What do we do after high school? Well, this is certainly a loaded question. There are so many options and so little time. Choosing where to further your education is a huge and stressful decision with life-long implications. And for many, staying close to home has a lot of emotional and financial appeal. Luckily, in Thurston County there are quite a few options for continuing education right here in town.
1. The Evergreen State College
One option is The Evergreen State College. “Evergreen is an affordable, well-respected, nearby option,” says Evergreen’s Media and Community Relations Manager, Meryl Lipman. About 70 percent of our students receive financial aid… and about 50 percent of our students graduate with no debt accrued at Evergreen.”
Another defining feature of this state college is that Evergreen students aren’t given letter grades. “Faculty provide written evaluations of student work and progress… and students are not bound by the restrictions of formal majors as they shape their education to meet their academic and career goals,” Lipman says. Evergreen is also in an ideal location for its faculty and students. Lipman explains how, at Evergreen, students use areas like the beach, forest, and Mount Rainer National Park as learning labs. “Evergreen offers rigorous programs in ecology, botany, chemistry, physics, biology, math, computer science and more,” Lipman adds. She also shares how several local and well-known corporations, including Batdorf and Bronson, GRuB, Olympia Coffee Roasters, and the Olympia Food Coop, have been created or owned by Evergreen alumni.
Abby Zulock transferred to Evergreen after attending college in Florida, taking her previously earned credits with her. “I loved the idea of [Evergreen’s] academic program, the fact that they don’t have grades means that students are able to focus more easily on learning because there isn’t as much pressure,” Abby explains. Evergreen give students a wide variety of classes to take while learning in a unique and beautiful environment. It certainly is a great place to grow as a person and find out what you’re passionate about.
2. South Puget Sound Community College
South Puget Sound Community College is another local option that is attractive for students. A large number of high school students attend SPSCC as a part of the Running Start program, allowing them to earn college credit during high school. SPSCC has a wide range of students and faculty members who are there to help and is a great option for anyone wanting to earn a degree or complete their initial two years of a bachelor’s degree without leaving the area.
The college is an open access institution, ready to enroll education seekers. Those who are just out of high school, adults wanting to change careers or who are attending college for the first time, and professionals seeking continuing education are all welcome additions to campus life. “Anyone who wants to work hard and improve their life is welcome,” says SPSCC’s Director of Public Relations and Events, Kelly Green. “SPSCC offers many scheduling and online learning options designed for students who have limited time available but want to further their education,” she explains. SPSCC has the ability to formulate a flexible schedule that can work well for students who have obligations outside of school, making it a smart choice for busy individuals.
3. Saint Martin’s University
Saint Martin’s University is a Benedictine, liberal arts school located in Lacey. The university has an open and beautiful campus surrounded by trees. Saint Martin’s has strong Benedictine traditions and many campus members practice the core values of hospitality, reason, and stewardship. Over the years the school has grown more diverse, bringing in students from out of state, of different ethnicities and religions. There are now 24 faiths represented on campus.
The faculty offers in-depth education for students in many different areas. “We offer an excellent holistic education which prepares students not only to be workers, but to be servant leaders in their community,” says Saint Martin’s Associate Director of Admission, Emilie Schnabel. “Our academic programs are service-minded, engaging students both in and out of the classroom with service opportunities from social work to criminal justice to civil engineering.”
Saint Martin’s faculty and staff seek students who want to contribute to the tight-knit community. “We are looking for students who are prepared to be academically successful in a rigorous setting,” says Schnabel.
Meegan Brown is a resident of Thurston County who chose to go to Saint Martin’s. “I really liked how accessible the teachers were. It is such a small school so the teachers are really big on wanting students to visit during their office hours if someone needs extra help,” Meegan shares.
This is a huge advantage that students who attend smaller schools enjoy. Teachers can be much more accessible. “Students who want to be actively engaged in their education and community and who are looking for a values-based and inclusive atmosphere will find Saint Martin’s to be the perfect choice,” Schnabel says.
4. Trade Schools
Many students, just out of high school or adults, seek a trade school as another option for continuing their education. In Thurston County there are quite a few choices including Bodymechanics School of Myotherapy & Massage and Fosbre Academy of Hair Design, both located in Olympia. Students looking to enter the healthcare field can find certification and training programs at Lacey’s Simmons and Holliday, Inc.
SPSCC is also a great option for those looking at technical certification programs. From personal training to graphic design, from nutritional therapy to construction flagger certification there’s something for everyone at SPSCC.
Those looking to complete a full degree program, but on flexible hours and schedule including online courses can check out Brandman College’s Lacey branch.
Trade schools have smaller class sizes, take less time to complete and often can lead students into direct employment opportunities.
We have solid educational choices right here in Thurston County. The thrill of leaving home and living on your own is strong for some and may cause colleges close to home to be overlooked. However, high quality education and money saved on travel and housing can keep many students looking local for their college experience. If you chose to attend college in Thurston County, you can rest assured that your education will be in good hands.