Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

School's Out! Now What? Choices After High School Graduation

Patricia McDaniels-Gomez, Laura Halstied | Published: September 15th, 2022 by K20 Center


Through small-group activities, research, and discussion, students will be exposed to a variety of careers, along with their average salaries, educational institutions, and postsecondary requirements. Students will learn about a variety of jobs in eight career clusters and the educational institutions' requirements and costs to attend.

Essential Question

What education options are available after high school?

Learning Goal

Students will understand the different postsecondary education options available to them.

Materials List

  • Activity Slides (attached)

  • Card Sort cards (one per class; attached)

  • Card Sort Sample Responses (attached)

  • Graphic Organizer handout (one per student; attached)

  • Postsecondary Jigsaw handout (one per group; attached)

  • Costs and Aid handout (one per group; attached)

  • Reflection handout (one quarter-sheet per student; attached)

  • Student device with internet access (one per group)

  • Butcher paper/poster board (one per group)

  • Highlighters

  • Markers

  • Scissors


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Activity Slides to guide the activity. Begin by displaying slide 3 and summarizing the Fist to Five strategy for students.

Move to slide 4 and read the statement: "Once I graduate, I never want to go to school again." Ask students to hold up one to five fingers depending on their level of agreement with the statement. Reflect on students’ overall response by summarizing how many fingers students held up in general.

Move to slide 5 and explain to students that approximately 65% of jobs require some form of education after high school, and around the same percentage of students go on to attend schooling of some kind after high school. Repeat this process with slides 6-11 by reading the statements and polling students, then providing information to students about the statement.

Review the essential question and learning goal on slides 12-13 with students. Ask students to keep the essential question and learning goal in mind while they are participating in the activity.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 14 and place students into eight groups. Pass out a set of cards from the attached Card Sort handout to each group. Each group is responsible for one career cluster.

Provide each group with a poster board/sheet of butcher paper, markers or other writing utensils, and scissors. Instruct students to cut out their cards and inform them that each group has one of eight career clusters and each cluster has several careers that students will learn more about.

Move to slide 15 and ask students to use the QR codes to review the career information for each of the careers within their cluster. Ask students to write the name of their given career cluster on the top of their poster board and then sort their cards on the poster board to match the following categories:

  • Career title

  • Required education level for the careers

  • Time needed to complete education

  • Career salaries

Use the attached Card Sort Sample Responses document to check student work.

Have students hang up their completed posters on the walls of the classroom.

Review the I Notice, I Wonder and Gallery Walk strategies with students. Move to slide 16 and ask students to walk around the room and review each poster being sure to look at the careers that are available. As they view each poster, have students look for something they notice and something they wonder about the listed careers.

Ask students to return to their desks and share what they notice and wonder with another student. Ask for a few volunteers to share their thoughts. Explain that the listed careers are only a selected number of careers and that even more careers are available within each cluster, these are just meant to be a small sample of careers that can be pursued after high school.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 17, place students into groups of five, and pass out the attached Postsecondary Jigsaw handout to each group. Also, provide each student with an attached Graphic Organizer handout.

Have students divide their packets among the group so that each member has one reading for the five postsecondary institutions following the Jigsaw strategy. Ensure each student has a highlighter.

Explain the Why-Lighting strategy to students. Have students read about their given postsecondary institution, and as they read, highlight any important information that stands out and take notes in the margins explaining why it is important.

After reading and Why-Lighting, have students summarize the most important information about their reading on the Graphic Organizer handout. Provide time for each group member to share what they have learned from their reading. Each student should write down notes about each postsecondary institution on their graphic organizer.

After students have shared within their groups, ask for a volunteer to share a short summary of each of the five postsecondary institutions. Have a short discussion about the different types of postsecondary institutions students can choose to attend after high school.


15 Minute(s)

Pass out a copy of the attached Costs and Aid handout to each group and instruct students to divide it as they did in the previous section (i.e., if a student did the Jigsaw reading for OCCC, they should also receive the Costs and Aid table for OCCC).

Display slide 18 and ask students to review the costs of each postsecondary institution as well as the typical aid that is available at each institution. Allow time for students to compare and contrast the costs and aid of the different institutions within their groups.

Using the S-I-T strategy, ask for each group to share one thing they notice about the cost to attend the institution and the aid that is offered that is surprising, interesting, or troubling. Review the types of aid with students to ensure that they know how financial aid is given.

Clarify with students that these costs and aid amounts are estimates only and are subject to change. Explain that these amounts will also change based on several factors such as enrolled credit hours and FAFSA information.


5 Minute(s)

Move to slide 19 and provide time for students to reflect on all the information they learned about the various postsecondary educational institutions and formulate a POMS, a Point of Most Significance. Have students share their POMS.

Next, have students write their question or response about a program they want to learn more about during their next campus visit. Have students take their reflection response with them on the next campus visit as a reminder of what to ask about and inform their future postsecondary decisions.

Research Rationale

There are many reasons why students choose a postsecondary educational institute to attend. Wyllie found that there were seven main reasons student chose to attend specific colleges: "affordability, availability of a desired program, reputation/academic quality, career outcomes/job opportunities, value of education for cost, feeling of fit, and proximity to home" (2018). Bjurulf found that students chose technical schools/programs for some of those same reasons, but also included an affinity for the field and a parent within that field (2012). Introducing students to the variety of postsecondary education paths they can take after graduation will allow students to make a more informed decision when deciding what to do after high school.