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Life After High School: 4 Alternatives to College

Going to college right after high school is not for everyone and that is okay. The important thing is that you are constantly learning and growing as a person. Actress Natalie Portman once said, “I don’t love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.” Learning is beautiful and people learn in different ways. Some may find learning in a four-year college, while others may find it in volunteer work. That is the beauty of learning–it is everywhere. If you feel like college may not be the right path for you, here are four alternatives to college.


1. Volunteer

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

If you are unsure about your future and the idea of college, volunteering could be an option for you. Not only is it a great way to give back and do some good in the world, but it also teaches you about compassion, humility and selflessness. Through volunteer work, you can learn about social issues, and gain a great amount of life and work experience.

Here are a few programs that might interest you:

AmeriCorps: Here, you can volunteer to become a mentor, build homes, clear trails and many more. Members serve in nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups. There are many programs within AmeriCorps such as the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and AmeriCorps State and National.

Habitat for Humanity: In this program, volunteers build homes worldwide for those in need.

If the two above does not interest you, check out Idealist.org for more volunteer opportunities.

Lastly, look around locally and see if there are any organizations that you would like to get involved with.

2. Travel

If you’re tired of being in one place and want to explore the rest of America or the world, traveling may be an option for you. Immersing yourself in a new place gives you a chance to learn new languages and cultures. Plus, traveling may even inspire you to come up with amazing ideas. If you have money saved up, there are many websites to help you travel on a budget–Google is your best friend. If you don’t have money saved up, find working opportunities that will allow you to travel such as an au pair or a cruise/yacht worker.

A great program called Uncollege is another option. The program allows you to live abroad, gain real life experiences, and develop learning skills for your professional and personal life. The curriculum is broken down into four stages consisting of living abroad for two months, staying in a residential program for ten weeks, doing an internship and completing a project.

3. Get a job

Perhaps you just want to start working after high school. Nothing is more adult than getting a full-time job. Find companies that you are interested in working for and look for entry-level job opportunities there. Those stories of working in the mailroom and moving up in a company do happen, ladies and gents. Get your foot in the door and work hard. Working hard and earning the respect of your co-workers might give you a chance to move up.

4. Trade School

If you always wanted to be a mechanic or an electrician, going to trade school is for you. Find something you are good at or enjoy doing and do it well. Going to trade school allows you to learn the necessary skills for a very specific skilled labor job. The upside to learning a trade is that jobs are a bit easier to find. According to Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, there has been a shortage of skilled workers. The demand is there. People will always need a good construction worker or mechanic.

It is also worth mentioning that if you are interested in learning a trade while you are in high school, try enrolling in Regional Occupational Program classes. ROP provides free classes and programs for high school students to learn about skilled jobs. They do, however, cost money once you are out of high school.


Through these alternatives, it is possible to find yourself, your passions and what you want to do in life. Some alternatives could lead you to a long-term career, while some can help you transition into the type of career you desire. So stay curious and whatever you decide to do after high school, make sure you never stop learning.