What Are Some Alternatives to College?
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—the college path isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. If any of these examples sound familiar, you’d be smart to consider paving your own pathway to success:
- You’re curious about being independent and gaining real-world knowledge.
- You enjoy working with your hands over studying in a classroom.
- Financially, the high cost of college makes little sense to you.
- You want to add more experience to your resume or explore your options before applying to college.
Do any of these sound like you? If so, think about exploring one or more of these college alternatives.
College Alternative 1: Consider an Apprenticeship
Have you been thinking about a trade career? Does the thought of sitting in a classroom for four more years make you nauseous? Maybe you’re tired of restlessly sitting at a desk when you could be outside building your career. Trade apprenticeships give recent high school graduates the opportunity to learn lifelong skills while earning a paycheck.
Did you know it takes 40 years for a doctor to start making more money than a plumber? In reality, you’ll probably be close to retirement by the time your doctor counterpart reaps the rewards of their many years in college. When you decide to do an apprenticeship, you’ll be on your way of getting the American dream much quicker than your college-going counterparts.
College Alternative 2:
Start Your Own Business
You’ve probably heard the stories before. Successful companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Harley-Davidson and Dell all started in garages.
You don’t need to go to college to start your own business. Sure, a business degree may give you the foundation to start your company, but with the cost of college, you’ll be in the red before you even get your name out. Many communities offer free or low-cost programs that teach young entrepreneurs the basics of running a small business. Who knows, maybe your idea is so good, an investor or mentor will guide you into building something successful.
Bill Gates, Oprah and Steve Jobs all created successful empires without a college degree. Sometimes, you have to take the path less traveled to realize your true success.
College Alternative 3:
Join the Military
Many prospective high school graduates look at the military as a chance to give back to their country. While joining the military can seem daunting, it gives young high school graduates the opportunity to gain a unique understanding of how the world works.
The military isn’t something you have to commit to forever. After a few years, you can choose to stay with the military, or take advantage of the GI Bill and go to college on the government’s dime, instead of paying out of your own pocket.
College Alternative 4:
Are you looking to travel the world? Maybe the college you want to go to is interested in seeing more community involvement on your resume. Or, maybe the typical college route to a big money job isn’t how you define success.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to apply everything you learned in high school to the real world. Organizations like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or Habitat for Humanity provide fulfilling opportunities for high school students who are looking to give back to the world around them.
College Alternative 5:
Take a Gap Year
If you’re getting ready to graduate high school, you’re probably experiencing a lot of conflicting emotions: stress about your future combined with excitement for finally moving on to something new.
Do you have the rest of your life completely planned out? Probably not. That’s OK—few people do, and life is full of surprises!
Many high school students (and adults!) haven’t figured out what they really want to do with their lives. With that in mind, you’re at the perfect point in your life to take a gap year and focus on yourself.
The best part about your gap year is that you can pursue most of the options above: explore an internship or apprenticeship and gain a new skill, travel the world and learn about different cultures, volunteer with local organizations to build experience for your college application or look into starting your own business. There are many doors out there for you to explore before making an expensive, 4-year commitment.