Beyond High School

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Beyond High School

A Guide for High School Students Pursuing Higher Education and Training

Table of Contents

Table of Contents 1

Introduction 2

Career Interests and Assessments 3

Texas Reality Check 3

Texas CARES 3

Texas CREWS 4

Career Hotline 4

Defining the Types of Schools Available 5

Universities (Four-Year Institutions) 5

Community, Technical, and State Colleges (Two-Year Institutions) 6

Health Related Institutions (Health Science Centers) 7

Career Schools and Colleges 8

School Types and Selection Criteria At-A-Glance 10

Public vs Private 12

Community College vs University 12

Community College vs Career School 13

Criteria for Selecting Schools 16

Type of Degree You Are Looking For 16

School Quality 17


Future Indicators 23

School Size 27

Location 28

Campus Environment 30

Student Body 33

The School Selection Process 34

Step One: Choose Criteria 34

Step Two: Identify Limits 34

Step Three: Narrow Down Your Options 34

Step Four: Analyze Your Options 34

Step Five: Select Your Top Five Options 35

Step Six: Prepare To Apply 35

Step Seven: Apply 35

Step Eight: Decide Your Winner 36

Your Final Steps 37


The goal of this booklet is to help you choose a school based on what is important to you. There are thousands of institutions of higher learning in the United States, each with their own cultures, some with a balance between studies and extracurricular activities, and some more exclusively focused on the work of getting you trained for a career. There are also many different resources that provide information about these institutions and their available programs. How are students supposed to be able to know how to decipher it all, and most importantly, how do they use these resources to pick the college that would be the best fit for them and their career aspirations?

Don’t worry. Over the course of this booklet we will lead you to some user-friendly resources. We will also give you a step-by-step process to make the most informed and educated decision about your academic future. A little work and you’ll go from a confused high school student to an empowered collegiate scholar.

Let’s work together to chart the course for your life beyond high school.

Career Interests and Assessments

Before you can decide which college to attend, you need to understand your personal career goals and aspirations. The right career decisions for you can help you know which educational programs and college degrees you need. Then you can find out which kinds of colleges can meet those needs. Fortunately for you, the state of Texas passed House Bill 5 in 2013, empowering you to consider your career (and educational) interests right now, in high school.

Including endorsements of special interest in your graduation requirements has allowed you to gain experience in class based on what you are interested in doing for a living. If you included more than one endorsement in your graduation plan, then you have already had the chance to explore multiple industries of interest.

In higher education, every class you take brings with it a personal financial responsibility. So you need to commit to a major of study that you plan to see through to completion. The beauty of higher education is you have the power to change your mind about your major at any time, but remember that any changes to your college major selection can increase your costs and delay your graduation.

If you are still unsure about what to major in, visit the Texas CARES website at and enter the World of Work area of the site to launch the Self-Assessment, Interest Profiler program. This will provide you with career options that best match your interests and values. Once you know your options, you can discover which degrees are needed to obtain those kinds of jobs. That will determine your best fit for a college major and courses to take.

This publication will reference, among others, four sources: Texas Reality Check, Texas CARES, Texas CREWS, and TWC’s Career Hotline. Here’s how you can access these valuable resources.

Texas Reality Check

Don't know how much money you will need to earn in the future? Don't know which occupation to choose? No problem! Go to Texas Reality Check and find tools that will help you select the right career for your spending needs.


Texas CARES is a multi-media computer program which allows you to explore different occupations, colleges and universities, career path information, and much more.


Texas CREWS (Consumer Resource for Education and Workforce Statistics) helps you compare costs and outcomes for two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions in Texas.

Career Hotline

1-800-822-PLAN (7526)

Call the Texas Workforce Commission’s Career Hotline toll-free for information on careers, colleges and educational opportunities.

Other sources for this publication include
The Institute for College Access and Success
and the U.S. Department of Education

Defining the Types of Schools Available

There are several different kinds of institutions available for students to receive higher education. Review these short definitions and tips to get a general idea of each kind, along with their pitfalls or advantages.

Universities (Four-Year Institutions)

  • These institutions are what most high school students think about when they imagine going to college.

  • Universities can be either public or private institutions, and they offer a wide range of college degree options and programs.

  • Universities grant:

    • Baccalaureate (or Bachelor’s) degrees

    • Graduate (or Master’s) degrees

    • Doctorate (or PhD) degrees

  • Many universities offer on-campus housing options and meal plans.


  • Many options are available for financial aid: grants, scholarships, workstudy, loans.

  • Usually offer the widest variety in degree plan options.

  • Can be more expensive than other educational options.

  • Many of the "core curriculum" courses may be delivered in large auditorium-style rooms with hundreds of students in one class.

  • Can be located far from home, depending on special programs or degree plans you might need.

  • Students can live, work, and attend classes all in one place if they choose to.

  • Usually have a larger network of student-body organizations and social events as well as on-campus resources and services for students.

  • May require you to live on campus your first year of attendance.

  • Usually have large athletic and intramural programs.

  • Expect a competitive admission process compared to other types of post-secondary institutions.

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