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Holladay Journal

GSD Counselors share their college advice for recent grads

Jun 23, 2021 01:54PM ● By Hannah LaFond

Cottonwood High School students at 2018 graduation (Courtesy of Granite School District).

By Hannah LaFond | [email protected]

In recent years, fewer high school graduates have attended college, but high school counselors say there are still great opportunities outside of a four-year institution. 

Recent numbers published by Education Week found a 6.8 percent drop in Fall 2020 college enrollments from the previous years. This significant jump is most likely a result of the pandemic. Many high school students have found it hard to keep up with coursework with online learning and other changes to their education. Family job losses and financial struggles have put additional roadblocks between students and college.  

However, the decline in college enrollments is not a new trend. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, the rate of students enrolling in college has been slowly declining over the last decade.

There are several reasons students may be opting out of attending a traditional four-year institute. Many can't afford it and are discouraged by the prospect of student loan debt. Others don't see formal schooling as a good fit. High school counselors are well aware of these challenges and hope to help students find a suitable path. 

"Not everyone is cut out for the traditional four-year college experience, and there is no need for them to pursue that. There are plenty of great jobs available for students in skilled labor, IT, composites, etc. The rise of college tuition is getting out of hand, and students and parents see this," Nathan Brannon, a counselor at Olympus High School, told the City Journals. 

With that in mind, Brannon and other counselors throughout the Granite School District have been working to implement individualized career plans for each student. While many students may not be interested in a traditional college, that doesn't mean the counselors can't help them find a program that will suit their strengths and goals. 

Brian Barnum, a counselor at Kearns High, explained why there's been a state initiative to view any post-secondary education as an equally viable option, whether it's a one, two, or four-year program. 

"Recently, in the state of Utah, there has really been a huge push for students to see college as one, two, four, or more. With that, as counselors, we have had a bigger push for students to get any post-secondary education that may benefit their future career goals rather than continuously pushing all students to go to a four-year school," Barnum said. "A four-year school is not suited for everyone and for many students is not the best path to get students where they want to go." 

While a four-year degree is often seen as the most traditional route after high school, the counselors agreed that wasn't the right choice for many students. That's especially true when there are so many different trades and careers available. 

"There are just so many options nowadays for students. We have students that will go to traditional college, we have internships, we have apprenticeships, we have students that want to go right into a career, and all of those are great," said Sara Po'uha, counseling department chair at Taylorsville High School. 

According to Po'uha, that's why it's so essential for them to meet with each student individually. That way, they can understand what's important to them and cater their post-high school planning to the student. Whether students want to get a certificate, do an apprenticeship program, go straight into a trade, or get a degree, the school counselors work to get them all the resources and information to make their goals a reality.