university.
As an educator at The Prentice School in Tustin, California, I see students and their parents struggle with this post-secondary education decision every year. In order to determine which path is right for your child I would recommend taking the following points into consideration:
- Initiate Open Dialogue: The best place to start when preparing for post-secondary education is by conducting a frank discussion with your child in order to define his or her career goals.
- Start with a Student’s Strengths: Begin by assessing the areas where your child excels. Once those are established, ensure that the goals you identify together are well-matched with those strengths.
- Consider Both Personality and Interests: Seek out a career path which suits your child’s personality as well as his or her interests. Too often, people conducting post-secondary educational planning are not looking realistically at the entire student. Instead, students may be counseled to pursue a career that is solely dictated by the student’s interests. Many students with learning challenges, anxiety, or fear find a career path successful if it suits their personality as well as their interests.
- Be Open: Consider various options when planning. At Prentice High School, we offer all of our students the opportunity to complete both a college preparatory program, as well as a specific vocational training. If your child’s school does not offer specialized training opportunities, it will still be important to have a candid conversation with your child about educational opportunities after high school. Being open to either vocational or collegiate education will be extremely helpful in ensuring the success of your child in his or her post-secondary studies.
Vocational Programs Provide Education with a Clear Destination
The choice to pursue a vocational field instead of attending college may be the right fit for many students. Vocational training may start early, during high school, in order to provide a student with specific skills, and to increase his or her confidence in a defined field of study.
Check with your child’s school to see if they offer practical training through specific vocational programs, such as a Medical Assistant Program, or a Web Design Program. If your child’s school doesn’t offer those kinds of programs, and you’re exploring potential programs for post-high school education, ask the school guidance counselors for their recommendations. Many students with learning disabilities find school such a struggle; they are comforted by the fact that they can achieve success in an area where they can see the practical implications of the curriculum.
The benefits of these vocational programs can be three-fold:
- Increased Chance of Completing Coursework: By working towards a career where initiation to a skill, pacing of the curriculum, and educational supervision are each imbedded into the program, there is an increased chance that the student will complete the course work.
- More Helpful Job Environment: Many students with learning challenges need to have a job where there is meaningful supervision, as well as specific boundaries to the beginning and end of each work day.
- Staying Close to Family: For support, companionship, and encouragement, it is necessary to focus on careers and jobs that offer work in geographic areas near a student’s family.