Deciding what to do after high school graduation can be an exciting yet stressful time for students. With so many options to choose from, it’s normal to have questions about what exactly post secondary school is and the various paths you can take.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Post secondary school refers to any education pursued after graduating from high school, including vocational schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities, graduate schools, and professional degree programs like law or medical school.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about post secondary schooling in the US, the different types of programs and schools available, how to choose the right path for your goals and interests, key steps for applying and enrolling, and much more.

Defining Post Secondary Education

Post secondary education refers to any form of education that takes place after completing high school. It is the next step in a person’s educational journey and provides individuals with the opportunity to further their knowledge and skills in a specific field.

In the United States, post secondary education is an important part of preparing individuals for successful careers and is typically pursued at colleges, universities, and vocational schools.

Education Beyond High School

After graduating from high school, many students choose to continue their education by enrolling in a post secondary institution. This can include traditional four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, technical schools, and trade schools.

Each of these options offers different programs and degrees to suit a variety of career goals.

Four-year colleges and universities are the most common type of post secondary institution. They offer bachelor’s degrees in various fields of study, such as business, engineering, and liberal arts. These institutions often have a wide range of resources, including libraries, research facilities, and extracurricular activities, to enhance the learning experience.

Community colleges, on the other hand, provide two-year associate degrees and certifications. These institutions are often more affordable and offer vocational programs that prepare students for specific careers, such as nursing or automotive technology.

Many students choose to attend a community college before transferring to a four-year institution to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Technical schools and trade schools focus on providing hands-on training in specific trades or professions. These programs are typically shorter in duration and may lead to certifications or diplomas rather than degrees.

Students who attend technical or trade schools often learn practical skills that are directly applicable to their chosen career field, such as electrician or culinary arts.

Degree vs. Non-Degree Programs

When considering post secondary education, individuals have the option to pursue degree or non-degree programs. Degree programs, such as associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, require a certain number of credit hours and coursework to be completed in order to earn the degree.

These programs typically take longer to complete but provide a more comprehensive education in a specific field.

Non-degree programs, on the other hand, offer specialized training or certification in a particular area without the need to complete a full degree program. These programs can be completed in a shorter amount of time and are often designed to provide individuals with specific skills or knowledge needed for a particular job or industry.

Examples of non-degree programs include certification programs for medical coding or graphic design.

It’s important for individuals to consider their career goals and personal preferences when choosing between degree and non-degree programs. Both options can provide valuable education and training, but the choice ultimately depends on the individual’s desired career path and time commitment.

For more information on post secondary education in the United States, you can visit websites such as or which provide comprehensive data and resources related to education in the country.

Choosing the Right Post Secondary Program

Choosing the right post-secondary program is an important decision that can greatly impact your future career and personal growth. With so many options available, it’s crucial to consider your interests and goals, research different school options, compare programs side-by-side, and factor in location, cost, and other logistics.

Consider Your Interests and Goals

Before diving into the sea of post-secondary programs, take some time to reflect on your interests and goals. What subjects or fields are you passionate about? What are your long-term career aspirations?

By considering these factors, you can narrow down your options and focus on programs that align with your passions and future plans.

Research Different School Options

Once you have a clear idea of your interests and goals, it’s time to research different school options. Start by exploring reputable websites such as CollegeData or Niche to gather information about the schools that offer programs in your desired field.

Look into their reputation, accreditation, faculty, resources, and any specialized opportunities they may provide, such as internships or study abroad programs.

Compare Programs Side-by-Side

After identifying a few potential schools, make a list of the programs they offer in your chosen field. This will allow you to compare them side-by-side and evaluate their curriculum, course offerings, and any specific areas of focus.

Consider reaching out to current students or alumni to get their perspective on the program and their experiences. This firsthand information can be invaluable in helping you make an informed decision.

Factor in Location, Cost, and Other Logistics

While the program itself is important, it’s also essential to consider other factors such as location, cost, and other logistics. Assess whether you prefer a rural or urban setting, and whether you would like to be close to home or explore new surroundings.

Research the cost of tuition, as well as any financial aid or scholarships that may be available. Take into account factors such as housing, transportation, and the overall cost of living in the area.

By carefully considering your interests and goals, researching different school options, comparing programs side-by-side, and factoring in location, cost, and other logistics, you can make an informed decision when choosing the right post-secondary program.

Remember, this is a pivotal step in your educational journey, so take the time to explore your options and find the program that will set you up for success in the future.

Applying to Post Secondary Schools

Applying to post secondary schools in the US can be an exciting but also overwhelming process. It’s important to stay organized and informed about the application timelines, required materials, interviews, and acceptance letters.

This section will guide you through each step of the process to help you navigate the application process smoothly.

Application Timelines and Deadlines

One of the first things to consider when applying to post secondary schools is the application timeline and deadlines. Each school may have different deadlines, so it’s crucial to research and note down the application deadlines for each institution you are interested in.

