You’ve heard that two years of tech school education could get your kid straight into a well-paying career as early as age 20.
Still, you hesitate to even suggest it. Mostly because you’ve always thought of your child as college material.
How about this radical idea—doing college and tech school both.
In many states, it’s possible for a student to earn a 4-year college bachelor’s degree and a two-year tech school degree—both—by age 22.
Students who do this can earn extra job qualifications that put them in hot demand for well-paying jobs for a lifetime.
(Plus—help the world overcome its dire shortage of workers skilled in the trades.)
How can students complete both tech school and college by age 22?
Students, consider this strategy:
1. While you’re still in 10th grade, find out if you can take dual enrollment college courses while you’re in 11th and 12th grades.
Do this, and you could earn two years of high school credit and two years of real college credit at the same time. (In many cases, with the state you live in footing the entire bill!)
Many students who do this are able to walk across their high school graduation stages with 2-year associate’s degrees already completed—debt-free at state expense—while still enjoying the full high school experience.
No one ever asks these high school students if they’re college material—because at age 18 they’re already halfway to the 4-year college completion finish line!
(To learn your state’s rules regarding dual enrollment, google the name of your state along with the words “dual enrollment.”)
If you’re already past 10th grade and you wonder if it’s too late for you to use this strategy, do this.
Whatever age you are now, go to your nearest high school guidance counselor and ask, “Can you help me figure out how I can squeeze the maximum number of dual enrollment college courses into the rest of my high school career?” (Be prepared to argue that AP is not the same as dual enrollment.)
2. Start thinking early on about what kinds of tech school programs might be fun to pursue.
Quit worrying about “following your passion.”
Watch the short video here to understand why “follow your passion” is some of the worst career advice ever.
Go to a tech school near your house and ask what kinds of skilled job training programs they have available. (Tech schools have a wide variety of offerings you’ve likely never thought of before.)
Which one seems interesting? Visit some classes. Talk to students and instructors. If you’re extra smart and ambitious, ask the tech school admissions office to point you to an alum who’s graduated from that program so you can ask to do some job shadowing.
Who knows—the person you job shadow might have a lower skill part-time job available for you that could provide you extremely helpful relevant work experience. It never hurts to ask!
3. In the early months of 12th grade, sign up to attend tech school starting as soon as possible after high school graduation.
Don’t laze the post-high school summer away—make it your goal to start and finish this skilled job training fast. Pound through this tech school training as quickly as is allowed. Don’t take summers off.
(Don’t worry, you can still work a part-time job while you’re doing this.)
4. Be sure your parents fill out the FAFSA form in October when you’re in 12th grade, even if they’re rich.
Tell them, “Mom, Dad—we’ve got to fill the FAFSA out in October when I’m in 12th grade. If we don’t, we could leave thousands of dollars in free college money on the table.”
Ask your parents to fill this form out again—every October that they’ll have a child in college the following fall.
5. Ask your tech school, “What’s the earliest date I could finish my skilled job training here?”
You’ll likely be 19 or 20 years old on that finish date.
6. About a year before your tech school finish date, apply to a few 4-year colleges.
No pressure here. Most 4-year colleges will be excited to get you. How many students do you think they have applying who have 2-year tech school degrees, real job skills, plus one or two years of college already completed? You’ll be a hot commodity.
To enhance the possibility that you’ll graduate from this 4-year college debt-free, choose the ones you’ll apply to using the strategies in Chapter 14 of my book.
Ask the 4-year colleges that accept you to give you extra free money financial aid by using the strategies I provide on pages 266–273.
7. [SUPER STRATEGY] Pick a 4-year college major that goes along beautifully with your tech school training.
You’ve already got tech school certification in air traffic control?
You could consider adding on a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, flight operations management, aeronautical technology, avionics engineering, flight dispatch and scheduling, aerospace administration, aviation computer science, or another aviation-related program.
You’ve already got a tech school degree in a health care field?
You could step up to a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in that same field. (You wouldn’t be the first dental hygienist to go on to dental school.)
Your tech school program was related to technology?
You could consider adding on a 4-year degree in computer science, computer engineering, or some other technology-related field.
Your tech school education has already equipped you to be an “electrical and electronics engineering technician” or a “mechanical engineering technician”?
You could go on to get a 4-year degree in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.
Or how about this one—you’ve got tech school training in a field where you could see yourself owning your own company some day? You could do the remainder of your 4-year college work in business management, marketing, sales, or entrepreneurship—and in doing so learn how to run a profitable company that thrives and grows as the years go by.
These are just examples. The choices are many, and the choices are exciting.
8. [SUPER STRATEGY] Get professional career clarification help early on.
Getting career clarification help from a certified professional early on can help you choose a career path that is beautifully suited to your particular personality type, interests, and strengths.
I provide clear explanation on how to do this as early as 10th grade (or as soon as possible after that) in Chapter 13 of my book.
My TRIBE Members get additional specific help from me on this topic in my TRIBE Session 2, immediately after joining.
If you’re looking for a certified consultant to do this career assessment work with you, check out the Approved Consultants tab on this website. Cindy Mattson is my favorite—I sent my own kids to her and it was the best money I ever spent on them in their lives.
9. Feel confident—because this “tech school plus college” strategy is likely to make you highly employable.
Why? Because your bachelor’s degree is built on knowledge of the practical.
10. Best of all—you might be able to get this all done, debt-free, by age 22.
How can “ordinary you” accomplish such an amazing goal?
Well—on the day you finish your tech school program when you’re 20, you may have only 18 months of college left to get your bachelor’s degree.
This is just one of the benefits you can get from completing two years of college at state expense while you’re in high school. (For more information on dual enrollment, see pages 92–97 of my book.)
11. Of course, you might choose to stop your schooling altogether after completing your tech school education at age 20.
At that point, as a 20-year-old, you might be making more money in a lower-stress job than your friends with bachelor’s degrees.
You might feel thankful and proud that you’re helping the world with its dire shortage of workers skilled in the trades.
For more inspiration on the subject of tech school, see the eye-opening article I’ve written: Could Your Kid End Up Wealthier by NOT Going to College?
Help us spread the word about doing tech school and college both.
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Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.