Blogger Natalie K., a high school junior from Colorado, will be sharing some of the issues teens today face with YALSAblog readers…if you’re a young person who would like to write for the YALSAblog,‘ let us know!

As a junior in high school, I am constantly hearing college jargon: “scholarships”, “accepted”, “declined”, “in-state”, “out-of-state”. Say any one of these words to someone in my grade, and they will instantly have loads to say.

But ask my peers about a path after high school separate from college, and their lips will go still. A large part of society today views college as the one and only option. It is as if it is the solitary key to unlocking a bright future.

What society fails to realize is that there are other keys. There’s the jagged, brass vocational key. ‘ There’s the shiny, silver military key. There’s the bronzed apprenticeship key. And there’s even the sharp, copper job key.

Realizing that there are other options out there besides college will be a large step in moving away from America’s steep descent into debt. Youth aged 18-23 can make a contribution to society, rather than spiraling downward with college debt with expensive loans and a degree they can’t put to practical use after four years.

There is a common misconception that a college degree will equal a better life, but this doesn’t always prove true anymore. College students are graduating now with a hole in their pocket and a hole in their resume where a more worthwhile degree or more practical experience could be. Meanwhile, many pupils that chose a track separate from college often end up, four years later, with more money than they left high school with…

Ultimately, the door to the future fits all kinds of keys: Jagged, silver. Copper, bronze. Expensive, inexpensive. In-state, out-of-state.

The real question for teens is: what will your key be?