Thinking about life after graduation can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a set plan in mind.

A select few of us knew what we wanted to be when we grew up since career day in kindergarten. If that’s you, that’s awesome! If not, you’re really not alone.

In fact, only 45 percent of high school students feel fully confident and ready in attending college. That means the majority of students aren’t so sure what they want to do.

Today, there are more viable avenues than your parents likely had for a solid career. You will want to receive some sort of specialized training, as it means higher salaries and lower unemployment rates than those with just a high school diploma.

But, a university is not your only option (although it can be a great choice). To help our undecided students, we talked to our Primavera College and Career Specialists and gathered some important information on your options and making a decision.

Check it out.

The most common types of post-secondary institutions:

A Four-Year Public University:

Let’s get this one out of the way since most of us know about it. A public university in Arizona includes Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete and costs about $28,000 annually, if you include books and dorm rooms.



  • Takes the most time to earn a degree. Four years on average.
  • High tuition costs with an average total of $94,000.

A Four-Year Private University:

A private university is very similar to public universities. The curriculum may include religious or other elements, depending on the type of private university. It’s also oftentimes known to be more expensive, although it depends on the university. For Arizona, your main options are Grand Canyon University, Park University and a few other institutions. Tuition alone on average costs about $21,000 annually.


  • Highest average income of $50,000 annually
  • Opportunities to climb in your career
  • Ability to earn a master’s for a potential $61,000 average annual income
  • Often a Monday–Friday only schedule


  • Highest average tuition cost of $120,000 in total.
  • Takes the most time to earn a degree. Four years on average.

A Community College:

A community college allows you to earn an associate degree. This only takes two years to complete, but the average income is $36,000, about 20% less than those with a bachelor’s degree. On the plus side, community college costs about $3,725 in Arizona annually.


  • Tuition cost is an average of $7,450
  • Opportunities to climb in your career
  • Ability to earn a bachelor’s for a potential $46,000 average income
  • Only takes about two years to complete


  • Average income is $32,000 annually for those with an associate degree.

A Trade School:

With a trade school, you graduate with a certificate in a specialized field. These are for those interested in mechanics, repairs, construction or other blue-collar fields. A trade school takes two years to complete with an income of $30,000, compared to a bachelor’s income of $46,000. The cost, on the other hand, is $33,000 in total. It can be free if you decide to attend while in high school.


  • Tuition cost is an average of $33,000 total
  • Certificate only takes two years to earn
  • Quickly receive a higher income of $40,000


  • Climbing opportunities are slightly more limited. After 10 years in the workforce, trade school graduates make about $1,347 less annually less annually than college graduates.
  • The work schedule can be more varied, with night hours or weekends required.
  • More physical labor is generally required (which might not be a con for you).

Things to consider when making your decision

According to Ms. McFarland, a college and career specialist here at Primavera, there are three major things to consider in making your decision:

Academic Prowess

A four-year university is known to be rigorous with large class sizes. For a lot of our online students, staying on task and discipline isn’t a hard task since it’s a skill already learned. If you’d like more personalized support from teachers, a community college could be a better route. It’s not easier, as can be a common misconception, but it’s much cheaper with much smaller class sizes.

A mythology that surrounds Community college is that it does not have rigorous as a university, however, this notion could not be further from the truth. Many Universities have pathway programs that allow students to take their first two years, including 200 level courses, at a community college, before starting the last two years of a four-year degree at a university. This means that those universities consider the academic prowess of community college courses equal to what they offer at a university level for the first two years.” – Ms. McFarland


You may qualify for financial aid and there can be several scholarships available (learn more here). But it’s important to consider how much each path will cost you. We’ve broken it down already, but here are the average costs of schools:

  • Four-year private university: $120,000
  • Four-year public university: $94,000
  • Trade school: $33,000
  • Community college: $7,450

On average, the cost for yearly tuition at a community college is $3,440 versus $9,410 a year at a University level (Collegeboard, 2019). However, there are other costs to consider. If a student is living with their parents, then the cost of living might free up monies to attend a university from the beginning of a degree path. However, a student who does not live at home, has to consider the cost of food, rent, internet, and phone whether or not they are living on campus (university- Often have additional living fees such as internet and food cards) or off-campus (Community college- most do not have on-campus living) in addition to the cost of the courses they need to take. Scholarships, grants, college savings, and family contributions are also factors students need to take into consideration when choosing between a community college and a university. Creating a cost of living budget will help all students to choose the route they should take.


Think about what you want your life to look like? Are you wanting to stay with your parents, or move out? Would you like smaller interactions, or do you enjoy being in a large crowd? All these factors can make an impact on which route you choose.

For many students, socialization is a deciding factor between universities and community college routes. Not all community colleges have the sports teams or the variety of clubs that universities do. Smaller colleges and community colleges, however, do have smaller class sizes that allow students to get to know their teachers and their peers.  Students who are concerned about the socialization factor of college should conduct research into what the colleges around them offer in terms of class size, clubs, online courses, sports or other activities they may be interested in. – Ms. McFarland

Vocational Schools: Earn a trade certificate while in high school

You don’t have to wait until graduation to start career training.

There are vocational schools, like EVIT or West-MEC, where you can attend their trade school (often tuition free) while still in high school. Primavera also offers dual-credit courses (learn more here) to earn college credits, or you can attend community college and earn high school credit for those courses.

To learn more about these different opportunities, reach out to your guidance counselor via email or at 480.456.6678, option 4.

Some information on a few schools you might be interested in:

We host a Digital College Fair every year, to help students learn more about the local college options. Here are a few presentations from our latest event:

Still not sure? Ask a counselor!

Students: If nothing else, remember, your guidance counselor is here to help you! A big part of a guidance counselor’s job is to help you plan out your life after high school.

In fact, Primavera has dedicated College and Career Specialists who are experts in financial aid, college costs and earning scholarships. They know the pros and cons of every route, even if you want to jump into a career or join the military.

Don’t forget to reach out to them. You can find your counselor’s information on your PSP home page, or just give us a call at 480.456.6678, option 4 and we’ll help you find the right person. 🙂

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