Three seniors opt for a path less traveled

Hickman, Temple, Brooks prove that the four-year university track isn’t the only road to success

Emma Baumgardner

Cartoon by Madison Olsen.

How many colleges should seniors apply to? How far away is too far away? What kind of scholarships does each school offer? These are just a few of the questions that seniors have to face every day from the summer before their senior year to early January. Contrary to popular belief, the typical four-year university track is not the only option that students can take to pursue their interests. Some decide to take a gap year to explore their passions, while others like senior Io Hickman opt for a complete change of scenery in pursuing their higher education. Hickman plans on attending the Amsterdam Fashion Institute in the fall.

“The times that I got to visit Europe I just fell in love with it,” Hickman said. “I want to study fashion, and I felt like if not in New York then definitely Europe, because the things [designs] that come to New York usually come out of Paris.” Even though Amsterdam is not as well known in the fashion world as Paris or New York, Hickman chose to move there because she is a fan of the unique style and culture of the city.

Applying to colleges in Europe is free, unlike in America. It’s not going to hurt me if I don’t get in.

— senior io Hickman

“I wanted to be growing into my career as Amsterdam is growing in the fashion industry” Hickman said. “They’re working eco-friendly and doing a lot of androgynous stuff. They seem a little bit more relaxed. It reminded me of Austin, but European.”

Cost was also a factor in her decision of what colleges to apply to.

“Applying to colleges in Europe is free, unlike in America” Hickman said. “It’s not going to hurt me if I don’t get in. I just wanted to expand my horizons a little further than just out of state.”

In Europe, colleges cost significantly less than colleges in the United States. Average tuition in Europe is $9,410 for public colleges and $32,405 for private colleges. In the States, the average tuition cost for a public college is $25,290, and tuition for a private college is $50,900. Even though the lower costs are appealing to students going through the application process, application requirements in out-of-country schools can be more intense than applying to domestic schools.

“There’s all these little things that you have to do that you normally wouldn’t have to do for a school in America,” Hickman said. “I have to get my passport renewed, and there’s so much photocopying all of these documents and sending them to them. I’m getting my visa coming up this next month and getting all the vaccines. It’s a process, but I’m willing to do it.”

Students leaving the country also face difficulties with living so far from home.

Europe is so small. I can just take a train ride to another country.

— Senior Genevieve Temple

“The biggest pushback would be feeling isolated,” Hickman said. “When I move there, I’m not just moving out of state, I’m moving out of country, away from all my friends and my family. That was the biggest part that made me rethink my decision because it’s scary to go out on your own and be an ocean away from everybody you know and love.”

Some students decide to take a gap year before college to gain job experience or to travel. The gap year has become increasingly popular in order for students to be better prepared for life away from home before going to college. Senior Genevieve Temple plans on taking a gap year to further her education at Universidad Autonoma in Madrid as well as explore outside the United States.

“I’m going to take Spanish classes for a semester, and then I’m going to decide what to do for the next semester,” Temple said. “I’ll either come back [to Austin], or I’m going to try to find a fashion program.”

Gap years are appealing to students who want to explore their options before committing to a path of study.

“I just wasn’t ready to go to college yet,” Temple said, “I don’t know what I want to do. I didn’t just want to stay in Austin. I wanted to travel, and I wanted to learn Spanish because my family knows Spanish. I knew I wanted to go to Europe. I’m excited to meet new people. I’m most excited to travel on the weekends because Europe is so small, I can just take a train ride to another country.”

I want to build a big catalogue of my music for the world to see.

— senior Jackson Brooks

After high school, some students like keyboardist Jackson Brooks decide to focus their time on pursuing a career rather than continuing their education.

“My plans are to keep performing, keep working,” Brooks said. “I’m not going to go to college, at least right away, but I plan on taking some ACC classes just to get some credits done, so if I decide to transfer later I can do that. For now, I’m trying to perform as much as I can. I haven’t always been like the most motivated in classes, I just really enjoy putting my energy towards my career.”

Students who focus more on their careers have the ability to make connections in the real world and start exploring their field of interest immediately after high school.

“I like psychedelic rock music, and jazz stuff too,” Brooks said. “I’m excited to just keep recording more music. That’s what I want to do, is record, so I’m always trying to work on producing more stuff. I want to build a big catalogue of my music for the world to see.”

When deciding their post-secondary plans, it is important for seniors to research all of the options available to them. While attending college the fall after graduating may be the traditional path for students to follow, gap years can be great for students who want to take a break after 12 years of schooling. Traveling to different countries, exploring different passions, or any combination of the two, can help seniors expand their horizons and set them up for success when entering the real world.