Choosing alternative paths after high school

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In recent decades, going to college after graduation has become the norm. It’s just the “right” step to take after high school. In many cases it is. But, that does not necessarily mean it’s the right choice for everyone. Some teens choose to take a year or two off before continuing their education, while others jump right into the workforce. If your teen is looking to explore other options, check out these alternatives and help your young adult determine the best route to pursue.

Learn a trade

Apprenticeships, at one time, were the only way for young people to get a foot in the door to their careers. If youngsters have an interest in a particular trade, such as technology or construction, they can seek out jobs in the trade that will not only provide them with valuable experience but also guide  them toward advancement by helping you with the certifications or licenses you need to succeed.

Get a job

Nothing helps more with that transition to adulthood than holding down a full-time job. The goal should be to move away from the companies that typically hire teens for part-time work to employers that can provide a future. 

Sell real estate

Becoming a real estate agent is one of the best options out there for young adults not interested in four years of college, but who are interested in high income potential. For generally under $1,000, you can take a couple months of real estate courses, take a state licensing test, and start selling homes. Real estate agents, on average, make $42K a year. But the income potential is much higher than that. You get as much out of the career as you put into it.

Start a business

There are over 22 million individuals who are self-employed in the U.S., with no employees other than themselves. That’s about fourteen percent of the entire American workforce. With drive, initiative, and a quality product, it may be more attainable than you think to make it on your own. In fact, some of the most successful individuals of the 20th and 21st centuries were entrepreneurs without a college degree.

Become a volunteer

While you are trying to find your place in the world, why not spend those first few years after high school making a difference? While you may be familiar with the Peace Corps, they actually prefer college graduates, so high school grads  might instead consider looking locally to make a difference or consider such national programs as Americorps, which offers seventeen to twenty-four year-olds the chance to make a difference through a national network of hundreds of programs throughout the U.S., as well as the Student Conservation Association. 

Travel the world

Traveling to one or more foreign countries is a great way to experience other cultures, learn more about yourself, and equip yourself with cultural knowledge to apply in the global economy. If you have some money, you can find innovative and cheap ways to explore the world. If kids don’t have the money, they can look into student exchange programs, employment on cruise ships, or becoming an au pair or nanny for a family in another country.

Attend community college or vocational school

A great way to ease into college and explore more about who you are and what you want to do in life is taking one or more classes at your local community (or technical) college. Classes are cheaper and admission much easier — and many students work at least part-time to pay their way. You can either take a few classes, follow a dipolma or certification track, or advance toward your associate’s degree. Many community colleges have agreements with four-year colleges, so that if you decide college IS right for you, you can then transfer those credits.

Attend a work college 

This option is close to being just another 4-year college, but with one crucial difference. You are actually required to work ten to fifteen hours a week to help pay your tuition. Because of that, at these work colleges, you pay significantly less in tuition, and in a few cases, you pay no tuition. There are only seven federally recognized work college in the country, so your options are a bit more limited, but they are definitely worth considering.

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Join the military

Joining the military is often a great way to learn more about yourself. Joining the military offers you a chance to serve your country, make a career in the service, and/or earn money toward a future college education. You’ll also earn valuable work experience that can you can apply to civilian jobs once you get discharged.

Take a gap year

The concept of taking a gap year before college is popular with European students, who often combine half a year of work with half a year of travel before entering college. The idea is catching on here as well, though American students typically take a more structured approach. The American Gap Association offers an extensive listing of accredited gap year programs, many service oriented. Some four-year universities in the US offer admission deferment specifically for gap year programs. 

Take online courses

Online college-level courses have boomed in the last couple years, While YouTube and a variety of websites freely offer lectures for the public to consume, many others offer certificates of completion, and with a small fee, those certificates can be university-verified. More and more of these online learning institutions are gaining increased credibility and become mainstream options for graduated high schoolers.

The education experience does not always have to consist of a straight path that goes from preschool to college. It’s okay to take a detour or climb some mountains along the way!

Author: Mona Chabra