N.J. Mom Contemplates School Choices for Her Career-Oriented Daughter

(This is a guest post by Aggie Sung, a certified early education teacher whose passion is in children’s books that teach young learners to express themselves through art, words, and motion. Her books include “Mommy Duck.” She resides in Princeton, N.J.)

The world is changing fast. Because of ice melt in the Arctic Ocean, ships are no longer obligated to use the Panama Canal to get from one side of the planet to the other. Estimates show that by 2030 ice-breaking cargo ships will be able to travel through the North Pole. By 2045, predictions say regular ships will go through the same routes. 

Education is changing just as fast. As teachers say, the classroom is a microcosm of the community the students live in. In this day and age, the community is simultaneously local and global. Case in point: the College Board reports that in 2007 there were 3,261 students who took the Chinese AP exam. In 2016, 12,524 students took the exam. For the Spanish AP, 116,520 students tested in 2007, and in 2016, 155,258 students took the exam. 

As a parent, I found another change in education. My child wants to work right after high school and have the famous gap year. However, she doesn’t want to waitress or bartend but take a  low-level entry job in the sciences. She thinks she wants to be a part of a veterinary hospital, but she’s not sure. She just knows that she likes science more than any other subject in school and she’s not sure if she wants to go to college.

Not go to college? That thought had not occurred to me. But with the rising cost of tuition, I’m starting to question the necessity of attending college. After all, the majority of the reason is to find a good job. There are lots of data backing up this point.  Is it possible for someone to enter sciences without a college degree? In today’s Monster.com and Indeed.com reality, a practical skill with some sort of certification seems to help get a job-seeker get through the computer-based search and filter algorithms. When the job-seeker is 18 and has no experience, those licenses and certificates become even more important.

Coming from experience in the engineering and science fields, I know that,  from a sheer probability point of view, my daughter needs a college degree in a science and an advanced degree if she wants to make it as a scientist. I took a look at all the options available for my older daughter’s high school choices that would land her an entry level job in the sciences. I had to spend some time googling for high schools that might yield a lab job by providing some sort of certificate or license. Here are some choices for me as a parent:


School Science Selective Admission Licensure Availability College level ready Exploration Tuition (2017-2018) Geographically feasible
Traditional Public School No specific program, but meets requirement No No Yes Yes Property Taxe Yes
Stuart Country Day ( all girls) STEM program Yes No Yes Yes $37,900 Yes
Lawrenceville School Hutchings Scholar Program for science research Yes No Yes Yes $52,365 Yes
Hun School STEM Scholars Track Yes No Yes Yes $39,900 Yes
George School Cultural focus on inquisitiveness and independent thinking Yes No Yes Yes $39,000 Marginal
Pennington School Applied Science Certification Program Yes Maybe Yes Yes $38,100 Yes
Middlesex County’s Allied Health and Biomedical Science Academy Science Academy Only Middlesex County residents will be considered (performance and test based admissions) Maybe Yes Yes Property taxes Yes, but requires family to move
Middlesex County’s Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Technologies Science Academy Only Middlesex County residents will be considered (performance and test based admissions) Maybe Yes Yes Property taxes Yes, but requires family to move
Mercer County’s Health Science Academy Science Academy Only Mercer County residents will be considered

(interest based admissions)

Maybe Yes Yes Property taxes Yes
Mercer County’s STEM Academy Science Academy Only Mercer County residents will be considered

(interest based admissions)

Maybe Yes Yes Property taxes Yes


I included the Middlesex science academies as choices because they have an incredible reputation for teaching kids science. Also, the college acceptance rate and the college programs the students enter are impressive. Since we live in Mercer County, I am more than willing to move to Middlesex if my daughter indicates a firm commitment to science or engineering. But I am not thrilled about the prospect of moving to Middlesex County just because she wants a chance of being accepted to one of their science academies. The probability of being accepted is better than a lottery, but the chances are still low enough that moving seems somewhat of an overkill solution.

On paper, the Pennington School seems to be the closest to get that job done. Unfortunately, the tuition makes it impossible for me.

Fortunately, I also know that the Mercer County Technical Schools offer half-day programs to juniors and seniors where they can get a degree from their traditional high school and a certificate that would allow students to apply for an entry-level job. These are public schools paid for by taxes. Over breakfast before school started, we went through the dozen or so programs that they offer, like Architectural and Engineering Design, Criminalistics and Criminal Science, and Horticulture and Turf Management.

My daughter’s reaction to the last selection was “Turf Management? That’s a thing?” Yeah it’s a thing.

After going through all the programs, I discovered that my middle-schooler is firmly entrenched in practicality and I am the dreamer. I see her contributing to the world; her education helps her help others. She just wants a job out of high school so she make money and put herself in the right direction. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Going through the list, it seems Criminalistics and Criminal Science would yield a low-level entry lab job because it has a laboratory component. My next step: I’ll be giving Mercer County Technical Schools a call.


What do you think?

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