Is College Right For Me?: An Interview with Joshua Heintz


US Naval Academy Graduation (Public Domain)

Josh is a Catholic father of five. He graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences from Northwest Missouri State University, earning his degree in wildlife ecology and conservation. Nearly all his college tuition was paid by the GI Bill and state tuition assistance through the Missouri Air National Guard as enlistment incentives. Josh served in the Missouri Air National Guard for 22 years and was a Wildlife Biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation for 10 years. Currently he works full time as a Federal Technician in the Guard.

Isabel: What alternatives are there to college?
Mr. Heintz: 1) Enter straight into the workforce Well, you don’t have to go to college. You can go right into the workforce. That’s the easiest and simplest way to do things: get out of highschool and then just continue on with the job that you already have or find another job that seems like a more career-type job that’s got benefits and a retirement plan and stuff like that. There are an infinite amount of good career opportunities that require no college degree.

2) Trade school Trade school is a good way to further your education. The nice thing about trade school is they will typically place you in a career-type field at the end of their program based on your strengths, weaknesses, and interests that you’ve shown throughout trade school. Often trade school’s tuition ends up being mitigated by the internship-type opportunities that you have during them. Let’s pretend like it’s a welding school. You could be doing some minion-type welding work for an actual welder, not for pay, but to learn the trade. Instead of paying you, he would pay the trade school back for “loaning you out” to them. That would be your tuition for the trade school. Not every trade school is like that, but that’s a benefit to trade school. My definition of trade school would be that it’s a specific course that teaches you how to do a certain job. Not just a broad-range thing; you would be learning how to be a good laborer at whatever particular trade your trade school was for.

3) Internships [Internships] are sort of like an augment to college or a trade school most of the time. It’s usually an aside or an elective you would do to get credit towards some sort of certificate or degree. They usually go along with certain types of further education. What usually happens is that somebody will form an internship during the summer when they have a break. It’s on-the-job training where the intern gets very minimal pay. They’re really just there for the experience but they will get some college credit for it.

4) Religious vocation I think seminary is more like another kind of college. It would be some sort of theological degree. But the nuns that I’m familiar with in my life were educators. So they probably got quite a bit of schooling on educating children. That would be something along the lines of psychology and learning how to be patient with kids and how to teach in different styles. The education of those called to the religious vocation, in my understanding, could be almost like another kind of college with an emphasis on the religious side of things.

5) Apprenticeships Apprenticeships are kind of like a trade school without the tuition. An apprentice typically is a very low paid helper of a craftsman of some sort. For example, if you are in power transmission (you work on power lines), you have a guy who’s very experienced in that and he typically has a truck and an apprentice or two. The apprentice is not nearly as well paid; they’re just learning the trade and putting in the time. This is another way to enter the workforce directly.

6) Military So how the military assesses its recruits is through the ASVAB*. This is a test that has several categories and it places you in the giant pool of everyone who has taken the ASVAB. It shows which areas your strengths are in. Your strengths might be electrical or administrative or mechanical or mathematical or something along those lines. How you score on the ASVAB either opens up your doors or closes your doors to the different branches of the military. With the highest scores you can get into any of the branches you would want. If you go into active duty, they will probably place you in a career field that aligns with those strengths found on the ASVAB. The higher scores will get you into the Navy, Space Force, or the Air Force. The lower scores will get you into the more on-the-ground forces like the Army and the Marines. The military is a very maturing experience. Also the military would give you incentives to join. A lot of times that financial aid helps you go to college. So the military could be a supplement to college or even a route to get to college.
*ASVAB: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery

Isabel: What are the job options like out of college compared to the job options out of trade school?
Mr. Heintz: It depends on the trade school and the career field that it is tailored to, but most of them are pretty pinpoint. So you might have a very high employment opportunity and a very specific salary and a better opportunity for a higher salary. But if you go the college route you have a broader scope of knowledge. College is more like an intellectual-type experience.
For example, say you went to an interview for a job you went to a trade school to achieve. Typically there are going to be very technical questions about the job and they will try to figure out just how deep your knowledge is in that one arena. If you go to a job interview for something that you got a degree in some field for, the interviews will be very broad and situation-based with no technicalities. It’s more relational. They really just want someone that works well with other people and who they can teach the specific ins and outs of the job. So with college you will have a broader range of employment opportunities but not necessarily a greater opportunity of becoming employed.

Isabel: What should I do if I can’t decide what to do in life after high school?
Mr. Heintz: So there’s always the military of course, but if you haven’t decided what to do, college is still an option. You don’t have to go to a specialized college or even a university. A lot of times the higher-priced colleges and universities will accept general education courses, or gen eds, from a much cheaper institution like a community college or an online program. Gen eds are typically required for all degrees so if you haven’t decided exactly what you want to do, getting those gen eds out of the way on the cheap at a community college is always an option. Now remember that you can enter the workforce right away someplace, keeping in the back of your mind at all times that this is not what you’re going to do forever. A lot of times it seems like people get a job because they need a job and they go work somewhere that they don’t really enjoy and then they can’t find a way out of it. You can start to feel trapped, but I think that that is really just a mindset. As long as you go into this gap period with the mindset of discernment, and you always understand in your own mind that you’re not going to be trapped in whatever it is you’re doing right now, then you’ll be fine. Really, the limits that we put on ourselves at the point in life that we are talking about right now are completely self-imposed.