Vocational and technical schools serve many purposes. For some, they offer opportunities to further their careers and earning power.
For others, they offer careers in hands-on fields which don’t' require traditional four-year academic training. For still others, they offer a way to enrich the high school experience, prepare for college and earn college credits – all at the same time!
Here, we'll review the benefits of vocational and technical schools for students still in high school.
1. Shortening Freshman Year
One of the most motivating reasons for taking vocational school courses during high school is the ability to shorten a student's freshman year at college. Since traditional college years, quarters and semesters are typically based on credits earned, a student can significantly shorten their freshman year by accumulating enough college credits during their junior and senior years of high school.
For some students, this might add up enough to cut their freshman year in half.
2. Earning College Credits
While not every school offers the option, many vocational and technical schools open their entry-level classes to high school students who have demonstrated a good aptitude for college-style learning.
This is typically determined through a guidance counselor, although some schools simply let high-school students sign up for classes. There is typically either a grade or age limit – check with the school you're interested in to determine if this applies to you.
Since the classes taken are at the college level, these programs give high school students a chance to get a head-start on their college education. Classes are typically either taken at night, after the regular high school day is over, or during the day. Daytime classes typically provide students with a pass for leaving their high-school campus at a particular time. The credits earned through these programs can be put toward first-year generals at a traditional university or college.
3. Getting Used to College Life
Since the typical vocational and technical school atmosphere is someplace between high school and college, it makes an absolutely ideal place for high school students to become used to a different type of learning experience.
Students will enjoy the more relaxed and informal style of learning, as well as the student experience itself. High school is notorious for being filled with 'cliques,' while college life is much more laid-back and relaxed in terms of social interaction.
4. Becoming Accountable
One of the biggest advantages for high school students taking vocational school courses is learning to be accountable. In high school, both parents and teachers provide frequent reminders as to when assignments are due. In college, this is drastically reduced.
A typical college course will offer a written or online syllabus, a summary of the work which will be required. Each student is expected to pay attention to and work according to that syllabus. While instructors and professors will provide reminders and guidance, a student is expected to be much more self-motivating than they were in high school.
For students who have trouble with motivation and accountability, vocational courses offer an excellent chance to develop these vital skills.
Showing up for class on time – or at all – is another example of how high school and college courses are different. High school classes typically take attendance and 'hunt down' absent students. In college, however, a student's only punishment for skipping classes is a reduced understanding of the day's learning.
5. College Application Polishing
Another very popular reason for taking vocational courses during high school is the college application. College admissions – particularly among highly desirable and popular universities – is fierce, and students must do everything they can to make their application stand out from the crowd.
A long list of college-level courses (with high grades) can be quite impressive, demonstrating aptitude, motivation and ambition.
6. Specialty Courses
Yet another reason for vocational courses during high school is subject matter. High schools across the country are dropping many elective courses due to budget cuts. In many cases, the first subjects and courses to be dropped are physical activities such as shop, band and physical education.
If you're interested in any of these subjects – for future college application use or simply for fun – taking them at a vocational school may be your only option.
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A wide range of these courses can be found at most vocational schools around the country. As a bonus, the classes are typically much more in-depth and hands-on than those found in high schools. Woodworking, for example, is often crammed into a small, basement room in high school.
At a vocational school, however, where most students are training for careers in carpentry or other woodworking-related fields, classrooms are large, equipment is professional and instructors are extremely knowledgeable.