College is not the only option for Blair students

Oct. 17, 2019, 6:06 p.m. | By Joy Xu | 4 years, 1 month ago

After graduation, Blair students are not confined to just one career pathway.

For most students at Blair, the college admissions process begins as early as middle school. Varsity sports athletes, club presidents and protege musicians simultaneously try to check all the boxes for a padded resume. 

Parental and peer pressure attaches a negative stigma with not having a college degree. However, it must be made clear to students that a full-time four year college program is not the only pathway to success. The alternatives to college may provide even greater opportunities and avenues for growth: vocational training and job offerings are just some of the exceptional post-high school activities available to Blazers. 

In fact, according to Blair’s Class of 2020 Profile, only 60 percent of the 2019 seniors went on to attend a four year college. 32 percent went on to two year college and 8 percent pursued other post-high school activities. Want to know what the other 8 percent did instead? 

Jorge Ventura, Senior

Blair fosters a program which allows students to attend Thomas Edison High School for half of the school day. Edison is a free vocational and technical school. Courses range from carpentry to health professions to cosmetology.

Blair senior Jorge Ventura proves that not all successful students have to attend college. Ventura participates in Edison’s plumbing course in the construction cluster. He has already earned his plumbing certification and is getting job offers from the US government and Plumbers & Gasfitters Local 5 Union Hall.

Blazers who go through the Edison programs make up a substantial portion of seniors who decide to pursue their careers instead of attending college. Blair counselor Ms. Belvey Russ notes that by the end of high school, seniors are getting job offers in their respective fields and certifications to enter into the workforce. “They’ve added some new programs like cybersecurity, and students are getting network operations experience and job offers out of that program,” Russ says. 

Ventura is currently working part-time at the Local 5 Union Hall, a job which Edison has readily prepared him for. “I’ve learned how you vent, how to backflow, how to install a water heater and blueprints as an apprentice,” Ventura says. 

Senior Jorge Ventura (courtesy of Audrey Haverland). Photo courtesy of Audrey Haverland.

After graduation, he plans to continue working in the plumbing industry instead of taking courses at a college. “I tried to study a book before, but I find that I really like to do hands on stuff instead. Besides, the union is commercial and residential. My body and mindset is already comfortable with this plumbing job. I know how to interact with customers and solve problems myself,” Ventura concludes.  

Ben Mourad, Class of ‘18

College is not just an educational opportunity; it is an immersing experience. Students are usually required to take classes in all subject areas. This may not be the best learning environment for everyone, especially those who are extremely passionate about one particular issue. 

Blair alumni Ben Mourad (Class of ‘18) expressed that while college is a great way to pursue ideas, he wanted the freedom to focus on one particular subject rather than be distracted by other school work. “I decided not to go to college because I had some ideas I wanted to pursue immediately. I was very interested in how to help people find common ground, and I wanted to see what I could do in my local community,” Mourad says.

Straight out of high school, Mourad landed an internship at the Restorative Justice Unit in MCPS Central Office. “It has been an excellent way to find platforms for my ideas as well as put them to the test,” Mourad concludes.

Arqad Soendoro, Class of ‘16

The price of attending university is another roadblock that steers students away from traditional education. Combined tuition fees lead families to spend up to $70,000 a year, according to Statista. Because of the financial burden, Blazers may also work part-time or transfer to the University of Maryland (UMD) after two years at Montgomery College (MC).

Alumni Arqad Soendoro (Class of ‘16) notes that he decided to work full time after high school in order to pay for MC. “I decided to go to college part-time to afford everything, and I worked full-time at my uncles mechanic shop,” Soendoro says.

Soendoro participates in the Maryland Transfer Advantage Program (MTAP). MTAP is a dual enrollment partnership between UMCP and MC. Students complete their associate’s degree at MC while planning for a successful transfer to the UMCP to complete their bachelor’s degree. Thanks to funds saved up from his job, Soendoro can now transfer to UMD after the spring semester.

As seen by the rising demand in college education, students often plunge into a pre-college mindset, never considering the plethora of other opportunities available to them. Upperclassmen should discuss career ambitions and goals with their parents, counselors and teachers before making a decision about their future. 

Making a career choice is a big decision that shouldn’t be rushed. College isn’t for everyone, plain and simple. 

Last updated: Nov. 1, 2019, 1:21 p.m.

Tags: college college options

Joy Xu. Hi! My name is Joy, and I'm the News Editor. Aside from writing articles, I enjoy playing violin for pit orchestra and making desserts for my friends and family. During the school year, I run Blair's DECA club, and I participate in many business-related activities. More »

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