Life after Graduating High School: Alternatives to a 4-Year College


Graduating high school is an amazing achievement and you should be very proud of that. Now comes the question, “what’s next?” Attending a 4-year-college after high school isn’t for everyone. Some graduates choose to take a year off before continuing their education, others jump right into the workforce. No matter your goal, there are some great alternatives for high school graduates looking for post high school options.

Travel Abroad

Take a year off to travel to a foreign country. It can help open your eyes to new cultures and experiences. Funding is likely an issue and if you don’t have the bank account to match the ambition, there are options that may support your adventure. For example, international community service or employment opportunities like a cruise ship. Check out AFS Intercultural Programs for more opportunities.

Get a Job

The responsibility of holding down a full-time job is a good way for a high school graduate to transition into adulthood, not to mention it's a necessity when it comes to finances. It’d be smart to find a job geared toward career growth, rather than a temporary job that normally hires teens on a temporary basis. It can also be a good time to find an industry that peaks your interest. The opportunity to build a career from an entry-level job is there if you’re willing to work for it and make a commitment.

Start a Business

Have an entrepreneurial spirit? There are many business opportunities for older teens to start working for themselves, especially in this age of the Internet. The trick will be to find a niche and pursue it. Graduates can start by listing their strengths and interests, find potential industries that would put them to good use. Remember, even if the first venture fails it will give you valuable experience and insight for the next.

Learn a Trade

If learning in the classroom isn't your thing, learning on-the-job is a great alternative. Getting involved in a trade is a great way for graduates to gain valuable experience for their career. Trades are usually completely skill-based, so the only way to learn is to get hands-on experience. Look for a job or apprenticeship that is geared towards an area of interest and can help earn certificates or licenses that may be needed to advance the career. Examples of trades include carpentry, technology, cosmetology, and machining.

You can find how Tennessee is preparing students for success after high school here

Get an Internship or Apprenticeship

Being an intern or an apprentice gives you the opportunity to "test drive" a career before making a commitment. While many internships and apprenticeships are unpaid, they do provide valuable experience in the work force and may give you the push you need to excel in your area of choice.

Take Adult Education Classes

Adult education classes are a great way to sample college life without going full-time. It will give you the opportunity to take various classes and decide what direction you want to go before committing to a major or degree program. A good place to start would be researching community colleges in your area.

The Tennessee Promise scholarship and mentoring program covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees not covered by the Pell grant, HOPE scholarship or the Tennessee Student Assistance Award at community colleges and other institutions in Tennessee. For a full list of Tennessee Promise institutions click here.

Earn a Vocational or Career Training Certificate

Not all careers require a four-year degree from a university. Many professions place more value in an industry certification and workplace experience. Positions such as information technology experts, dental hygienists, radiology technicians, and medical transcriptionists often require a certification that takes much less time to earn than a bachelor's degree.

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