Education, News

10 Alternatives To Going To College

The American education system has been geared in one direction for the last century : Sending students to pursue higher education. College is typically considered the best way for students to obtain a well-paying job, and tends to be looked at as the best route a student can take on his or her way up the ladder of success.


Recently, the focus has shifted, and there seems to be a movement towards alternative forms of education. Programs, even academic ones, are looking to the real world for inspiration to help their students become successful. At the high school level, college is no longer the be-all and end-all of secondary education. It is now one of many paths students can take in order to be successful.

When college isn’t the right fit

For some students, college simply is not the right fit. The cost, the approach, the preference for theory over application and many other factors might make it an unattractive option. Others might need to get into the work force as soon as possible, while some are forced to attend college because of the stigma attached to not attending. They opt for the route of least resistance.

College requires a certain mind set along with good grades. For those who are not attracted to college or feel as though it has no practical use, there are alternatives.

Instead of College

If you do not want to attend traditional college, consider the following alternatives.

  1. Start your own business: If you are an entrepreneur at heart, this is the answer. Put together a comprehensive business plan and run with it. Don’t forget the initial costs. Many successful Americans have followed this path, for example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
  2. Become an artist: If you are interested in the arts, follow your passion. It may take a rather long time to establish yourself in this highly competitive field, but it is possible.
  3. Join the military: For some, the military is the perfect solution. It combines life experiences with the chance to attend college at a later date for without the burden of student loan debt.
  4. Trade/vocational school or community college: While academics may frown or look down at trade or vocational school, they can provide the perfect route to a respectable and well-paying trade in a world that needs services from cooking to plumbing. At community college, you can also learn a trade, such as nursing.
  5. Apprenticeship: It sounds like something from Medieval times, but becoming an an apprentice means you will learn the skills and tricks of the trade while working. You will even be paid while you learn.
  6. Enter the work force: If you don’t know what you want to do with your life or how you envision your career, why not get a job for a year. You can earn money while working out where you see yourself down the road. You can save for school or take advantage of any of the opportunities that the entry level job may bring your way.
  7. Online courses: If you want to continue academic or even practical learning but can’t afford to go to school, consider what is available online. You can choose from a wide variety of courses, as MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are becoming increasingly popular. Some courses will be free, and some will offer credits, while others will not.
  8. Real estate agent: Consider obtaining a real estate license. Depending upon the condition of the real estate market in your area, it could offer you the chance to establish yourself in a well-paying career.
  9. Attend a bootcamp: If you have the time and the money, as well as an interest in coding, you may want to consider attending a coding or programming bootcamp. This will rush you through practical and theoretical training towards a job in a field with high demand.
  10. Travel or work abroad: If you aren’t sure what you want to do next, take some time off to travel or work abroad, if you have the means. There are plenty of opportunities to work in other countries teaching English or working as an au pair, where you can learn a new language and another culture.

Make a choice

If you do not want to go to college after high school, don’t. There are many viable alternatives to college, so avoid the pressure you may receive to follow the traditional route. Make your plans clear and follow through!

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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.