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I'm Graduating High School. What Now?

At some point in your life, someone will ask you, "What are you planning to do once you graduate?"

In my senior year of high school, I felt pressure to have my future all sorted out before graduation. I had so many decisions to make, and yet, like many classmates I had, I wasn't ready to make any of them.

Some figure it out from a young age, some have an idea after high school, and others spend a much longer time making these decisions. I've realized that part of this uncertainty might come from the lack of available information offered to students about the world of options and opportunities that come after high school. Here are some of them.


Generally, you'll find that universities are larger - classroom sizes can range from 100-200 students (sometimes even more), there's more space around campus (expect longer walk times between classes), and it often takes the most time to complete. An undergraduate degree is often said to take 4 years, however this average has increased to over a year longer.

Universities also offer Master's degrees for graduate students, making it a suitable option for those who need to take a heavier concentration within their career of choice. Cost wise, university is more on the pricier side, but most job opportunities offered in accordance to these degrees provide higher pay, especially since your degree requires you to dive into the field with greater depth.

If you enjoy theory-based learning, and you're interested in learning a vast amount in a specific field, then university may be the right option for you.


Compared to university, colleges are smaller in size and offer lower tuition fees. Sometimes, it can take as long as a university program, but it’s often shorter and you can find yourself saving some time by choosing college instead.

The teaching these institutions provide are more straightforward since they focus on content that is directly applicable to your work and the highest degree you can receive from a college is a bachelor's degree.

If you are into hands-on learning and don't want to spend as many years in post-secondary education, consider enrolling in a college.

Trade School

Extremely hands-on, often a 2-year degree. Teaches directly about the trade and what to encounter in jobs. A mix of in-class learning and heavily experiential.

Trades are a key part of Alberta's economy. Because of this, there are countless jobs available and many chances for you to keep building your skills while on the job.

If you are looking for something more practical and less costly, I suggest researching more about trades and what trade schools offer in Alberta.

Open Studies

If you are set on applying into any of the institutions above, but are unsure of what to major in, it’s important to note that most schools offer enrollment in open studies. This program allows you to take a wider variety of courses and experiment what you feel fits you best.

What if I don't want to go to post-secondary?

Taking school for a few more years right after having spent twelve years of schooling may not entice every person, and that is understandable. Instead, think about other ways in which you can make a living.

Start Your Job Search

There are a ton of jobs that require only a high-school diploma. If you simply need money, find a job. It may take a while to increase your pay salary, but you can definitely aspire to reach higher positions that provide higher salaries in the future.

Start A Business

If you’re passionate about something that doesn’t require a degree, find a way to make a living out of it. You can try to think of something you're good at or something new that you'd like to try that you might be able to make a profit with. See if there is a high demand for a certain product or service. If your idea already exists, make it better. Be creative and do your research.

Take Time Off

Lastly, if you need time to figure it out don’t be afraid to take some time off. There should be no shame to wait a while before deciding if re-entering school is really the best option for you. And if you apply but don’t make it, don’t give up. There is always time. It’s never too late to go to school or to start that business you’ve always dreamed of. Take your future into your own hands and pace yourself.


Not everyone wants to pursue higher education immediately after graduating high school, but post-secondary is always great to consider. It offers so many opportunities and provides a wider array of knowledge and connections.

There is a whole world out there for you once you leave high school. Don’t let anyone write your own future, and know that being unsure is normal. Making mistakes is inevitable and out of uncertainty and imperfection comes a greater future.


About the Author:

Jill Briones is currently studying at the University of Calgary in the Faculty of Science. She hopes to become a Mathematics teacher some day.

Read her full bio on our Communications Team page.

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