Yes, my young friends, there is life after high school. And believe it or not, there are more interesting opportunities available to you than there were when I was emerging from Winthrop High School in 1966.
Neither Dad nor Mom attended college, so that was my destination, no questions asked. Initially, I had set my course for Bowdoin College, but, despite the fact that I was a good student who participated in lots of extracurricular activities including sports and music, Bowdoin rejected me. So I headed off to the University of Maine. Brother Gordon joined me there three years later.
Sister Edie actually got into Bowdoin, and spoke at her graduation there. In her speech, she criticized Bowdoin for not accepting more Maine students. I’m not sure she was actually talking about me, though.
I thoroughly enjoyed my four years at UMaine, where, as far as I can remember, I majored in intramural basketball. OK, I did have some awesome professors, including Burt Hatlen, who inspired me to be a writer.
Today’s seniors in high school can be forgiven for thinking their choices are limited and unappealing. If they pay attention to the news, most of it is bleak. “Maine 7th for student loan debt,” trumpeted a headline last November. College is expensive and too many Maine kids are graduating with life-crushing debt. Reporter Noel Gallagher noted that “student loan debt has been identified as a national crisis.” Who could blame our kids for being worried about their futures?
I was really astonished by this March 22 headline: “For many Mainers, public universities less affordable.” J. Craig Anderson reported that “private colleges, despite their higher average tuition price, can be more affordable than public universities for students from lower-income families because of their generous financial aid policies.”
Not all the news is bad. Amy Calder wrote about the Bridge Year Program on March 22, “a special course of study that enables high school students to take college credits at a fraction of the cost of actually attending college. … The program is geared toward students who are motivated but may otherwise not have the financial support needed to attend college.” Unfortunately, only a few high schools are able to participate, although Gov. Paul LePage has proposed to increase funding for the program by $2 million during the next two years so more schools can participate.
Every senior student should read Genevieve Morgan’s book, “Undecided: Navigating life and learning after high school,” published by Zest Books. Morgan is the senior editor at Islandport Press in Yarmouth, and her book guides students through the confusion of what to do after high school in an effective way. The book thoroughly explains all the options available to graduating seniors. That’s right, kids, you have options.
Morgan begins by helping students figure out who they are and where they are headed. That is a particularly valuable part of the book. She then explains all the higher education options, but also outlines other choices, including a gap year, public or military service, work and internships. She even explains how to start a business.
I especially liked the suggestions for travel. All of our kids traveled the world during and after college, and those trips opened their eyes to the great big world — and all its needs and challenges — beyond the state of Maine.
Throughout the book, Morgan presents stories about successful people who did not go to college, but took a different path to success and satisfaction. While every student, including those headed to college, will benefit from reading this book, Morgan makes it clear that, “if — like most teens — you are deeply confused and torn, or have absolutely no clue about what you want to do next, then congratulations! You are in exactly the right place. I have written this book for you!”
She tells her own story throughout the book, reporting that as she emerged from high school, “I didn’t have the self-knowledge or inner confidence — or the cash or moral support — to thwart parental expectations and go my own way. But the grown-up in me does wonder sometimes: how much difference would it have made? I wanted to write this book so that you can ask yourself the same question now, not in twenty years.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “I want you to further your education, but I also want you to know all the different ways that can happen.”
If there is high school junior or senior in your house or life, buy them this book. And make sure they read it.