Most high school seniors are geared up for graduation next month—and that comes with a good case of senioritis. The typical path for a large percentage of graduates sends them off to college in the fall to live in dorms, stay up all night studying, and pledge sororities and fraternities. But what happens when those high school seniors choose a non-traditional route that doesn’t include the typical collegiate experience?

Take a gap year

After 12 years of school, and more for some, many high school students are considering a gap year after graduation. That doesn’t mean you veg out on the couch in front of the television, or spend a year playing Xbox games in your parents’ basement. It’s a chance to expand your horizons and get some life experience under your belt before heading off to college. Gap years are becoming more popular among high school graduates and gaining credibility among established educators. Princeton University has a “bridge year” program in place for admitted students to do service work abroad before enrolling. High schools around the country are hosting gap-year fairs to familiarize students with the options available if they choose to take advantage of a gap year.

Go local–community college

Many graduating seniors have decided to take the community college path before heading off to a 4-year university. They will tell you that they’ve made that choice for several reasons: cost, academic preparation, and the freedom to stay at home for the first few years. Community colleges aren’t just training grounds for technical careers; they are also the first stop for about 4 in 10 of college-bound high school graduates.

Here are some reasons why community college might be a good fit:

  • You want to get the basics out of the way before taking on a rigorous college course load.
  • Cost is an issue and by going to a community college for 2 years provides a relatively inexpensive start to a higher education.
  • You need flexible class schedules to accommodate a full or part-time job.
  • You don’t have any idea what type of career you want to pursue.
  • You need extra attention from instructors and a smaller class environment.
  • You feel intimidated by the prospect of attending a 4-year college.
  • You want to pursue a technical career and can do so with a degree from a 2-year college.

Community college is a viable path for many high school graduates. In today’s economy and with the rising cost of college tuition, it makes sense to consider this option. Community college classes can also be supplemented with online courses as well.

Consider entrepreneurship

TechCrunch recently interviewed, Peter Thiel, the founder of Paypal about what he calls the “higher education bubble”. His recommendation: take a different path. He has started a program for 20 students under 20 and is paying them $100,000 over a two year period to start their own businesses.  Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos encourages those who are considering spending thousands of dollars on an education to skip the degree and use the money to finance a business. While it’s quite common for college graduates to take an entrepreneurial path, the thought of high school graduates going down that road scares the pants off of most parents.

The downside to this path: not everyone can be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. It takes drive, ambition and determination to start and run a business. You need an idea, a concept, a product and the business sense to make it all flow together once you get started. Think long and hard before you choose this path and in the meantime, get some education to help you when you do.

Choose a military path

Many high school graduates choose the military as a post-graduation path. Although the prospect of heading into combat might not be appealing for some, others find this choice wise and honorable. The military provides training in many different career paths, along with the funding for a college education. Many servicemen are even attending college while they serve.

For those graduates who are confident in their path and are headed off to college in the fall—congratulations! But for those who still aren’t sure or are considering a non-traditional path, these options might just be your ticket to the future.

Done with High School? Get an online associates degree.

2 comments on “Taking the non-traditional route after high school graduation

  • Suzanne – great article!
    my comment is reference–
    “”But for those who still aren’t sure or are considering a non-traditional path, these options might just be your ticket to the future.”” —
    The reality is there is no ‘might be’ for the ticket– it imperative that the individual understand that ‘these options ARE a ticket to the future. Select one of the options and challenge yourself to complete your goals.

  • Thanks Skip for the positive feedback. I agree with you, it’s critical to know what path you want to take and pursue that path. Following someone else’s path for you will only result in disappointment and regret.

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