Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
The professional landscape is changing at warp speed. Once taken for granted as a requirement for success, higher education is no longer the default next step for many high school students. Presented with the skyrocketing costs of a college education and the growing number of alternatives, young people (and their families) are asking themselves whether traditional college makes sense.
The pandemic also contributed to this shift: When in-person classes moved online, it became harder for many to justify the cost of a four-year degree program(especially for those with student loans).
When approaching such a decision, some people turn to employment and earnings statistics for those with a Bachelor’s degree compared to other segments of the population who have earned associate’s degrees, gone to vocational school or chosen other educational paths. Others will look to examples of famous college dropouts who obtained stratospheric success.
While that kind of context can help put your choices in perspective, really, no statistics or inspirational story will forecast your future. The decision of what to do after high school comes down to understanding your goals and needs, keeping in mind that it’s not irrevocable; you always can change course.
To help orient you, here are some things to think about.
For many young adults, the only question is where they’ll go to college, not if. But it never hurts to dig deeper and ask yourself why you want to go in the first place.
One way to start your exploration is to consider your career options. What degree or certification is required for an entry-level job in that field? While certain careers require a Bachelor’s degree and more (law, medicine, teaching), trade school is the normal route for others (electricians, HVAC techs, plumbers).
For other jobs, like web developers and graphic designers, it’s more important to have certain skills than where you got them. And if you’re interested in entrepreneurship, all bets are off; there’s no straight career path, just a lot of experimentation.
Another factor to consider is your time-frame: Why do you want a college degree now? And how quickly do you need it?
Depending on where you land on these issues, you might explore different options: If the on-campus experience isn’t important to you but a degree is, many universities offer hybrid opportunities: rather than full time enrollment, you can split online classes and hands-on job training.
Beyond the specific career, there are also lifestyle considerations, such as:
If there’s a nagging thought in your head that you don’t want to go to college immediately after high school, think about what you envision yourself doing more specifically. This can be a great way to learn more about yourself by exploring your values.
This kind of questioning is always worth it — and it can help to sit down with trusted family members, mentors, and friends to get various perspectives as you come to an answer. Even if you confirm a long-held belief that you want a college degree, at the very least, it will help you narrow your choices of where you want to apply or what you want to do once you’re there.
If you’re unclear whether your path should lead you to a traditional college experience or to one of the many alternatives to college, the best approach is to get up close and personal with the various options. That way you can make your decision with lived experience under your belt.
Here are some options we recommend:
The college decision is major, no doubt. The more hands-on experiences you have, the better you’ll be able to make an informed choice. At the same time, you’ll also be building a portfolio of accomplishments that will help you in whatever avenue you pursue, now, or at the next fork in the road. This kind of record of achievement — which is part of every Prisma learner’s journey whether they choose to use it for college admissions or any other path — is a great way to identify your interests and goals, while building a resume that shows them off.
We’re fans of online learning, but it depends how it’s done. Here’s some pros and cons of different kinds of online homeschooling resources to consider, plus links to a variety of options.
Unit studies blend multiple subjects together to create real-world, interest-driven learning experiences. Steal the approach our curriculum experts use to create themes with a free downloadable unit study planner.
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You might be hearing from friends, extended family, and random strangers in the doctor’s office “there’s no way your kid will be able to get into a good college as a homeschooler.” Impolite, yes. True? Let’s figure it out.
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Prisma has hundreds of learners across the Western Hemisphere. Along the way, we've gotten requests to launch cohorts in new time zones from families around the world who want to be part of what we’re building. Next up is East Asia & Oceania!
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You might have to jump in at first. But eventually, with the right modeling and practice, kids can develop the skills to make thoughtful decisions.
Middle School Curriculum Designer Gabe, an expert in interdisciplinary learning with a PhD from the University of Michigan, explains how he designs themes that blend together STEM and literacy.
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"Carolyn is a miracle worker in math. Piper's attitude towards math has improved so much this year. It's never been her favorite subject but Carolyn's patience and encouragement has made such a positive impact." -Alexia A., Prisma parent
Media literacy is touted as one of the most important “21st century skills” for kids to master, in line with creativity, communication, and grit. Thinking through the amount of time most of us spend interacting with some form of media each day makes a good case for this.
“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
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“I’m so happy to have an opportunity to call out Javi. As a math educator myself I am really impressed with how he presents math concepts, differentiates for and challenges learners as needed. From a social-emotional perspective he is so kind, patient and invested in the kids as a whole. I am so happy he is Brynn’s math coach.” -Chandra S., Prisma parent
The ability to tolerate frustration is not merely about weathering the storm of the moment, but about instilling the persistence, adaptability, and resilience that set your child up for future success.