Generally, applications for post secondary schools open in the fall, and deadlines can range from as early as November to as late as February or March. Some schools may also have rolling admissions, which means they review applications as they are received and may accept students until all spots are filled.

It’s best to start the application process early to allow yourself enough time to gather all the necessary materials and submit your application before the deadlines.

Required Application Materials

When applying to post secondary schools, you will typically need to submit a range of application materials. These may include:

  • Completed application form
  • High school transcripts
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume or activities list

It’s important to carefully review the requirements for each school you are applying to, as the specific materials needed may vary. Make sure to request your transcripts and test scores well in advance, as it may take some time for them to be processed and sent to the schools you are applying to.

Interviews and Auditions

Some post secondary schools may require interviews or auditions as part of the application process. These interviews or auditions provide an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you better and assess your fit for their program.

If an interview or audition is required, make sure to prepare in advance by researching the school, practicing potential interview questions, and polishing your audition pieces. Dress professionally and be prepared to showcase your skills and passion for your chosen field.

Acceptance Letters and Deposits

After submitting your application, you will anxiously await the acceptance letters from the post secondary schools you applied to. Acceptance letters are typically sent out in the spring, usually in March or April.

Once you receive an acceptance letter, you will usually have a certain amount of time to accept or decline the offer. In some cases, a deposit may be required to secure your spot in the incoming class.

Be sure to carefully read through all the information provided in the acceptance letter and follow the instructions given to secure your place at the school.

Applying to post secondary schools can be a competitive and stressful process, but with careful planning and organization, you can increase your chances of success. Remember to stay on top of the application timelines and deadlines, gather all the required materials, and prepare for any interviews or auditions.

Good luck with your applications!

Paying for Post Secondary Education

Grants and Scholarships

Paying for post-secondary education can be a daunting task, but there are several options available to help ease the burden. One of the most popular ways to fund education is through grants and scholarships. These are essentially free money that does not need to be repaid.

Grants are typically awarded based on financial need, while scholarships are often given based on academic merit or other criteria. Students can apply for grants and scholarships through their school or through external organizations.

Websites like and provide extensive databases of scholarships available to students.

Student Loans

If grants and scholarships do not cover the full cost of education, many students turn to student loans to bridge the gap. Student loans are borrowed money that must be repaid with interest. There are different types of student loans available, including federal loans and private loans.

Federal loans often have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options compared to private loans. Students can apply for federal loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Private loans, on the other hand, are offered by banks and other financial institutions. It’s important to carefully consider the terms and interest rates of any loan before borrowing.

Work-Study Programs

Another option to help pay for post-secondary education is through work-study programs. These programs provide part-time employment opportunities for students while they are in school. Work-study jobs are typically on-campus positions that allow students to earn money to help cover their educational expenses.

This not only provides financial assistance but also gives students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience that can enhance their resume.

Other Ways to Save on Costs

Aside from grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs, there are other ways to save on the costs of post-secondary education. One option is to attend a community college or trade school, which tends to be more affordable than traditional four-year universities.

Another option is to live at home or with roommates to reduce housing expenses. Additionally, students can save money on textbooks by renting or buying used books instead of purchasing new ones. It’s also worth exploring online courses and programs, which often have lower tuition fees compared to traditional in-person classes.

Final Tips for Post Secondary Success

Get Organized and Stay Motivated

One of the keys to success in post-secondary school is staying organized and motivated. With a busy schedule and multiple assignments, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Creating a schedule or using a planner can help you stay on top of your coursework and deadlines.

Breaking down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps can also make them feel less daunting. Additionally, finding ways to stay motivated, such as setting goals or rewarding yourself for completing tasks, can help you stay focused and engaged in your studies.

Utilize Campus Resources and Support

Post-secondary institutions often provide a variety of resources and support services to help students succeed academically. These can include tutoring services, writing centers, career counseling, and academic advising.

Take advantage of these resources to enhance your learning and address any challenges you may encounter. Additionally, many campuses have libraries or study spaces where you can find a quiet place to work and access materials you may need for your coursework.

Build a Support Network

Building a support network can be crucial for your success in post-secondary school. This network can include classmates, professors, mentors, and even family and friends. Collaborating with classmates can help you gain different perspectives and insights, as well as provide emotional support.

Forming relationships with professors can also be beneficial, as they can provide guidance and mentorship. Lastly, having a support system outside of school can help you navigate the challenges and stresses of post-secondary life.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. Whether it’s seeking clarification on a concept, seeking advice on career options, or seeking emotional support, reaching out to others can make a significant difference in your post-secondary journey.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions in class, visit office hours, or seek guidance from campus resources. Asking for help shows strength and a commitment to your own success.


The transition after high school may seem daunting, but hopefully this guide has provided a helpful overview of your post secondary options and key steps to take. With some self-reflection, research, planning, and support, you can choose the best path to achieve your academic and career aspirations.

Stay open-minded, be proactive, and remember – your post secondary years will be full of tremendous growth, discovery and memories that will last a lifetime.

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