After graduating high school, many students think their only option is to go to college. In fact, it’s the direction that many parents steer their children out of the notion that a college education is necessary to be successful.
But college isn’t for everyone, and a degree is certainly not “do or die” when it comes to financial success.
In fact, there are plenty of college alternatives — especially in our constantly evolving global economy. Let’s look at seven of the most popular alternatives.
Attend Vocational School
If you don’t want to go to college for four years, but you want to get training for a job, you might consider going to vocational school. A vocational or trade school can help you get the skills that are required for a specific job. For example, you can get specialized training in programs like culinary or automotive repair.
In general, a trade school or vocational school program lasts two years, but there are some programs that last longer. Still, the education is typically more specific to a job than if you’d gone to a four-year college or university.
Though most of the classes taken at a vocational school are strictly related to the job program, there may be some basic math and english classes required. If your chosen job requires a certification, you’ll be able to take the necessary tests after completing vocational school.
Join the Military
Going into a branch of the military is one of the most obvious alternatives to attending college. There are five branches of military that you can choose from: The Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and the Navy. When you join the military, you receive room and board and a salary in exchange for your service.
The military also offers education benefits so if you choose to go to college at a later time, some or all of it can be paid for through the military. You can retire from the military and live just as comfortably, and in some cases more comfortably, than someone who went to college.
You can find out more information about the military (and how to find scholarships) from each of the military branches:
- www.usmma.edu (U.S. Merchant Marine)
- www.ang.af.mil (Air National Guard)
- www.1800GoGuard.com (Army National Guard)
Start Your Career
You don’t have to go to vocational school or enlist in the military. You could go straight into the workforce after graduating high school. Plenty of people have landed entry-level positions with only a high school diploma and have worked their way through the ranks of a single company.
Make sure to subscribe at the end of this article, as we’ll be publishing more articles directly related to career choices, including the next one on this list.
Start a Business
Starting a business is often seen as something that involves “big whigs”, suits, type-a personalities and plenty of money to invest with. But that’s not how all businesses start.
If you have a few thousand saved up, then you should seriously consider starting your own business. Business has changed drastically in the last few decades with the advent of the computer and the Internet. Aside from just being an “alternative” to going to college, starting a business can also provide you with an extremely different lifestyle than that of someone “with a job.”
Get an Internship
If you have an idea about the field you’d like to work in, but aren’t quite sure, you might get an internship to get an idea of what working in that field would be like. An internship is a temporary position that gives you on-the-job training. They can be paid or unpaid.
The primary purpose of interning is to give you hands on experience in a specific field. That can help you decide whether you’d actually like to work in that field before you invest in four years of college.
Join the Family Business
If your family has a business, you could get a position there rather than going to college or joining the military. But don’t think working in the family business is a free ride. Just because your family owns the business doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in. You have to work just as hard to make the business successful as if you were working at someone else’s company.
Volunteer for a Non-Profit
You could lend your time to a non-profit organization. There are exciting volunteer opportunities available for young people who aren’t quite sure about whether they’re ready to go to college. The Americorps allows people between 18 and 24 to volunteer across the country.
While you volunteer with the Americorps, you’ll receive a small living allowance as well as health benefits and child care. When you’re done with your term, you can receive as much as $4,725 to use toward more education. Or, you can join the Peace Corps and travel to a foreign country for two years. Similar to the Americorps, the Peace Corps gives you a living stipend and other benefits.
College is a huge step for most, and can often be the key to a secure lifestyle, a strong income and a ticket to the middle class. But don’t be fooled: it’s not the only option available. A high school senior has been in school for a total of 13 years by the time he graduates. Is another four years of school really necessary to secure future income and job security? Not at all. There are post-high school options outside of going to college.
If you’re looking to still go to college and consider your options and costs for getting a higher education, then read the rest of the articles in How to Pay for College.