FFA Insights

Deciding between college, trade school, and the workplace is never easy


It’s the time of year again when high school students across the country start pulling their hair out and pacing nervously in the hallways. Either they’re applying for college, already have applied, or don’t know what they will do after high school ends.

I was one of the ones who applied to college; one of the lucky few who enjoyed my classes and never regretted the decision to pursue academics. FFA exposed me to plenty of career options, and I am forever grateful for that. I even watched my friends find jobs and start careers straight out of high school that they enjoyed. Not all were so fortunate.

I also watched friends go to college because their parents, friends, or teachers insisted it was the only way they could find a good job. Those friends didn’t do well in the academic atmosphere, and some dropped out. A few even failed out. It is heartbreaking to watch a friend who wants to please those around them so much but is simply not made for the college atmosphere.

College isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. Unfortunately, a great deal of students today subscribe to the idea that they need to go to college in order to get a good job and make enough money to have a good life. It’s time that myth be busted, because it is completely false.

Don’t get me wrong, college is incredible as well as a valid and beneficial path for a some of the population. The education and expansion of self are immeasurable. For the work I want to do, a formal education is best. My four years at Ohio State are ones I will never forget.

I was exposed to new ideas and cultures daily, had your limits pushed, and learned more about myself than I thought possible.

On the flip side, college is also expensive, difficult and at times, infuriating. The amount of nights I have been up past 3 a.m. about to pull my hair out over sentence structure is embarrassing to admit. The path of university is not for the common person. Don’t force yourself through a mold you have no desire to be in.

Lucrative careers in industry are being left vacant due to the lack of young people to fill them. It’s a shame, mostly because our generation is continuing education that they will most likely not be working with in five years.

Trade paths like diesel mechanics, advanced tractor-trailer driving, electricity, construction, welding, and masonry all have their own training that is not nearly as time-consuming or expensive as a formal education. If these are the paths that interest you, ask yourself why you like them. Try posing these questions:

  • Do you enjoy working with your hands?
  • Do you like to know how things work more than why things work?
  • Do you find it difficult to sit in a classroom and learn?
  • Do you want to make a life on a farm?
  • If so, do you need a four year degree or can you benefit from a non-degree program?

Check out npr.org and onlinecollegeplan.com to learn more about trade careers and the market that needs students like you.

If you don’t want to go to a four year university, but have the desire to work hard and be dedicated, you can make a life for yourself. Hard work and determination can get you further than any degree can.


Jessy Woodworth is a senior at The Ohio State University studying agricultural communication and animal sciences.

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