What’s next? The answer to the question on so many high school graduates’ minds isn’t as obvious as it once was. While moving forward with a 4-year degree has been the common trajectory for so many, it isn’t right for everyone. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of choosing travel over a college degree.
Job Friendly Skills and Experience
Only 37% of today’s jobs require an associate degree for employment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While certain career paths do require further education after high school, many do not. Traveling and the experience of living in another culture imparts valuable skills like flexibility, language acquisition and time management. Long-term travelers may even choose to work abroad accumulating on-the-job training that might not be available to them otherwise.
Comparing Tuition and Travel Expenses
The cost of continued education after high school is a convincing reason to think twice before registering for classes. Tuition cost has increased by 10% in the last 10 years, and not all degrees will pay off in the long run when compared to their expense. According to the New York Times, 25% of college graduates aren’t making any more than their peers with high school diplomas.
Coupling this with an average $29,800 in student loan debt for the most recent graduating class makes choosing to use cash toward a year abroad might be more financially plausible for some students — and one that avoids debt. Although travel is generally viewed as a frivolous expense, it isn’t difficult to find budget-friendly options. By staying in student hostels instead of hotels, flying standby and working abroad, international travel can become an affordable endeavor.
Travel can provide opportunities to make new connections. Individuals working abroad can get a foot in the door at jobs that might not be available on their home turf. Additionally, student hostels are a great way to network with like-minded individuals who may be searching for a less traditional approach to post-high school living — connections that can give each other a leg up later on.
The benefits of a second (or third) language should not be underestimated. Many companies value language as it indicates a willingness to learn and a greater understanding of the world. Even without stepping into translators roles, simply knowing additional languages can often be enough to seal the deal on a job offer.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to life after high school. Both college and travel can provide skills for success. Deciding between the two is truly a matter of knowing yourself and being honest about your hopes for the future.