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Hello and welcome to the BFH Blog! Here I write bi-weekly pieces on advice to seniors, tips you will need for college, BTS on sessions, and so much more!

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June 29, 2023

A Teenager’s Guide to Achieving Their Goals: Exploring Options After High School

High school is a stressful time for any teenager, and it’s hard to know what to do after graduation. As a senior portrait photographer in the Maryland and Washington, DC areas, I hear teens talk about these decisions all the time. But don’t worry: there are so many different options available to you—and with a little research, you can find the one that’s right for your personality, interests, and goals. Here are some of the most common post-high school options:


  • 4-year college or university

Earn a degree, which can help open doors to better jobs and more money. Employers often prefer applicants who have gone on to higher education.

  • 2-year community college

Less expensive than a 4-year college or university. You can get your general education credits done first so that when it comes time for transfer or graduation from whatever school you eventually attend next (whether it’s another community college or another type), all those requirements are out of the way already!

  • How to get into college:
  1. Get good grades in high school. This is the most important factor in getting into college.
  2. Take the SAT or ACT. These standardized tests are required by most colleges.
  3. Get involved in extracurricular activities. This shows colleges that you’re well-rounded and have interests outside of school.
  4. Write a strong personal statement. This is your chance to tell colleges who you are and why you want to attend their school.
  5. Submit your application on time. Most colleges have deadlines, so make sure you submit your application on time.

Trade and certificate programs

  • Shorter than college degrees, taking anywhere from one year to two years to complete. They are also more focused on a specific area of study and tend to be hands-on, so you may be able to find a job right after graduation. Trade programs often have good job placement rates because they can provide students with skills that employers are looking for in this economy.
  • How to find trade and certificate programs:
    1. Do your research. There are many different trade and certificate programs available, so it’s important to find one that’s a good fit for you.
    2. Talk to your school counselor. Your school counselor can help you learn more about trade and certificate programs and how to find them.
    3. Search online. There are many websites that list trade and certificate programs.
    4. Contact your local community college. Community colleges often offer trade and certificate programs.
    5. Contact your local trade schools. Trade schools specialize in teaching specific trades, such as welding, plumbing, or carpentry.


  • Gain valuable skills that you can use in any job or career path. You’ll also be able to make connections with people who have similar interests and goals as you do, which may help when it comes time to find work after graduating from high school. In addition, the military offers leadership opportunities that can help teens develop into their own personal strengths as leaders later on in life.
  • How to join the military:
    1. Do your research. There are many different branches of the military, so it’s important to find one that’s a good fit for you.
    2. Talk to a recruiter. A recruiter can help you learn more about the military and answer any questions you have.
    3. Take the ASVAB. The ASVAB is a test that will help you determine what jobs you’re qualified for in the military.
    4. Enlist. Once you’ve decided to join the military, you’ll need to enlist. This is a legal contract that will specify your job, your pay, and your benefits.

Going straight into the workforce

  • You can start earning money right away. You may be able to find a job that is related to your interests or passions.
  • How to get a job after high school:
  1. Start networking. Let your friends, family, and teachers know that you’re looking for a job.
  2. Search online job boards and company websites. Many companies post jobs on their websites.
  3. Attend job fairs. This is a great way to meet potential employers and learn about different job opportunities.
  4. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each job you apply for. Make sure your resume highlights your skills and experience that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  5. Practice your interviewing skills. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel during your interview.
  6. Don’t give up. The job search can be tough, but don’t give up. Keep applying for jobs and networking until you find the right one for you.

Gap year

  • You can travel, work, or volunteer. A gap year can also be used to explore career options as well as develop skills that will help you in your future career.
  • How to do a gap year:
    1. Decide what you want to do with your gap year. Do you want to travel, volunteer, work, or something else?
    2. Plan your gap year. This includes setting a budget, finding activities, and making travel arrangements.
    3. Save up money. A gap year can be expensive, so it’s important to save up money in advance.
    4. Get organized. This includes packing your bags, getting your passport and visas, and making sure you have all the necessary paperwork.
    5. Enjoy your gap year! This is your time to explore the world and learn new things.

