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Each type of education has its pros and cons. (Illustration by Jessica Shaklee, University of Georgia)
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I’ve tried many different forms of post-high school education. Here’s what I’ve learned about each one.

There are many different kinds of education you can pursue after high school. Some people go on to technical schools, others take a year off in between, some people go straight to a big university, others prefer a small community college and some choose online college. With so many options, it’s difficult to know what is best for you. I had no idea what was right for me when I left home, but I’ve tried almost all of them now. In the end, each experience is different, and every person will find that different programs are better suited for them.

The Big University

Traditional universities are ideal because there are many people and opportunities. You can meet people anywhere, like in the lobby of your dorm room or at the lunch hall. If you leave your door open, someone will eventually show up. These universities are a great opportunity to meet different people with various backgrounds.

The flip side is it’s easy to get lost in large universities. With so many people and activities, it’s easy to become just another person walking through campus. However, if you can meet the right people, you can find your own place among the chaos.

The opportunities at big universities are unmatched. Name anything, and I bet there’s a club for it. Want to join a quidditch team? Most universities have one now. Always wanted to learn how to do the Irish jig? I bet you can find a group of people to teach you. There’s tremendous support to learn and grow in a big university, and so many people are willing to help you get there.

There are also endless degree programs and advisors to help you find which one would be best for you. If one isn’t working, it’s easy to switch gears and try something new.

Community College

After dropping out from a big university, I moved home for a while and attended community college. I really enjoyed my time there — the schools are smaller and easier to navigate. There are still lots of people, but not so many that you feel like a single ant against the giant foot of reality.

Community colleges are typically viewed as lesser than traditional universities, but the education is just as valuable, and it is an excellent place to figure out what you want to do. There is also much less pressure to immediately have your life figured out. Many people at community college are either returning to school or still figuring out what they want. Some people are planning on getting an associate’s degree, others plan to eventually transfer and everyone is curious about exploring new opportunities.

There aren’t as many activities at community colleges, but there is still plenty to explore and try. There are many clubs and people you can meet. The campuses usually aren’t as big, and you don’t get the prestige of saying you are attending a traditional university, but the community is amazing and supportive, and it gives you time and space to understand more about what you want to do.

They are are also much cheaper than a big university so if you’re just starting out and want somewhere to begin without as much financial dedication, community college is a great idea.

Technical School

Technical schools are fantastic because you get hands-on experience for many jobs. The schools usually have a small community, making it easy to find friends. Technical schools are based on finding you a job, so they usually will give additional guidance once you graduate to help you find work in a particular industry.

Technical schools allow students to gain precise knowledge about jobs that are needed within the community. Students normally spend only one to two years at technical schools before moving into a career. Technical schools are also more financially friendly, depending on what program you end up getting into.

On the negative side, however, there is only one program, so if halfway through you decide that it isn’t what you want to do, you can’t just transfer to a different major — you would have to change schools. Having such a small group also limits the amount of people in the community, so if you go into the program and don’t get along with anyone, it could be a long couple of years.

Online College

Online college is my current form of education. They’re great because it gives you the opportunity to do school whenever you want, so if you are working or have other responsibilities, it’s a great way to get everything in without worrying about having class at a certain time. As an introvert, online college has also allowed me to put more energy into other projects, rather than being extremely burnt out from school alone.

Online college has a bad rap because there are many schools that are not high quality — but if you get into the right program, it can be an excellent way to continue your education.

As someone who struggles with going to school in-person, online college has given me the ability to focus hard on my classes and succeed, while also relieving me of the stress that comes with driving to campus, figuring out where everything is, and the many other anxieties that come with in-person education.

The work is mostly the same as in-person colleges, with some exceptions like extra quizzes to prove you are still learning the content and keeping up with the work.

If you’re someone who struggles to learn on their own and you need instructors to explain confusing concepts, than online college is probably not the best option for you. Online college is about teaching yourself new content, and, since you aren’t attending school in person, the most a professor can help you is by email. Online colleges offer help through online tutoring and other programs, but, in the end, it’s mostly up to you to learn subjects on your own.

However, I’ve enjoyed teaching myself because it allows me to go as fast or slow as I want through learning new material.

The hardest transition with online schooling is being completely in control of keeping yourself on task. There are so many distractions at home, and, since you are teaching yourself, you have to stay focused and on task, which can be difficult at times. Students who go to school in person are forced to go into a space dedicated to learning and studying — but home is where you normally relax, so training your mind to recognize it as a place of work is challenging.

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