Community college or trade school?

They’re both good options, says our elder. And, no, you are absolutely not a failure.

Dear EWC

I live in low-income housing with my mother (my father passed away last year, which still hurts every now and then). We do not have cable anymore and we have to ask for rides from family members as a means of transportation to get around in our city. I do moving gigs from time to time to make money or sell used books online. Since I am in poverty, have no driver license, and only a high school diploma, my job opportunities are limited and I blame myself for having social anxiety which comes with fear of driving. I want more out of life than just living in low-income apartments, being on section 8 and not being able to go travel. Do you think I should go to community college and major in wellness (I love lifting weights)? Or should I, considering I live in poverty, go to a trade school? I just need to get my driver license, and save up enough money to get a car, all while going to college or trade school. What’s stopping me is a fear of being judged? Have I failed in life as a young adult considering people who I graduated with from high school are about to graduate college?

Ketchman replies

Thank you for contacting us. I’ll try to answer your questions.

I’ll start with the most important point. You are, most definitely, not a failure in life. Your life has barely started and you’ve got lots of time, and will have numerous opportunities, to make of it what you will. You can help create those opportunities for success by getting the training you’ll need to live an independent, self-supporting, life. Once you’ve achieved that you’ll have the freedom to do what you want and live where you want.

In my opinion, one of the best places to start is your local public community college. That type of school can qualify you for a variety of trades and jobs and, at the same time, allow you to complete courses that you can transfer to a four-year college should you, someday, decide you’d like to get a more advanced degree. Most community colleges can also give you some professional career guidance and introduce you to some interesting and exciting careers you might have never even heard of or thought about. Most trade schools, especially the private, for-profit ones are unable to offer you the range of services that public community colleges can.

I’ve taught in, and taken classes at, both the public community college and trade school level. A trade school, if it’s a good one, will usually provide a concentrated training program in the specialized trade you enroll in and within a year or so graduate you with the skills that qualify you for an entry-level job as a coder, HVAC tech, auto mechanic — whatever. They can do that, usually, faster — although at considerably more cost — than a public community college. The community college will also graduate you with the same skills but will usually also provide the counseling and guidance to help you choose and succeed in the trade or career that best meet your interests and aptitude. As you’ve likely already figured out, my preference, hands down, is for the community college; although I must emphasize that either one would be a much, much better choice than attempting to go on with nothing higher than your high school degree.

I suggest that you start by visiting your nearest public community college and have a discussion with their career counselors. There are many, many careers in fields that are directly related to wellness and they’ll be able to introduce you to some of them as well as some other paths that might interest you. Those schools, typically, are very good at working with students who come from low-income backgrounds and who may not be totally confident about their ability to succeed in an academic environment. Please check them out before anything else. You’ve nothing to lose and a whole life to gain.

I hope I’ve been able to give you something useful to consider. The career counseling and training available to you will provide an excellent chance at success no matter what sort of economic background you’re coming from. I hope you take full advantage of it. We can, if you like, continue our conversation. Just reach out to us again, ask for me and we can resume it or go on to anything else you might need some help with. Please don’t forget that there’s always someone here who’ll always be happy to do their best for you. Thank you for giving me a chance to help.

Letter #: 440021
Category: Career

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