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SIC’s Wiess: Graduation Day Is Here! Now What?

A column by Karen Weiss, Ed.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs at Southeastern Illinois College

Spring is in the air, and graduation season is upon us.  It is a time of anticipation, joy, relief, and for some… uncertainty.

All graduates at all educational levels face the same challenge – what’s next?  With the exception of a select group of graduates who already have their plans mapped out, for the majority of graduates their future plans are unknown.  This is especially true for high school graduates.

            It is unreasonable to assume that all high school seniors know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives.  Some may know that they want to go on to college, and others may want to jump directly into the workforce.  Regardless of the decision made at this level, the truth is that this is a time of discovery for many young people.  And one of the best ways to learn more about oneself and about what opportunities are out there is to attend the local community college.

One of the attractions of a community college is the diversity of the programs offered – either career-oriented or baccalaureate transfer.  Students can learn a trade, such as welding, or a valued skill set, such as nursing, while others may choose to take a more traditional route.  College-bound students can complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at a lower cost and closer to home at their local community college.

            Not only do students tend to receive more personal attention in a community college setting, they also have more opportunities to become involved with activities and/or groups which interest them the most.  In high school, students may not have had the chance to be a part of something that fits their specific interests, but in college they can join with others who have similar interests and backgrounds to become a part of a competitive team in such areas as speech, business, government, or archery, or even to be cast in a musical production or join the choir.  College can open the door to untapped talent and student achievement.

            In many ways, community colleges are the proving grounds for students to test the waters of adulthood.  Students come in young and afraid but eager to learn, and leave more mature, confident, and prepared for that next step.