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Non-traditional schooling

November 24, 2020

“The military is not for everybody, college is not for everybody, and trade school is not for everybody. Everybody has to choose their own path and do their own thing.””

Community college is usually acknowledged as being a suitable alternative to traditional university schooling, but there are far more benefits to these two-year technical colleges than just getting a degree quickly.

“The biggest benefit is the cost. Tuition at Bellevue College is much lower than at a university because you only pay for the credits you take rather than flat quarterly tuition. I’m saving a year of tuition by doing Running Start, too,” senior Anna Montague said. 

While Bellevue College is no longer a community college, it still offers the two-year Associate in Arts (AA) degree that all community colleges advertise. Montague plans to get ahead with her college credits through Running Start in order to earn her AA during the 2021-2022 school year. Post-college, she aims to take a year off to create an online gaming presence on YouTube or Twitch. 

“During my year off, I also plan to look at what kind of career I really want to have. I love geology, but I’m not ready to jump right in and commit to a degree program or university without some time to thoroughly research it,” Montague said. 

There are plenty of different ways to utilize the years after graduation, but when it comes to deciding whether or not to attend a university, Montague offers some wise words of advice.

“Unless you are certain you want to go to a university, save the money and start with a community college. Take classes that will transfer to a four-year college so that you’ll be set if you decide you really want to go to university,” she said.

Still, with a solid plan for a career and no need for a full four-year college education, getting a professional certification may be a good route to take.

This was the path chosen by junior Christian Lamprey, who decided to take advantage of the Running Start program and get his auto-mechanics certification through Renton Technical College. 

“I chose to go to Renton Tech because I wanted to do something different from the traditional path. I wanted to change it up because I don’t like sitting for long periods of time—I like doing things with my hands,”  Lamprey said. 

Lamprey highlights an important factor to consider when deciding on the future: play to your strengths and interests, even if that means not attending college.

“To be honest, throughout elementary, middle, and now high school it’s always kind of been, like, I don’t want to go to a college. I know that for some people that’s just the norm, but I wanted to do something else,” Lamprey said. 

Traditional college learning isn’t suitable for everyone, especially those whose talents lie outside of academics. When it comes to these cases, attending trade or vocational schools to earn job training or specialized schooling is often a better alternative.

Senior Sarah Bernhard chose the latter option and plans to attend a culinary school after she graduates this year. Most universities don’t offer the degree that she’s passionate about, and being able to further her culinary skills provided the best option for her career goals.

“Cooking is one of my greatest passions. After culinary school, I hope to save up money and open my own restaurant,” Bernhard said.

However, many additional factors also went into this choice. As with most students, attending a four-year university was expected and encouraged. But as someone who was looking for a specialized education path and was sure of what she wanted, this expectation was too much pressure for Bernhard.

“From a young age, we are told that going to a ‘normal’ college is the only option, but once you really look at it, there are a lot of options,” Bernhard said. “I had to decide if this is what I really want to do. Normally a degree can go into many other fields, but if I choose this one, I will be in the food industry for the rest of my life.”

Liberty culinary instructor Zarah Matsuda followed a similar path and joined a culinary arts program after high school also due to her passion for cooking. Although she didn’t have a set plan for what she wanted to do after culinary school, she has been able to accomplish everything she wanted to with her life so far.

“I think it benefits the type of person who has a strong idea of what they want to do,” Matsuda said. “If I invested all this time and money into a degree and didn’t end up using it, that would have been really hard on me. I knew it wouldn’t be a wasted skill or degree because I loved it.”

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