The ideal of attending college after completing high school is ingrained in most people’s minds at a young age. Perhaps now more than ever, obtaining a college education is thought to be a necessity in order to succeed in the world today.
But some people choose to take a different path.
After graduating from Mastery Charter High School in Philadelphia, Jessica Henderson had planned on going to college, but not “right away” like her fellow classmates.
“That was only because I knew I didn’t have enough credits,” Henderson, now 23, said. “I had to go back to high school for another semester, so I decided to find a summer job instead.”
Henderson said she needed to make up a science course and was just shy of five credits. She was also unable to afford the high price of a college education, something that is a common problem for most youth who wish to attend institutions of higher education, she said.
According to The New York Times, with more that $1 trillion in student loans outstanding in the United States and tuition prices soaring, a college degree statistically remains a good lifetime investment, though it can be costly.
During Henderson’s time out of school and completing the required semester at Mastery, she spent the rest of her time working as a babysitter, mostly for her family and close friends.
“My mother was ecstatic about me finishing high school,” Henderson said. “But she was upset that I had to go back to high school for another semester.”
Around September of 2009, two years after she initially graduated from Mastery, Henderson had decided that Job Corps, a no cost education and vocational training program, would be the right choice for her.
However, Henderson said she ended up letting her family talk her out of going. She held off from attending Job Corps for another two years, until recently when she decided to attend permanently. She starts this fall.
“After I leave Job Corps, I plan on continuing my education at a four-year college to study in the medical field.” Henderson said.
Henderson also said that after becoming a mother, she wants to do what is best for her son, and continuing her education is the best way to do that.
At the time Jasmine Onyai graduated from Delaware Valley Charter High School, personal events had affected her decision to attend a four-year university.
With the downtime that she had after graduating, Onyai said she focused on her talent as a songwriter. She described herself as a “versatile” songstress.
“I believe college is for whoever chooses to attend,” Onyai said. “I don’t believe college makes you better than the next person or even someone who has chosen not to attend.”
Onyai said she does plan on attending college in the future for creative writing but is unsure of which university is best for her.
For now she is content with working on her songwriting, often making music in her home studio, she said.
“There are plenty of successful people in the world who haven’t attended college a day in their lives,” Onyai said. “Anyone can have knowledge; some people choose to limit themselves of the knowledge they can withhold in their minds. They don’t realize that you don’t have to be in a class or taught by another. You can educate yourself. Knowledge is limitless.”