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Here are a few of your options after graduation, with the pros and cons of each

By December 11, 2020January 4th, 2021Student Community

Thinking about life after graduation can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a set plan in mind.

A select few of us knew what we wanted to be when we grew up since career day in kindergarten. If that’s you, that’s awesome! If not, you’re really not alone.

In fact, only 45 percent of high school students feel fully confident and ready in attending college. That means the majority of students aren’t so sure what they want to do.

Today, there are more viable avenues than your parents likely had for a solid career. You will want to receive some sort of specialized training, as it means higher salaries and lower unemployment rates than those with just a high school diploma.

But, a university is not your only option (although it can be a great choice). To help our undecided students, we talked to our iSucceed counselors and gathered some important information on your options and making a decision.

Check it out.

University vs. community college vs. trade school

A Four-Year Public University

Let’s get this one out of the way since most of us know about it. A public university in Idaho includes Boise State University, Idaho State University and University of Idaho, just to name a few. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete and costs about $21,000 annually, including fees, books and dorms and meal plans.


  • Average income of $46,000 annually
  • Opportunities to climb in your career
  • Ability to earn a master’s for a potential $61,000 average annual income
  • Jobs often follow a Monday–Friday work schedule


  • Takes the most time to earn a degree. Four years on average.
  • High tuition costs with a national average total of $94,000.

A Four-Year Private University

A private university is very similar to public universities. The curriculum may include religious or other elements, depending on the type of private university. Or, it could be an Ivy League university that’s more difficult to get accepted into. It’s also oftentimes known to be more expensive, although it depends on the university. For Idaho, these include Northwest Nazarene and Rexburg. Tuition alone on average costs about $18,000 a year.


  • Highest average income of $50,000 annually
  • Opportunities to climb in your career
  • Ability to earn a master’s for a potential $61,000 average income
  • Jobs often follow a Monday–Friday only schedule


  • Highest average national tuition cost of $120,000 in total.
  • Takes the most time to earn a degree. Four years on average.

A Community College

A community college allows students to earn an associate degree. This only takes two years to complete, but the average income is $36,000, about 20% less than those with a bachelor’s degree. On the plus side, community college costs about $3,469 annually in Idaho.


  • Tuition cost is an average of $3,272 total
  • Opportunities to climb in your career
  • Ability to earn a bachelor’s for a potential $46,000 average income
  • Only takes about two years to complete


  • Average income is $32,000 for those with an associate degree.

A Trade School

Trades schools are often overlooked in the options, but it’s certainly worth considering. By attending a trade school, students graduate with a certificate in a specialized field. These are for those interested in mechanics, repairs, construction or sometimes even IT or healthcare. Trade school takes two years to complete with an income of $40,000, compared to a bachelor’s income of $46,000. The cost, on the other hand, is $33,000 in total.


  • Tuition cost is an average of $33,000 total
  • Certificate only takes two years to earn
  • Quickly receive a higher income of $40,000


  • The average income is slightly lower. After 10 years in the workforce, trade school graduates make about $1,347 less annually than college graduates.
  • The work schedule can be more varied, with night hours or weekends required.
  • More physical labor is generally required (which might not be a con for your student).

What to consider when making your decision

According to our faculty staff and advisors, there are three major things to consider when making your decision:

Academic Prowess

A four-year university is known to be rigorous with large class sizes. For our online students, staying on task and discipline isn’t a hard task since it’s a skill already learned.

If you know you need more personalized support from teachers, a community college could be a better route. It’s not easier, as can be a common misconception, but it’s much cheaper with much smaller class sizes.


You may qualify for financial aid and there can be several scholarships available. But it’s important to consider how much each path will cost. We’ve broken it down already, but here are the average costs of schools:

  • Four-year private university: $120,000
  • Four-year public university: $94,000
  • Trade school: $33,000
  • Community college: $3,272


Think about what they want your life to look like after high school. Are you more of a homebody, or are you counting down the days until you can move out? Would you like smaller interactions, or do they enjoy being in a large crowd? All these factors can make an impact on which route you choose.

Still not sure? Ask your counselor!

Tara Downs

Ms. Tara Downs, guidance

“I would tell a student that they don’t need to have a long term plan the moment they graduate. It is completely acceptable to enter college without a declared major. You can spend the first 2 years exploring options until you find your passion and calling in life. Community college is a great choice for this path because it is less expensive, but still has plenty of opportunities. Another option is to take a year or two off from public education to figure out what you want to do with your life. You can enter the work field, travel or do volunteer work. I think it is important to keep moving forward and determine your goals in life then create a plan with how you are going to accomplish these goals.” – Ms. Tara Downs, guidance

Students: If nothing else, remember, your guidance counselor is here to help you! A big part of a guidance counselor’s job is to help you plan out your life after high school.

In fact, iSucceed has dedicated counselors who are experts in financial aid, college costs and earning scholarships. They know the pros and cons of every route, even if you want to jump into a career or join the military.

Don’t forget to reach out to them. 🙂

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