WSS interviewed four seniors that plan on working next year instead of attending college.


Most seniors leave high school just to go back to learning for another four years. But not every graduate takes their talent to a University immediately–or ever. West Side Story interviewed four students with three different reasons for taking the road less traveled: working after high school.

The Multi-taskers

Nathan & Noah Armstrong

Though twin brothers Noah and Nathan Armstrong may have different reasons for taking a gap year, they plan to continue to live and work with one another for the following year.

“I’m not quite sure what I want to do later on in life, so [a gap year] is going to give me a bit of a chance to figure out what I want to do and make some money for college in the future,” Noah said.

Nathan knows he wants an education major from UNI eventually, but feels like the timing for taking a gap year is just right.

“There’s not really a lot of times where you can take a break from your education [except] right after your senior year of high school,” Nathan said. “I thought this would be a good time to wait and build up some savings.”

Both brothers currently have jobs; Noah at Hy-Vee, and Nathan at the pool and Culver’s. They plan on keeping their jobs throughout the summer and hope to find more work opportunities in the future.Though it is something their parents have gotten used to, other close friends are a little bit skeptical of the brothers’ future plans.

“A lot of people really want me to go to college because they think I won’t go anywhere in life if I don’t go right away,” Noah said. “It’s kind of what’s been pushed [at] school and what a lot of parents are saying. That you need college if you want to get anywhere [in life]. And that’s not necessarily true. Some people go to college and don’t get the job they want anyways.”

Even though Nathan does plan on going back to school, he still feels judged for taking a year off.

Lots of times they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I wish I would have done that. That would have been a really smart idea.’

— Nathan Armstrong '17

“Most people just assume I’m going to college. They ask, ‘Oh, where are you going next year?’ and they’re surprised when I tell them I’m going to take a year off,” Nathan said. “They usually ask, ‘Why aren’t you going right away?’”

Nathan thinks time away from school will help him enjoy it more, and revitalize him for the four more years he has still to complete.

“I feel kinda burnt out. I don’t feel like I have a great attitude toward school and if I take more time away from school, I feel like I’ll appreciate it more when I go back. I get mixed reviews from people. Lots of times they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, I wish I would have done that. That would have been a really smart idea.’”

The boys will begin the summer in their parents’ house–paying rent–but plan to move into an apartment together once leases begin in August.

“I’m pretty excited to live on my own and not really worry about school for a year, since for 12 I’ve had to worry about school,” Nathan said.  

While Nathan takes a break, Noah will spend some time finding himself.

“I’m looking forward to having some time to myself, figuring out what I want to do. I think it’s going to be a good experience for me and it’ll open up some more things about myself.”

The Worker Bee

Gracie Tovar

Gracie Tovar’s attitude toward her year off is different than most people’s: she’s not doing it because she wants it; she’s doing it because she needs it.

“My mom has always been someone who has made me work for everything I have,” Tovar said. “I pay my own car insurance, pay my own phone bill. And I have to pay for my own college, too.”

Though she works 20 hours a week at Bed Bath and Beyond, her current expenses already make it hard for her to buy things she wants, let alone paying for an education.

“A lot of times it feels like I’m working all the time and never have money, and it’s because it goes towards things that I need,” she said.

If I could have one thing for my senior year it would be to not be asked what I’m doing next year.

— Gracie Tovar '17

Regardless of Tovar’s concrete plans, which include spending some time at Kirkwood before transferring credits to save money, some still doubt her resolve.

“A lot of people are like, ‘You’re going to get lazy and not go back.’ A lot of people are really [judgmental] about it,” she said. “If I could have one thing for my senior year it would be to not be asked what I’m doing next year. A lot of people just expect you to go to college right away. My brother also took a year off.”

Tovar recognizes, though, that she’s much different than her brother in personality and temperament. She truly enjoys learning and doesn’t necessarily want to keep her job forever.  

“I don’t think I want to work retail for the rest of my life, and having a year to just work at Bed Bath and Beyond and deal with customers will encourage me to go back,” she said. “I’ll think, ‘I don’t want to do this forever,’ after doing it for a year.”

Aside from “a lot of work,” Tovar also wants to travel and is going to California to see a cousin in mid-June.

“I already bought a ticket… I bought it a couple days ago and I didn’t ask my mom first, I just bought it,” she said. “And I’m really hoping that’s what the whole year is going to be like. It’s really fun being financially stable and independent. It feels good.”


The Rebel

Cole McKillip

Cole McKillip describes himself as “not a fan of school.” He considered dropping out his sophomore year, and since the beginning of high school he knew college was not on his agenda.

“I don’t want my parents to pay for something that I’m not going to be interested in,” he said. “I couldn’t bring myself to go to class.”

Instead, McKillip plans to work as a custodian at the University of Iowa.

“It’s got great health benefits, I can start building my retirement at 18, and it pays very, very well,” he said.

However, he sees his time as a member of a custodial staff to be just a stepping off point.

“I wouldn’t say that I would want to see myself doing it long term,” he said. “It’s more of just a start. I hope I would move onto something that had something to do with manufacturing.”

Also a guitar player for three years, McKillip would like to be able to do gigs on the side to continue doing music, something he’s been interested in for a while.

If people are interested in college, go right ahead. But just know that you don’t have to do it.

— Cole McKillip '17

McKillip’s family history of going straight into the workforce makes him feel a little more secure with his decision; he doesn’t worry about not being able to find a job or a house. That being said, his mother wants him to stay in the house for another year while he finds his footing.

McKillip considers himself to be going against the main push of society by going straight into the workforce.

“A lot these days, the whole main thing to do in society is go to college and get a degree in whatever you want to do, instead of going against that and trying something out to see if you like the thing you’re doing,” he said. “If people are interested in college, go right ahead. But just know that you don’t have to do it.”