Post High School Plan: Alternatives to a Four-Year College

As second semester grinds on, the reality of life beyond high school hopefully comes into much sharper focus for seniors. Certainly, those students with plans to attend a four-year college are in full anticipation of their upcoming undergraduate years. However, there are plenty of students who recognize that college is not necessarily the right step, at least at this juncture. And while that’s completely acceptable (and certainly advantageous to recognize), now’s the time to truly begin considering (and cementing) possible alternatives. Of course, that daunting task can feel even more intimidating than the college application process. We figured we’d help out those students unsure of their next move by offering an overview of some other post-high school options:

Community College

Some seniors might, in fact, want to continue their education yet a bachelor’s degree isn’t what they desire. Indeed, many students don’t feel emotionally or intellectually mature enough for a four-year program. Moreover, a lot of individuals are wary of the financial burden that comes with pursuing a four-year degree. Community college is a fantastic, more affordable way to test the waters of higher education within an environment that’s less pressure filled. Students can enroll full-time or just take a class or two. They can hold down a job and lock in a few credits as they contemplate what they might want to do. And, of course, community college students have the benefit of being able to transfer to a four-year school should they so desire.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are ideal for students who have a very targeted idea of what they might like to pursue professionally. For example, if an individual has his heart set on working in web development, he can explore certificate options in coding or design. These programs are generally much more affordable than a traditional college education and many can be completed within a year. Further, they allow students to maintain a somewhat flexible schedule and frequently help with job placement.

Passion Project

Seniors on the cusp of graduation are at a great point in their lives. The world is about to open up and many students are fortunate to not be beholden to any particular obligations. If one has an entrepreneurial or creative streak, now is a good time to follow the urge or instinct. Take the following six months or a year (if that’s plausible) and see what develops. Try and start that food delivery business or shoot that short film. This is a great time to take risks, explore and potentially fail. Of course, this option should only be pursued if you commit to the project in earnest. Don’t bother following if it will only be used to mask indolence.


By the time second semester of senior year rolls around, some students just feel burnt out on academics. They want to experience life outside the confines of a classroom. And, obviously, travel is a great way to satisfy that urge. What’s more, whether formal or informal, it’s bound to provide a number of educational opportunities. For example, seniors with the travel bug can contemplate enrolling in a language school abroad, living with a host family, volunteering on a farm or simply setting off with no established itinerary. No matter the particular route, traveling is bound to open up the mind and broaden horizons. And, if thrifty, it can be accomplished for relatively cheap.

The Military

The military is another great option for graduating seniors. Certainly, those who enlist will quickly develop a strong work ethic, sense of honor and really learn to push themselves to their limit. Moreover, they’ll receive plenty of on the job training, a steady paycheck and have opportunities to potentially travel the globe. Further, the training soldiers receive can certainly help influence their future professional goals and aspirations. And you can be sure that military service will make any resume stand out!

Volunteer Programs

Volunteer programs provide a great alternative for those students looking to take a break from academics. They are obviously an awesome way to give back to the community while simultaneously developing a variety of skillsets. Through volunteering, individuals can learn how organizations operate, how to comport themselves in a professional setting and maybe even get a sense of what kind of career might hold appeal. Some established programs, Americorps for example, will even provide volunteers with a stipend for living expenses. And they might offer additional perks such as scholarships (for those who ultimately decide to pursue higher education).

There is no “correct” path or prescribed plan upon graduating high school. While college might seem like the automatic next step, bachelors programs aren't right for everyone. And, as we stated above, that’s completely fine; a myriad of avenues can lead to success and happiness. However, it’s important to really start thinking about what might be right for you. After all, though graduation might still feel light years away, it will quickly be time to don that cap and gown.


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