What to Do After High School: 10 Alternatives to Starting College

Lost about what to do after high school? As much as society wants to push higher education on you, it is simply not for everyone. There are so many options out there for high school seniors who don’t want to attend a four year university, or who would prefer to gain real-life or working skills before going to college. Here are ten things you can do after you graduate from high school.

1. Get a job.

Although it may feel like it’s hard to get a good-paying job with just a high school diploma, there are jobs out there. Most of the highest-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree still require some sort of training, but some of those positions provide on-the-job training. Examples may include bus drivers and train operators, casino game managers, and home health aides.

If you can’t find anything that interests you, take a job as a barista, waitress, or retail worker in your favorite store. If you’re into books, get a job at a bookstore. If you like games, ask at your local gaming store. Find a job related to your already existing hobbies. Not only will you have more fun, you’ll also be more likely to open yourself up to advancement opportunities.

2. Do an internship.

Thousands of internships exist, so there’s probably one near you that fits your skill set. Aim for a paid position that will give you real-world experience in an industry you’re interested in. Even if it is unpaid, you can use your time to network, make connections, and learn about potential future careers.

3. Join a service organization like AmeriCorps.

Spending a year in service to others can help you discover your passions and may lead to your future career path. If you want to stay close to home, AmeriCorps may be a good place to start. There are many different AmeriCorps programs all over the United States, including ones where you can work teaching children, cleaning up after natural disasters, or supporting local non-profits.

Each program has different admission requirements, so make sure to check the requirements for the program you are interested in. For most programs, you must be at least 17 or 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and be a U.S. citizen.

AmeriCorps members are provided with a modest living stipend in exchange for their service. After a term of service (usually about a year), you will also receive an education award of up to $6,195, which can be applied to current or future student loans at almost any college, university or technical program. That means that if you decide to attend school at a later date, you’ll already have some money saved up.

Becoming an AmeriCorps member does not pay well in terms of monetary payment; however, you will walk away with invaluable skills and experiences. Some former members have been lucky enough to get hired at their service sites!

4. Attend classes at a community college.

You might not be ready for a four year college or university, but that doesn’t mean

you can’t take some classes to further your education. Many students attend

community college for a year or two just to take some core classes at a lower cost

than a four year school. Others might take a class or two to get their feet wet.

You should also consider taking community education classes to pursue your

interest in things like a foreign language, creative writing, or film studies as well.

Even if you don’t go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree, you’ll have new

knowledge and skills for the rest of your life.

5. Join the military.

Joining the military is always an option if you are looking for a way to make a

difference while receiving valuable career skills. In the Army, for example, you

can train for valuable STEM jobs in engineering, technology, science, and even

web design.

Other benefits of joining the military include free rent, housing, and health

insurance. You’ll likely get to see parts of the world you might otherwise not see

and meet like-minded people in the process.

Of course, joining the military isn’t for everyone. You’ll have to meet certain health

requirements to enroll. You’ll also have to be willing to sacrifice much of your time

and energy to serving your country, especially in times of conflict. However, a lot of individuals find a military career very rewarding.

6. Start a business.

The reality is, you don’t need a business degree in order to become an

entrepreneur. Take, for example, Lani Lazzari, who was a junior in high school

when she began making sugar scrubs as a way to tame her eczema. She

decided not to attend college to start a business. In 2013, her

business exploded thanks to an appearance on the TV show Shark Tank. Simple

Sugars went on to make 2.5 million dollars in sales in 2015, all because Lani

decided to follow her dream.

You probably won’t have instant success, and you may not end up on Shark Tank,

but that doesn’t mean you won’t succeed. Some people have a natural business

sense and a way with numbers that will take them far. If that sounds like you,

consider starting a small business and see where it goes!

7. Attend a trade school.

If you’re good working with your hands or have experience with a trade like

plumbing, welding, or working on cars, you may want to consider a trade school.

Trade schools are usually less expensive alternatives to a four year school. Most

programs will prepare you for the workforce in two years or less.

You may also be able to pursue a career as a nursing assistant or dental

hygienist at your local trade school. If you love working with people and want to

work in one of the helping professions, this may be a good way to start. Many

people eventually decide to get the additional training required for higher-paying

careers such as LPN’s or RN’s.

There will always be a need for laborers, electricians, welders, cosmetologists,

and mechanics. A trade school can lead to a very stable and rewarding job.

8. Do an apprenticeship.

Like trade schools, apprenticeships can provide learn amazing opportunity to train in jobs such as electricians, plumbers, and chefs. An apprenticeship is essentially on-the-job training combined with classroom work to maximize your learning potential in a short period of time.

Many local unions have apprenticeship programs. Unlike with trade schools, you don’t have to pay a dime for this training. In fact, you’ll work and get paid for doing it!

Apprenticing is hard work, but if you have the aptitude and work ethic you can nail a good paying job through one of these programs.

9. Join Job Corps

Job Corps might be a good option for you if you don’t feel like you’re a good fit for

college, experiencing financial hardship, or don’t feel qualified to find a job. Since

1964, Job Corps programs throughout the United States have helped almost two

million young people get academic, vocational, and life skills training.

You must be between 16 and 24 years old to join the Job Corps. Once enrolled, you

can take career training classes in anything from automotive and machine repair

to culinary arts. Before exiting the program, a councilor will help you with your job


10. Take a gap year to travel.

If you can afford to travel, use your free time to see exotic corners of the world, explore other cultures, and meet interesting people. “Backpacking across Europe” may be a cliche in popular culture, but there are plenty of cultural exchange opportunities to be found all over the world.

If you’re feeling lost about what to do next, research some of these options and decide which one is best for you. No matter what you decide to do after graduation, make it count! Practice your skills, gain some new ones, and set yourself up for success in the future.

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