What To Do After Highschool

various staircases branch off

School has taken up all of life that you can remember and now you are about to be faced with what to do next. This can feel overwhelming and scary. This post is going to help you break this giant life-changing question into parts you can more easily answer. This is a long one, y’all. 

Table of Contents

What are my options after graduating high school?

I did a whole post on this which you can find here. To keep things short and simple I will just list them again. 

  • College
  • Tech/trade school
  • Military Service
  • Family business
  • Gap year
  • Internships/Apprenticeships
  • Entry-level job

Now you may have other alternatives such as a freelance career if you already have valuable skills. However, these are your basic choices now that you are graduating from high school.

Do I need a degree?

No. You do not have to attend college and get a degree. College has become more expensive and less useful over the past decade. The cost is crazy high and the degree you get will not guarantee you a job. 

But, folks with college degrees tend to make more money over their lifetime than those who don’t have any education past high school. Overall it is a personal choice that you will need to answer after you think about how you feel about some of the following questions.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

This is a question you probably got asked in first grade where you said things like a fireman, a teacher, a dog, or the President. Now you need to think about it again. Give this some serious thought. There is no point in saying you want to be the President if giving speeches in front of crowds makes you sick. 

What do I enjoy doing?

Everyone has things that bring them to life. There is something you could talk about for ages or that you do in your free time that others think is so weird. Maybe you enjoy writing, or working out in the gym is your favorite thing. Take time to discover what makes you happy. You are fixing to devote years to learning how to be good at a career. Why pick one that doesn’t have aspects that bring you joy? To do that you need to understand what gives you that feeling. 

What are my strengths?

These might be different from what makes you happy. I am good at logic and reason but it wouldn’t be something I do for fun. These tend to align more with the subjects you favored in school. What came naturally to you? What you could not study, or barely pay attention and still make good grades? These are going to be associated with your strengths. If you can combine your strengths and what brings you joy into a single job, you will be set for life.

What will people pay me for?

This is the big question, isn’t it? Having a job you love and are good at is wonderful, but if no one will pay you to do it, it doesn’t help you much. This is where exploring comes in. You would be amazed what people will pay for if it solves a problem they have. You don’t have to stick to conventional jobs just to get a paycheck, but be smart.

What if I don’t know what I want to do for a job?

That is fine. Most kids don’t know what they want as a career. The ones who do are less sure than they think and end up changing after they have studied it for a while. The key here is to focus on how well you know yourself. 

  • Do you know that you will want to do something that will require an advanced degree like a doctor, lawyer, or veterinarian?
  • Do you know that you will want to do something more hands-on and related to trade work that will leave you spending much less time in an office?

If you can’t answer either of those questions fairly confidently, then you need to do some deep thinking. More than that you also need to take a step back from the college idea. 

A college is an expensive place and its purpose is to get you prepared to join the workforce. If you do not know generally how you want to contribute to the working world, there is no need to attend college yet. Studying engineering is not going to help you if you end up as an archeologist. Why spend thousands of dollars to experiment at college? Experiment at home. 

What is the point of a gap year?

You will see pictures of kids backpacking through Europe on their gap year posted with some captions about finding themselves. Don’t get me wrong traveling is great but for lots of us, we don’t have the time or money to do that. Chances are if you are taking a gap year, you do need to figure some stuff out. But you can do that from wherever you are. 

If you want to get the most bang for your buck out of a gap year, think of every career you have ever considered. Find someone in that job and ask to work with them for a month. Do everything related to that job that they will allow you to do. Learn as much as you can and be exposed to everything you can find. This is going to help you figure out what you like in a job and let you narrow down what might be worth studying at college. Plus you will create an awesome network. Win-win. 

Is it worth it to go into my family business?

This is a loaded question. You need to do something that gives you the means to support yourself and your future family. But you also want to make sure it is something that you can handle doing for the long term. If your family business is established and making money, it could be a worthwhile option. Use it to gain skills and figure out more about what you enjoy.

But, do not sign yourself up for something you hate for the rest of your life. The good news is that life is flexible. You can choose to change at any point. Just because you run the family house painting business for the next three years, doesn’t mean you can never be a pilot like you always wanted.

What if I didn’t graduate high school?

Looking back at the question above, what do you want to be when you grow up? Your answer to that question will change the answer to this one. If you intend to go into a family business or work your way up from a job, a high school diploma may not be a requirement for you. If college is required for what you see in your future, a GED is your first step.

Either way, you want to make sure that all your communication skills are on point. This means your reading, writing, and speaking abilities need to be a focus even if you intend to work construction all your life. 

So back to our big question: What to do after high school?

The answer entirely depends on where you want to end up and what type of person you are. College is an option. But it is just one of many. Do not feel pressured into doing something you are not sure about. Your life after high school can go wherever you choose to take it. Think hard on these questions and make educated choices. You got this.