Finishing high school is a significant moment in life. For some, it marks the end of schooling forever, and for others, it marks the beginning of the next level of school. Both of these options are viable choices for what to do after getting that high school diploma, but how do you know what the right choice is for you? And if you’re a parent of a teen — what’s the best next step for your child? Guess what? College isn’t always the right choice, but maybe one of these college alternatives is the right option and a step in a different direction.
Not only can higher education be a difficult choice because of the price, but a college setting and an advanced degree may not be for everyone. And you know what? That’s OK. It’s also normal not to know what the hell to do after high school and take a break before figuring it out. Heck, you could take a 20-year hiatus and go to college in your 40s if you want. There’s no wrong answer! To help you out, here are some college alternatives you can consider when making these choices.
Can you be successful without college?
It is possible to be successful in life without going to college. Not only do many jobs not require a college degree, but living without college debt can also lead to great things. In addition, the lack of debt could set you up better financially as life progresses, and it’s going to alleviate some stress that you probably don’t want on your shoulders.
And before you start to worry that the jobs available to people without a college degree might not be appealing, don’t. You can work in many fields and earn top dollar without a degree. Some of them may require formal training — jobs like flight attendant or chef — but you don’t necessarily need that undergrad degree.
How do you know if college is the right choice for you?
There’s a lot to consider when looking at college, and trying to figure out if you want to go to college right out of high school can be a daunting decision. One thing to consider is the cost. Colleges can cost anywhere from a few grand to a few hundred thousand, depending on the school, and that alone can be highly prohibitive for many students or families to shoulder. For example, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a public four-year college for the 2019 school year was almost $21,000. The average cost of a private four-year college for that same school year was nearly $45,000. These numbers are a steep increase from even ten years prior, and the numbers are only continuing to go up. These are averages, though, and don’t account for the difference in price if you’re an out-of-state student, for example. So right off the bat, the price is something to consider.
Here are some other avenues that might be right for you:
- Community college. An alternative to a four-year college, considering the price, is a community college. These tend to be more affordable and offer an introduction to higher education. At these schools, you can usually earn an associate’s degree. From there, you can transfer to a four-year college to get a bachelor’s degree or stick with an associate’s.
- No college. You can also consider whether or not you want to go to college. After high school, you could immediately enter the workforce, whether it’s because college isn’t a viable option at the time or you know you want to get straight to work. The beauty of college is that it will always be there for you, and you could choose to attend school later. Maybe it’ll be a year or two after high school, or perhaps you’ll decide to get a degree later in life.
- An online college. An online college is also an option that is sometimes more affordable and easier to fit into a busy schedule. An online university could allow you to either work while doing online classes or even start a family while earning a degree.
- Apprenticeship. Use your networking skills to score an apprenticeship or internship. This is when you gain job-based learning or training from someone already in the field you want to join.
- Real estate. You do not need a four-year degree and can make a high salary. Depending on the state, you’ll have to take few real estate courses and a state licensing test to start.
Is a trade school a good alternative for college?
Trade schools are a great alternative to a traditional four-year college. Like community colleges, trade schools are usually lower in cost, making them more attainable for many prospective students. Plus, you might find that a trade school offers all the training you need for the field you want to go into — no undergraduate degree required.
What are some jobs that don’t require a college degree?
College isn’t always the best option for some, and it’s not the only path to a steady salary or a job you’re passionate about. There are so many gigs that don’t require a degree that can still end up being your dream job. So, if you’re still looking for something that fits your interests, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Want to have a better idea of what your options are? We rounded up some careers and jobs that don’t require a college degree.
- Advertising sales agent
- Air traffic controller
- Computer network support specialist
- Computer programmer
- Dental assistant
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
- Graphic designer
- Home health aid
- Massage therapist
- Medical records clerk
- Nuclear technician
- Pharmacy technician
- Police officer
- Repair technician
- Software applications developer
- Vocational nurse
- Web developer
- Wholesale and manufacturing sales representative
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for what to do after high school. It’s a topic of discussion for parents and children to have together at that time and for everyone to decide what the next step might be — maybe it’s college, perhaps it’s work, perhaps it’s just a break. There’s nothing wrong with any of these choices.
What happens if I drop out of college?
Some people learn college isn’t for them while attending. So if you find you need to leave your institution, here are a few things you should know. One, it’s OK. College isn’t for everyone, and sometimes it takes experiencing it to realize that. Two, be mindful of your student loans. Just because you withdrew does not mean the loans disappear. But there is a grace period, so it’s important to find out when it ends so you can begin paying down your debt.
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