It is graduation season around the Pacific Northwest, with thousands of high school seniors picking up their diplomas this week.
KING5 reporter Mitch Pittman found, most graduates are hoping to on to lead happy and productive lives, though how they plan to reach that goal is changing.
While most graduates have had the idea of college drilled into their head the last four years, more and more students are finding that college might not be be the smartest decision.
Many of those graduating are going against the tradition of enrolling immediately into a 4-year college after they collect their high school diploma.
You wouldn't find a mom in the crowd at Rainier Beach High School graduation prouder than Sarah Tuckner. Her son Max plans to go to college, but not right away.
To make his decision, Max used some pretty basic math skills he picked up along the way. "I don't want to graduate college in debt, so therefore I'm going to go to community college the first two years," Max said. "I think a lot more people are doing that now because of the economy and where everything is at."
Tom Halverson, director of the Masters of Education Policy at the University of Washington, expects to see a trend of more kids going a step beyond max and taking a "gap year" to mature and save up money.
"This notion that if you don't go directly from high school directly into a 2 or 4 year institution that you're going to be destined for failure and menial jobs is just wrong. The notion that everyone is equally as well prepared to take advantages of that huge investment is a misguided notion," Halverson said.
A poll of Bothell High School's Class of 2013 shows that less than half of the 447 graduates are going to a four-year school; about 150 are going to a two year college, like Max, and 19 are planning to go right into the workforce.
The Tuckners say it wasn't easy breaking with so-called tradition, but unlike high school, in this new world of higher education, there are no right or wrong answers.
Dr. Halverson pointed out that the "gap year" idea is most successful when there is a structured plan in place to return to school. These days that is more and more attractive since student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt in America.