What Type Of Path Is Right For You?

Everyone has options on what to do next after graduating high school. Do you know yours?


Generally, when students start thinking about planning for college, many of them don’t realize there are several options for education beyond the secondary level. In fact, most institutions of higher learning can be classified into several distinct categories:

4-Year Schools

Four-year colleges and universities are available both privately and publicly. Here’s list of the most common types:

  • Liberal Arts Schools: Institutions that provide a wide range of academic study for students pursuing undergraduate degrees. They offer exposure to the sciences, history, philosophy,music, and art.
  • Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs): Institutions of higher education in the United States that were established beginning in 1964 to provide educational opportunity to African-American students who were denied admission into traditional colleges of the time based on their race. Today, HBCUs offer diversity and instruction to all students, providing a wide range of academic fields while continuing to stay grounded in their deeply cultural backgrounds.
  • Religious Institutions: These secondary schools are dedicated to the integration of a specific belief or faith-based system and learning in alignment with that system as well as strong focus on traditional academic fields. Most religious institutions are private.
  • Tribal Colleges: Similar to HBCUs, these institutions focus on the needs and academic achievement of a group that has been traditionally underrepresented in higher education. In this regard, these schools focus on the education and empowerment of Native American students.

2-Year Schools

Two-year schools offer an inexpensive way for students to meet their short-term educational goals and find professional success without needing to attend a four-year university:

  • Community College: offer two-year associate degrees as well as professional training certifications. Community colleges also prepare students to attend four-year universities, and some even make agreements with the universities to offer automatic admission to students who graduate with the two-year degree. Because they have typically offer open enrollment, anyone with a high school diploma or its equivalent can enroll.
  • Junior College: Similar to community college, junior colleges offer courses for two years beyond high school, either as a complete training or in preparation for completion at a four-year college.

Trade School/Vocational Programs

These schools provide occupational education or technical skills required to do the tasks of a specific craft. Trade/vocational programs differ from four-year schools because they focus on job specific training to students who prefer to enter the workforce immediately:

  • Engineering or Technical Colleges: Independent professional institutions that provide training programs in the fields of engineering, technology, and the physical sciences.
  • Cosmetology Schools: Focus on offering students’ specific training in cosmetology industry services including hair, make-up, nails and more.
  • Culinary Schools: Offers students training in multiple areas of the culinary industry including but not limited to cooking, baking, teaching culinary arts, and restaurant management.
  • Automotive Training Programs: Provide students training and skill development within the automotive field including servicing, manufacturing, maintenance and engineering.
  • Health and Medical Trade Schools: Offer training in careers in the medical, dental, or other health-related industries.
  • Emergency Services and Criminal Justice Programs: Focus on training in emergency services and personnel including law enforcement, fire fighters, EMTs, homeland security and even criminal justice careers.

When it comes to planning for college, you have more options than you think. It may seem overwhelming at first but options are a good thing because it means you have more than one way of achieving your educational goals regardless of your financial or academic standing. Take your time considering which route is best for you.