Not everyone has the same educational goals. Back in my college years, I knew I would get a passing grade on even some of the hardest classes and toughest professors in the university, so my goals were to aim for graduation honors.
However, there were other students who struggled with their classes, so their goal was to simply graduate on time to avoid the added costs of not graduating on time. But there were also others whose goals were much shorter and focused on passing classes first before they could even think about graduation.
So, whether you have short-term goals after graduating high school or long-term goals before considering entering post-secondary education, here are some examples of these goals and what you can do to achieve them.
Work After High School
Although 69.1 percent of high school graduates end up going to colleges or universities, choosing not to go to college is still a viable option. After all, based on 2018 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school graduates has been steadily decreasing. So, if you feel like going to college will just be an unnecessary expense you can’t afford since your chosen career path doesn’t require a college degree, then it’s OK to consider working after high school.
A short-term goal for high school graduates could be finding a job as soon as possible. If you’re fresh out of high school with no experience, it might take a while before finding a job willing to hire you. It helps if you have friends and family willing to help you get on your feet and provide you with a stepping stone to a career you want. When job searching, take note of these tips:
- Get your papers ready. This may include government IDs, letters of recommendation (from teachers or counselors who can vouch for you) tax identification numbers, and any other papers your employer will need to legally hire you. I recommend getting most of these before getting your first job as some of these papers will require you to wait in line in government offices for the better part of the day – something you won’t have time for once you start working.
- Cleanse your social media (or at least go private). While it’s true you have a right to express yourself as you please on the internet, the problem with the internet being so accessible to everyone nowadays is that your employer can simply do a Google search and see what kind of person you really are. While a few funny memes on your social media accounts can be harmless, offensive material can be taken seriously and have your name crossed out of a list of potential hires, such as an incident in 2014 when a PR executive made a racist comment that cost her job.
- Use a professional email address. We’ve all had high school emails we’re ashamed of. While you can save that old email address for sentimental value, you have to start using a more professional email when contacting potential employers. I recommend a simple <first name><lastname>@<domain>.com so it’s much easier to recall.
An example of a long-term goal would be to eventually leave your stepping-stone job and rise to a well-paying job. The median wage of a high school graduate is $27,708, which means that it is possible to earn more or less than that. When you start your first full-time job, expect that you’ll be earning much less than that. But if you play your cards right, you can climb up your own career ladder; some high school graduates even make it to positions that require college diplomas because their years of experience and dedication makes up for their educational attainment.
While the film Monsters University is purely fictional, there are a lot of high school graduates who see themselves climbing the career ladder like Sully and Mike in the film’s final scene.
Interested in working your way to the top? Here are a few tips.
- Get certified. If you chose not to take college because of the time and money you would have to spend for a diploma that won’t be necessary for your career path, maybe consider getting certified in vocational school to get an edge in your chosen path. These cost less, take less time to earn, and puts you at a slight advantage over high school graduates working on experience alone.
- Pick a path and stick to it. While there are plenty of job paths high school graduates with no experience can pick, the road to a well-paying job can be a lot faster if you take fewer detours and veer off to different jobs in unrelated fields or different companies. For example, did you know that sales managers, branch managers, sales supervisors, and other first-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers earn a median annual wage of $72,000 a year? So, if you start out as an entry-level salesperson and continue to work your way up in the company or rise in the sales field, you can eventually qualify for higher supervisory positions.
For College Undergrads
Around 72 percent of college graduates between the ages of 20 and 29 end up employed while the average salary is around $47,000 annually. These numbers sound ideal, which is why almost 70 percent of high school graduates end up choosing to go to college for further studies.
One of the short-term goals most college undergraduates have is to simply graduate on time. Less than half of full-time college students graduate on time (around 40 percent) for reasons like signing up for too few courses, having to work to be able to pay for college and other reasons that delay them from graduating on time. Whatever the reason, college students can spend an additional $20,000 if they do not graduate on time. So, if your short-term goal is to simply graduate on time, here’s what you can do:
- Plan your course load accordingly. Most universities provide you with access to the list of courses you need to take to graduate for a certain major. While it’s normal for most students to take 12 credits per semester, take a look at the number of credits you have to take against the number of semesters you plan on staying there. If you want to graduate on time, you’ll have to take enough credits so that, after four years, you get all your courses done and you can get your diploma on time.
- Don’t feel pressured into taking additional commitments. While it may be tempting for freshmen to sign up for organizations in their first few weeks, don’t feel pressured into joining until you know for sure that you can handle the workload of both academics and extra-curricular. It’s OK to wait a year or a few semesters to adjust to the workload (because just because you did well in high school does not mean you’ll automatically shine in college) before deciding on which organizations to join.
- Find your own time management method. Because graduating on time might require you to take on a bigger load, you might find yourself struggling to keep up with the tasks at hand. There are plenty of ways available to help you manage your time, but not a lot of these will help you. That’s OK – there are plenty of options and techniques available, and it’s up to you to find what works and what adjustments can be done to fit your habits.
And when you’re thinking long-term goals, most people think about what comes after getting their diploma and finding a well-paying job. While most college graduates can expect to make more than the minimum wage in the United States, I’m sure most people would want to earn back the amount they spent in college. Here are some tips:
- Consider graduate studies. After graduating and spending a few years working in your field of choice, you might want to consider going back to graduate studies to become a master of your field. While taking up a graduate school isn’t a surefire way to earn more money, it does give you an edge by learning from professors who are experts in your field and most of your classmates are also seasoned workers who can provide you with helpful insights and a network that can be useful in your position.
- Think long-term when choosing jobs. Most undergraduates make this mistake when looking for their first job. Let’s say you get two job offers from two companies. Company A offers $45,000 a year but has a promise of job growth within the company for the next few years and, should you decide to leave, you’ll carry a lot of experience that’ll make you a valuable asset to your next employer. Company B, on the other hand, offers $47,000 a year, but is a small mediocre company that offers no growth in the future, and, should you leave, you just become another average employee in your field. While Company A is the more suitable choice for thinking long-term, some fresh graduates would be more tempted to take Company B’s offer because the pay is slightly higher. But if you consider your prospects after the first few years, Company A is the more practical company to enter.
Everyone has a different educational goal, and that’s OK. But whether you have short or long-term goals for the future, it always pays to be smart about it and find ways that can help you achieve what you want. So, whether your plan is to end your formal education at high school or continue to the highest level of education.