As a high school graduate taking a year off from school to work for AmeriCorps in East Harlem, New York, Aleena Blankenship is getting a different sort of education.

Like many other students, Blankenship decided to take a year off after high school to ruminate on her college choices while gaining a bit of “real life” experience at the same time.

“There is big pressure on high school seniors (to pick a college), the thought that you’re sort of choosing the rest of your life,” said Blankenship, who graduated from Brunswick High School in 2014. “It’s pretty scary to think about.”

Blankenship is working as a tutor and mentor to inner-city children alongside people from a variety of backgrounds, including some recent college graduates who have advice for her about the selection process.

First of all, they have disabused her of the idea that attending a prestigious, expensive school necessarily funnels you into a more illustrious career, she said.

“It was kind of a wake-up call for me,” Blankenship said, adding that she has become more open-minded about the selection process. “No one is smarter or better at their job based on where they went to college.”