Graduation time is here! High school seniors will walk across the stage and into the next phase of life. Some graduates are certain and excited about their next step. Others may be unsure what the future will bring. If you are feeling uncertain, there are plenty of options to support yourself while gaining valuable life experience.
Attending college is a perfect fit for some young adults, but it’s not for everyone. In fact, nearly 1 million fewer students are enrolled in college now than before the pandemic began. The cost of attending college can be high and astute high school graduates are considering whether taking on student debt makes sense for them. If you are unsure about what to do after graduation, here are five alternatives to going immediately to college.
1. Get a Job
As a newly minted graduate, this a great time to look for a job. The unemployment rate is low at 3.6% and there are a record 11.5 million job openings in the U.S. economy. Jobs are plentiful in many sectors including retail, manufacturing, and hospitality. Employers need you more than ever and will be willing to pay reasonable wages. As you are looking for a job, try to find one that aligns with your interests. If you enjoy working with kids, look for a job in childcare or at a school. Look for a job at a veterinary clinic or a pet store if you love animals. Whatever you choose, real-world experience will help build your resume and your confidence. Who knows, you may even find the long-term job of your dreams by accident.
Do you enjoy helping others and making a difference in the world? Why not start your life after high school by volunteering? Some volunteer organizations allow you to give back without needing the continued support of your family. They will pay for your living expenses while you work and gain experience. If you enjoy traveling, some organizations have overseas opportunities. You’ll need to do your research and the larger organizations below are a good place to start.
AmeriCorps enrolls more than 250,000 individuals every year to serve organizations making a difference in communities across America. You will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience while making an impact on your community and your country. They offer a living allowance, money for college and professional development.
The Peace Corps volunteer program is often called life-defining by the more than 230,000 Americans who have served. They focus on social and environmental needs around the world. They allow you to live and work in the host community working on projects ranging from education to business development.
WWOOF is a worldwide movement to link visitors (called WWOOFers) with organic farmers to promote cultural and educational exchange and build a global community conscious of ecological farming and sustainability practices. As a “WWOOFer” you will live with your host, help on the farm, learn about sustainability, experience a new culture, and meet new people. You will receive free room and board during your stay.
3. Work While Traveling
Are you ready to travel and explore the world? If you can’t afford to travel without working, why not combine the two? Websites and apps such as Workaway allow you to work while traveling. They help match you with the locations and experiences you are looking for. You can do this by yourself or with a travel buddy or group. In the process, you will develop new skills and maybe even learn a new language.
Your Workaway host will typically expect around 5 hours per day of help in exchange for food and accommodation. Some hosts may offer an additional paid allowance. You and the host will agree on expectations and timeframe for your stay. It’s a great way to explore the world, immerse yourself in new cultures and meet other Workaway explorers.
4. Trade School or Apprenticeship
Do you love working with your hands or have a natural aptitude for a trade such as electrical work, plumbing, welding, or working on vehicles? A trade school or apprenticeship may be the perfect path for your future. These jobs are in high demand and will give you job security while serving your community in a valuable way.
Going to a trade school will offer you an education that you can apply directly to a future job. These schools are typically less expensive than four-year degrees and typically prepare you to enter the workforce in two years or less. Alternatively, you could consider on-the-job training combined with classroom work through an apprenticeship. The benefit of an apprenticeship is that you won’t need to pay for it. In fact, you’ll get paid while you learn. It can be hard work, but you’ll have a steady and good-paying job when you’re done. Many local unions offer apprenticeship programs.
Internships are a good way to gain experience and information about a field that you may want to work in. Completing one or more internships may help you prepare to enter the workforce full-time. If you plan to eventually attend college, an internship may give you a better idea of what you want to do with your career and streamline your decision on a major.
The traditional internship model offers you experience rather than pay, paid internships are becoming more common. Whether paid or unpaid, you’ll want to research and consider the right industry to get the most out of your experience. You can find internships through job search sites such as Indeed and Zip Recruiter or by using your personal and professional network.
Congratulations graduate! There are a multitude of potential paths you may choose to explore for your future. Take the time to consider the best option for you and enjoy the journey.