When a teenager hears the inevitable question, almost all of them will respond with the name of a college or a major. The natural progression of life seems to be high school, college, and, at some point, adulthood.

Not many people mention options outside of college. While no path to individual progress and success is better than the other, the question raised here remains: Is the college path just a popular choice for students or is it pushed too much by adults in and out of the education system?

Speeches heard at any graduation in Hillsborough County always feel as if the most significant selling points are the consistent increase in high school graduates and how many of the graduates are college-bound.

The new motto of the next couple of school years is “90 by 20,” referencing the likely possibility of the county reaching a county-wide graduation rate of 90% by the graduating class of 2020. While this is a significant accomplishment, the general feeling is that the education system is merely pushing kids through even if they are not actually ready to face the adult world, college-bound or not. Though not entirely relevant to the point being made, it still coincides with the fact that kids are being pushed into what is considered the only acceptable path of success.

According to the Hillsborough County School District website, one of the “Points of Pride” for the 2016-2017 school year was that the county is ranked among the top five counties in the nation for having the most students with College Board accounts connected to Khan Academy in an effort to improve SAT scores.

SAT scores and other standardized testing scores are only relevant for college-bound graduates.

In addition, from the source “Points of Pride” page, a point made was “college readiness,” an entire discussion dedicated to how the county’s offering to pay for all AP exams for its students has allowed these students to save over $15 million in college credits. Within that same point, a comment is made on how the county is focusing its efforts on making its students as college ready as they can.

While that may be just because students are turning towards college-bound paths and the county is just responding to them, the possibility that both sides are mutually pulling each other along deeper into the unhealthy mindset of college being the only valid path to personal success. The county reacts to the increasing rates of college-bound students, and the pressure students receive from a college-heavy public education turns them towards higher-education institutions.

There is not much talk of vocational schools or those who choose to go straight into the workforce, but the county does offer dozens of technical programs and certifications that students can obtain should they be in the program for an average of three to four years. So while the option is not particularly encouraged, the choices are still there for students to make.

While vocational programs have been made available to both middle and high school students, a vast majority of these kids still choose to enter college and may just use the certificates earned to further to traditional university education.

The general consensus appears to be that, while heavily pushed by the education system itself, students in Hillsborough County are also most likely forcing themselves to fit into “acceptable” path of success as they begin adulthood.



Aliya Leary // Business Manager

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