What If I Don't Want To Go To College

Different Strength Coffee on a wooden table

If you know college isn’t for you or you just aren’t sure, you should consider some of the other options available to you after graduating high school. You do have choices besides going immediately to college.

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Options After High School

Military

Many kids opt to go into the military after high school. This can be a great decision. You are going to need to be made of certain stuff to be able to handle it. You need to be a fighter and have a desire to prove yourself. But it also can make practical sense. The military is a good way to gain amazing skills and have someone pay you to learn them. You will also travel and have experiences that others won’t ever be able to say they have had. You do need to understand that you are enlisting in the armed forces. There is a real chance you could be called on to fight for your country.

Trade School

Going to a trade school is an option more people should look into. This is for those kids who could never sit still, and who can’t imagine being stuck in an office all day. Here is where you can go to become skilled in a trade. Learn to weld pipes, lay wire, run complex machinery, drive trucks, assist doctors, and all types of other cool things. Get in and out in around 3 years with skills that will land you a job that will pay your bills and keep you out of a cubical. Lots of blue-collar skills like this make more money than you would think and are in high demand.

Intern

I know this one isn’t mind-blowing, but hear me out. You do not have to have a degree for most jobs. Lots of places will take experience in place of a degree. You can intern at a place and get an entry-level job, then start working your way to the top. It isn’t the most glamorous and it won’t be the fastest. But it is possible and you will come out with a lot more practical knowledge than if you had gotten the same job with a degree and no experience.

Gap Year

I am in favor of gap years. No this is not me saying that you need to take a year, your parents’ credit card, and go party your way across Europe. Gap years are good for taking time to work. That is right, work. At every job, you can find that even slightly interests you, and some that don’t. If you know you don’t want to go to college, or even aren’t sure if you do, then take a year. College will still be there when you get back. Use the time to get coffee for editors and ride with garbage guys and flip burgers and shadow doctors. Learn what you like and what you don’t because I am betting you don’t really know. There is no better way to find out than to do some work.

If I Could Do Over

This is my two cents so take this with a grain of salt. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t go to college. I would take a gap year and figure out what got me excited to get up in the morning. What work made me forget that it was work. I would try everything and experiment while I had the time and the safety net. Once I had a good idea of what got me in flow state, I would find someone well known for making a living doing that. Maybe a well-off CEO or author or veterinarian or pilot. Whatever I came up with. Then I would go to them and say “I want to be your shadow, for 4 years. I want you to train me in everything you do. Essentially I want you to make me into you. Teach me everything you know. In return you get me working for you for free for those 4 years. You will have created a made-for-you employee ready to hire at the end who already knows your company.  Plus $1k a year just for putting up with me.” (Yes I might have thought this out a lot)

I would end the 4 years with an insane amount of personal hands-on knowledge from someone doing what I wanted to do. It would be cheaper than college. And I would have a ton of connections in the world where I wanted to start working. That approach would play out way better than any college degree if you get a mentor that took it seriously and put in the effort to get everything you could out of the experience. 

You have options. Never resign yourself to a specific life just because it is what you have been told to do. Take some time and consider your future and your choices before making a big decision.

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