After you’ve narrowed down your career path and come to a decision, the real research can begin!
Once you’ve decided what your next step will be after high school, it’s time to start putting that plan into action. Whether you intend to get a four-year bachelor’s degree, complete a certification program at a community college, attend a trade school, or begin an apprenticeship, here are some useful resources and ideas as you start your research.
How to research education and training programs
Colleges and universities
There’s a lot that’s involved in researching colleges, and it’s a decision that will probably take a while to make. When reviewing schools, focus first on ones that fit your personality. For example, will you feel more at home at a big school or small one? Are you excited to move to a new state or do you want to stay closer to home? Is a city setting what you need, or is a more rural location a better fit? Because you’ll be calling campus home for the next four years, make sure it’s someplace you’re comfortable.
Next, consider the cost of your degree at each school. What are the published tuition rates, fees, and room and board costs? What kind of financial aid does each school offer? Can you qualify for scholarships offered by the college? Also consider the “net price” of each school; this number estimates how much you specifically will pay for school after grants, scholarships, or other aid is applied. Each school’s website should be able to calculate this for you, but you can also visit the U.S. Department of Education’s net price database for more info.
Need some help as you start your college search? Consider using Edmit’s college search tool. You can build a profile, add schools you’re interested in, and get an idea of costs from our database. College Scorecard is another useful online source where you can easily look up schools to find stats, average expenses, and easily compare multiple schools at once.
Community colleges and trade schools
Whether you aim to get a two-year associate’s degree, earn community college credits before transferring to a four-year school, or attend a trade school to learn specialized skills, attending these shorter-term programs can be a cost-effective way to continue your education.
Similar to four-year colleges, you’ll want to find a campus you feel comfortable at, though if you won’t be living on campus you may not have very strong feelings about the school or its location. You’ll also need to compare costs; schools like these might have different pricing for in-district, in-state, and out-of-state students, so a local school could be cheapest. Federal financial aid is often available at accredited community and trade schools, so ask the financial aid offices about your options. Several states, including California, Oklahoma, and Oregon, even offer free community college tuition for some in-state residents, so see if your home state offers something similar.
If you plan to transfer credits to a four-year school, you should also make a plan for that now. Ask each school about their transfer options so you can ensure that all of your credits transfer correctly when the time comes.
College Scorecard can offer you a quick snapshot of community colleges to give you a sense of costs, graduation rates, and more. Search tools such as Career School Now and Niche can also help you find trade schools or technical colleges in your area and make it easy to quickly compare different options.
If you prefer to get right to work and start training under a knowledgeable tradesman, perhaps an apprenticeship is right for you. You’ll work in a paying job learning skills directly related to your future career, but you’ll usually spend some time in a classroom setting, too, where you’ll learn the finer points of the trade. Apprenticeships aren’t common in every industry, but can be found in fields such as construction, automotive repair, energy, and manufacturing.
As you review apprenticeship programs, look for ones that include a mix of hands-on learning and classroom instruction. You’ll also want to make sure you leave the program with a nationally recognized credential. That means that other employers in the field will recognize your achievement once the apprentice is complete.
To find nearby apprenticeships in the field of your choice, start with Apprenticeship.gov. You can learn more about how these programs work and find apprenticeship programs you’re interested in. You might also look up the nearest American Job Center; these sites, which are run by the U.S. Department of Labor, help businesses find workers and can connect you with a local apprenticeship program.
No matter what your next step is after high school, it’s never too early to start planning for it. See what type of programs interest you, how costs compare, and consider how they’ll prepare you for your future career.