Travel abroad

  • You can learn about the world, yourself and other cultures. It can also be a good way to learn a language.
  • How to travel abroad:
    1. Do your research. This includes learning about the country you’re visiting, the culture, and the language.
    2. Get a visa. If you need a visa, make sure you apply for it in advance.
    3. Pack light. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you don’t want to be weighed down by too much luggage.
    4. Be prepared for culture shock. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or homesick when you first arrive in a new country.
    5. Be open to new experiences. Traveling abroad is a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and meet new people.


  • You can further your education or gain valuable experience in a particular field. You may also receive a stipend or other benefits.
  • How to get a fellowship:
    1. Do your research. There are many different fellowships available, so it’s important to find one that’s a good fit for you.
    2. Find fellowships that you’re eligible for. Fellowships often have eligibility requirements, such as GPA, GRE scores, or work experience.
    3. Start applying early. Fellowships often have deadlines months in advance, so it’s important to start applying early.
    4. Write a strong personal statement. Your personal statement is your chance to tell the fellowship committee why you’re a good fit for their program.
    5. Submit your application materials on time. Fellowships often have deadlines, so make sure you submit your application materials on time.


  • You can be your own boss. You set your own hours. You can be creative and innovative. You can make a difference in the world.
  • How to start a business:
  1. Come up with an idea. What are you passionate about? What problems do you see in the world that you could solve?
  2. Do your research. Learn as much as you can about your industry, your target market, and your competition.
  3. Create a business plan. This will outline your goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them.
  4. Get funding. You may need to raise money to start your business. There are a number of ways to do this, including loans, grants, and crowdfunding.
  5. Build a team. You can’t do everything yourself. Find people who share your vision and passion and who have the skills and experience to help you make your business a success.
  6. Market your business. Get the word out about your business so that people know what you offer and why they should choose you over the competition.
  7. Provide excellent customer service. Make sure your customers are happy with your products or services. This will help you build a loyal following and grow your business.


  • Gain experience in your field. Make connections with professionals in your field. Learn about different aspects of your field. Decide if a career in your field is right for you. Improve your resume and make yourself more marketable to employers.
  • How to find an internship:
  1. Network with people in your field. Let them know you’re looking for an internship.
  2. Search online job boards and company websites. Many companies post internships on their websites.
  3. Reach out to companies directly. Even if a company isn’t currently offering internships, they may be willing to create one for you if you’re a good fit.
  4. Attend industry events. This is a great way to meet people in your field and learn about internship opportunities.
  • How to make the most of your internship:
    1. Be proactive. Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do. Take initiative and ask for opportunities to learn and grow.
    2. Be a team player. Be willing to help out your colleagues and contribute to the team.
    3. Be positive and enthusiastic. Show your enthusiasm for your work and for the company.
    4. Be professional. Dress and act professionally at all times.
    5. Be grateful. Thank your mentors and colleagues for their help and support.

No matter which option you choose, make sure you do your research and make a decision that is right for you. There is no right or wrong answer, and the best way to find the right path for you is to explore your options and talk to people who have been there before. Be flexible! Life happens… you might change majors midway through college; maybe an opportunity comes up unexpectedly while working toward another goal altogether; maybe even something unexpected happens within your personal life. Whatever happens along life’s journey, keep moving forward; don’t be discouraged just because things aren’t going exactly according to plans made 6 months ago when starting out this journey towards adulthood. You’ve got this!

Before you head off into adulthood, be sure to celebrate your last year of high school with a  senior portrait session in the Maryland and Washington, DC areas! I love providing high school seniors and their families with fun senior sessions and beautiful portraits and products to remember their significant high school achievements!  Let’s chat soon!!

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