Choices for the High School Graduate: A Survival Guide for the Information Age

Choices for the High School Graduate: A Survival Guide for the Information Age, Fourth Edition, by Bryna Fireside (Ferguson Publishing Company, $14.95)

“College ready” is the mantra of high school reform. And clearly that is a laudable goal. Educators should make it a priority to prepare these students to have the academic skills, self-confidence, and personal motivation to seek a higher education. But college is not always the right path for everyone. Many high school graduates do not feel ready or do not want to embark on another four years of studying right aw ay. With the increasing costs of higher education, they may need to earn money for college immediately after high school, or do not want to be saddled with heavy college loan payments afterward. Choices for the High School Graduate discusses a wide range of options available to students looking for alternatives to college immediately following high school graduation. Travel overseas, military service, special academic programs, apprenticeships, internships, volunteer work, online and distance learning, deferred admission, part-time work, training and employment in a trade—this is but a partial list of what is available in this excellent resource, which is based extensively on interviews with young people, college administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, parent/caregivers, demographers, and career specialists.

“The truth is, there is no one right way to grow up. And there is no way anyone can predict what the future holds for you. You are lucky to be on the cutting edge of the most exciting century ever. But you have to be prepared to try more things and take more risks than others who have come before you,” Fireside writes in the introduction, which is followed by chapters aimed at helping students think about who they are and what they want to do, supported by a two-part self-assessment aimed at both “general academic skills” and “personal and interpersonal attitudes and qualities,” as well as a section on resume writing. This handy guide also includes chapters on such topics as: “Stopping Out: Is It Right for You?,” “No More Pencils, No More Books: Work After School, or All That Glitters Is Hard to Get,” “Internships and Other Adventures: Unusual Opportunities, Unique Experiences,” “Can I Become a Real Man or Woman by Joining the Military?,” and “What If College Isn’t for Me? The Uncollege Option.” The chapter entitled: “Am I Having Fun Yet? Nuts and Bolts of Making the Most of Your Time Out,” offers numerous ideas on “how to rent an apartment and choose housemates,” “a word about using credit cards,” “putting money aside,” “tips on banking,” as well as practical suggestions on how to make a budget. Choices for the High School Graduate also offers help for those planning to go directly to college that covers how to read college guidebooks and catalogs and guidelines for college transfer, an increasingly common practice.

Every chapter features mini-case studies with interviews of students involved, and finishes with a “Final Note—For Parents Only,” which is an open letter to parents/caretakers that concludes with, “I hope this modest book will help your son or daughter make some important decisions about his or her future—and that you will find it within yourselves to support his or her choices.” The book does just that by helping young people to learn not only ways to approach college after high school, but also ways to learn about other options.

Dave Lehman is the former principal and namesake of Lehman Alternative Community School, a CES school in Ithaca, New York