What To Do After High School – Without College!

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Graduating high school and you have no idea what to do after high school?

Well, first it is important that you know – you are not alone.

We are all told that getting a bachelor’s degree from college is the best way to land a future career, but that is just not true anymore. With colleges being unaffordable for most and with no guarantee of a well-paying or stable career, it is natural to want to consider alternatives.

So, if you are here – and have no interest in college, it is A-OK! Whether you are looking for a different path, or maybe something to do while you take a gap year – below are so many options for you.

what to do after high school

What To Do After High School – No College Required

Whether you can take advantage of some of these options will depend largely on your support network and financial situation.

But, all of these are options for what you can do after high school offer great opportunities for growth, learning, and possible a long term career doing something you love.

1. Go straight to work

OK, I am going to be honest here. While you can absolutely get a job right out of high school, it will not be a well-paying job in most cases. Of course, if you worked during high school and plan on just diving into a job in the same industry you may do well.

For example, maybe you were a barista at a coffee shop, and now that you have graduated you can be a shift or assistant manager. Or maybe you did some waitressing and now you want to pursue being a hostess or even a chef.

High school graduates can often find work in retail and work their way up. When I was just 17, I started working at WaWa (a convenience store on the East coast). I was not able to attend college and was totally lost in life, but WaWa gave me a path. Within 6 months I was promoted to assistant manager and within one year I was handed a store of my own to manage. The money I was making at 19 was more than my dad had made.

So, for those willing to work hard, there are lots of opportunities. Start your job search locally, on a site like Zippia, or reach out to your network of friends and family.

If you are one that loves experiences, consider CoolWorks. Through this website you can find jobs all over the country, many of which include room and board! These jobs are in amazing locations and let you really experience the best of the great outdoors.

If you love kids, there is also AuPair.com which offers amazing opportunities to care for children – and other opportunities – all over the world.

2. Join the military

One of our personal top picks! Joining the military offers you so many wonderful benefits and opportunities for those that can dedicate themselves to the rigor of training and daily work.

Whether you choose the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines you will undergo some testing and meet health requirements before you join. Each branch of military service offers different opportunities, but all of them can assist you with education and building a long term career. In most military careers you can attend college for free, so if college is something you might consider – this is the path to take.

You will also have the opportunity to see the world in many cases which is a great way to immerse yourself in other cultures and find other interests. The downside is the chance you may be required to serve during times of conflict.

3. Find an internship

If there is a career path you are considering, then an internship is a great way to test it out before investing time or money into it. While internships are very common for those attending college, opportunities can be found even for those with a high school diploma. Internships can provide on the job training that can help you understand what you may like or dislike about the job. In some cases an internship can lead to a job offer too.

You may find paid and unpaid opportunities, so which you can do is really dependent on your financial circumstances. If you can take a free internship then it may be worth it to get the skills since paid are more difficult to find.

ProjectsAbroad offers international internship opportunities in a variety of industries if traveling is something you wanted to do. While these can be a bit more costly, the opportunities can help you gain invaluable skills that can help you grow.

4. Consider community college

I know, we said no college required! But, community colleges offer more than a degree. You can just take a few courses in something you are passionate about and many offer certificate programs in some fields. While you can attend the full two years, it is not the only option!

For example, I recently spoke to a young man named Zach. He absolutely loves gardening, a passion passed down by his grandfather. After talking with his parents, he decided he wanted to go into Horticulture. He already had a few years of experience working with a local gardener and his local college offered an 8 class certificate program. In as little as one year he could achieve his certification and already has a job lined up for when he does.

Community colleges offer so many opportunities that do not require a full 2-years of study, so it is definitely worth looking into for students pursuing certification programs. Programs are often available for jobs such as dental hygienist, home health aides, and even in personal training.

kids graduating high school

5. Launch a business

A harder path, but definitely doable! Starting a business requires a bit of money to start, so unless you have a little bit tucked away, this may be challenging – but can be so rewarding.

Whether you have a product you are passionate about and want to take it to market – or want to do web design, starting a business is a great way to carve your own path.

Need some inspiration? Check out Mr. Cory’s Cookies, a business started by a young man named- you got it, Cory. With an estimated net worth of over $1 million, this young man has quite a future. There is also Alina Morse, who started Zolliops, a special kind of lollipop that does not wreak havoc on teeth. In 2018, the company had sales of $6 million dollars.

While these are just 2 examples, there are so many more. Some kid entrepreneurs do decide to attend a four year college as well, but many do not need to.

6. Attend trade school

Since Blue Collar Brain is all about trade careers, this is what we recommend! If you love the idea of physical work, building and creating, and being a part of something that makes a difference – then skilled trades are for you. Skilled workers are needed more than ever and with so many career paths available in the trades, it is a top pick for what to do after high school.

Vocational programs can range from a few weeks to a few years and help you gain the knowledge and hands on experience to become an expert in your career. From electricians to farriers to dental hygienists, there are so many different opportunities in the trades.

7. Become an apprentice

If you decide you want to go into a trade career, but are not ready to commit to a school – then apprenticeship programs are a perfect opportunity for you. Becoming an apprentice will have you working side by side with experienced professionals that can offer you a valuable experience.

This will help you understand if you have enough interest to make it a full time career. There is no cost to be an intern, and in some cases you may actually get paid for your work. If you decide you love it, you can then attend a technical program that will help you land a full time job and get you started in the work force.

Related: HVAC Apprenticeship

8. Join Job Corps

Job Corps offers a variety of programs for 16-24 year olds which include helping them complete their high school education, training for careers, and helping them find jobs. Students at job corps can enjoy room and board and educational opportunities for up to 3 years.

They offer technical skills and career training in a variety of industries including construction, hospitality, automotive repair, and transportation to name a few.

They do offer tuition assistance and have a special program where income-eligible students can attend for free.

9. Plan to travel

If you have the means, traveling after high school can really add so much to your life. You can travel within the United States or abroad, both of which will allow you the chance to grow and experience amazing things! Of course, meeting new people from different areas is pretty amazing too.

Traveling will give you an education that school never could. You may find a new path you never considered too. Maybe you fall in love with a foreign country and decide to move. Maybe you realize that you are happiest in the mountains or at the ocean. It is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, which in turn will help you create a better future plan that will make you happier and more fulfilled.

Many recent grads have taken road trips cross country! Imagine renting a van and take a few besties and hitting the beautiful landscapes across the United States. Of course, you will need to save up some money – but this can be a pretty low cost way to travel and have some fun.

You can also do mission trips in countries all over the world.

10. Do volunteer work

There has never been a time that volunteers have been more needed. Volunteer opportunities are everywhere and are not only a feel good thing to do – you are really making a huge difference in some way. Whether you decide to wok for an animal organization, food bank, or even a group fighting for equality – becoming a volunteer with a nonprofit organization can open so many paths.

It can help you find something you can be passionate about that you can turn into a career, it can help you learn life skills that you may not have, and most importantly – it can help you build amazing relationships. Building relationships with community members is a great way to improve your chances of finding a career path.

Opportunities to volunteer with the Peace Corps are always available if you are looking for experiences outside of your local community.

There Is Life After High School Even Without College

True statement! If you were worried that no college meant no life – we hope this article has made you believe otherwise.

A college degree is not the only path to success, and college life is definitely not for everyone, so embrace the options!

So, whether you recently graduated high school – or that big day is coming soon, there are so many other options for you to build a wonderful future. Talk to your parents, grandparents, or even a school guidance counselor to help them get you started on any of the paths above.

Remember, there is no WRONG path – whatever path you take is the RIGHT path for you and that is all you should be focused on right now

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