The High School Financial Planning Program® (HSFPP) will be retiring on July 31, 2021. Learn more about this decision.


Education Beyond High School: Prepare for What Comes Next

By Susan Sharkey, Senior Director HSFPP

Seniors are often overwhelmed by the life-changing decisions they are facing as they consider life beyond high school.

It’s important for seniors to stay in regular contact with a school counselor who can provide assistance with paperwork and access to valuable resources. Additionally, classroom instructors, youth mentors, parents and other influential adults can support teens through the process of assessing needs and opportunities that impact their future earning capability.

Opportunities for Continuing Education

Continuing education is not a one-size fits all conversation. Individual circumstances, interests and aspirations are important considerations in addition to the financial value of the payoffs and trade-offs of acquiring education via military service, apprenticeship programs, two-year colleges and four-year colleges. (See more in the HSFPP Module 3 Student Guide.)

The activities and content in HSFPP Lesson 3-1: Invest in Yourself guide teens to explore post-high school education options as well as identify strategies to minimize the costs of advanced education. This valuable information can be shared as early as Grade 8 when teens are making decisions about high school courses, extracurricular activities and part-time job opportunities—all of which can impact their post-secondary education and job options. The earlier that families engage in conversations about education costs, the longer they have to plan for these costs.

Checklist for College-Bound Seniors

Creating a college checklist, such as the HSFPP College Checklist, can help seniors to navigate the college application process. Customize the checklist with important deadlines and benchmarks.

In addition to the application process, seniors should include time to seek out and apply for scholarships. Not all applications will produce positive results, but the effort is always worthwhile.  (As an example, in a mid-sized community, Tonya C. and Matt S. each tracked their time spent researching and applying for scholarships. Based on the scholarship awards received, they averaged $100 an hour for their time.)

At the same time it’s important for seniors to stay focused on acceptable grades through the final semesters to avoid having an offer of admission withdrawn if the final transcript reveals a significant drop in rigor or achievement.

Community Colleges

Two-year colleges offer affordable pathways into jobs and careers that are locally in demand as well as serve as a stepping stone into related four-year degree programs. These nine occupations requiring an associate degree report a much faster than average projected growth rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook’s Occupation Finder (as of February 2019):

  • Dental hygienists
  • Diagnostic medical sonographers
  • Geological and petroleum technicians
  • Occupational therapy assistants
  • Paralegals and legal assistants
  • Physical therapist assistants
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Veterinary technologists and technicians
  • Web developers


Fun Trivia: Notable Community College Alumni

Did you know that there are many “notable” community college alumni? Here are just a few examples:

  • Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packer quarterback (Butte College)
  • George Lucas, film director and producer (Modesto Junior College)
  • Eileen Collins, NASA astronaut (Corning Community College)
  • Tom Hanks, actor (Chabot College)
  • Governor Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw National (Murray State College)
  • David Chu, Nautica International Founder and fashion designer (Fashion Institute of Technology)
  • Bernadette Mattox, Connecticut Sun WNBA assistant basketball coach (Roane State)

Alternative Options to College

The Military offers no-cost education that can be applied while serving and after leaving the armed services, including careers in administration, construction, engineering, healthcare, machine mechanics (vehicle, aircraft, and heavy equipment), machine operations, media, protective service and transportation. Get more details about career opportunities, admission requirements and the ASVAB multi-aptitude test at

Apprenticeship programs provide individuals with paid on-the-job training for in-demand mid-level skills. The job outlook for apprentices varies within states. Examples of occupations with positive job outlook include brick mason, interpreter and translator, veterinary technician and welders. Find information about your state programs at: