High School

After getting my 4-year degree (BA and BS) there are several things I would have considered if I had known any better or had been exposed to the information earlier in my college career. I started college fairly sure that I wanted to go to law school. After a few years and landing an internship at the local public defender’s office I realized being an attorney was not the route for me.

If I had been exposed to the other routes possible at an earlier time it could have saved me a lot of time and money.

Higher education is highly valued in our society and not to be taken for granted, but the idea that there is only one right route to a successful future has hindered a lot people’s desire and willingness to push forward after high school. Here are some alternative routes to the age old live on campus, 4-year plan that may give you a leg up in your future.

Work College

I didn’t hear about work colleges about until after I graduated; they’re an opportunity to graduate from college with little to no debt.

At a work college students are expected to perform in a work, learning and service environment. All students are required to work regardless of academic program or financial need for typically about 8-15 hours per week.

The benefit of this is not only are you able to get much needed job experience for your resume when you do graduate but campus jobs cover all tuition and expenses. There are currently only seven work colleges in the nation but if you are willing to relocate or happen to live in a state where one is located this is a great option.

Online courses

If sitting in a classroom full of people and listening to lectures for the next four or more years does not sound appealing to you then online courses may be the way to go. This has become a more and more acceptable and viable route for many undergrads. In this day and age where the amount of information that is available to us online is insurmountable, why not college? You can find online colleges for everything from the medical field to fine arts degrees.

Not only are there a wide variety of degrees that are attainable online but for those stay at home parents or traveling souls the class curriculum is available wherever there is a Wi-Fi connection so distance is no object. You are able to work at your own pace but this route is definitely for the self-starters who are capable of keeping themselves accountable for assignment deadlines and submissions.


Often times college students flounder their first few years trying to decide what degree best suits them, sometimes choosing a degree that they may not be completely pleased with because the pressure to choose a degree has become too much.

After high school a great alternative to spending money on college right away is reaching out to professionals in professions of interest and asking if you can shadow or volunteer with the company.

Whether you are interested in becoming a police officer, a zoologist, and fashion designer or a nurse, chances are there are shadowing/volunteering opportunities available. Get as many hours in as you can and see if that is really where you beating path lies, then enroll in the college that will be best to fulfill that dream. If this tip had been given to me I would have saved a good year and a half of uncertainty while in college and the inevitable change in majors.


When most people think of the term “entrepreneur,” we tend to get pigeon holed into this idea of the 50-something gentleman in a suit and tie. That is no longer the case. Not only is the suit and tie no longer a norm but age is only a number. There are an increasing number of young people who are recognizing the opportunities at their fingertips.

Young entrepreneurs aren’t just starting up their own businesses; they are creating successful businesses, some even before high school graduation. Anywhere from online businesses to creating things like innovative, durable sports equipment, these youngsters have taken their future into their own hands. If you have a passion already and have the discipline to stick with it, don’t count yourself out due to age or lack of a college degree.


Apprenticeships are often overlooked as a viable option but they are not only a much more affordable route but some make for a great opportunity to travel. Training is done while working so for many you are being paid to further your knowledge of a trade you are already interested in pursuing. Apprenticeships usually last anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 years and are for skilled trade professions like carpentry or electricians. If you are interested in traveling and seeing other parts of the world there are apprentice opportunities aplenty as well.


During my college career I was very involved in the local arts community and had several friends that were creating high quality art of all forms and were already creating a name for themselves. By the end of college a few of them had been commissioned all over the community and had travel opportunities because of their art as well. When they graduated they continued their path in the arts community, which resulted in debt for a degree they don’t intend to utilize.

We live in an internet age and, as with most of the above options, if you are a self-starter and know what you want there are alternative opportunities right at your fingertips when it comes to career paths. Whether it is creating and selling art or a business venture the internet has made reaching customers from not only across the nation but across the world, a possibility.

There is still something to be said for the traditional college experience. The campus environment, community and friendships that are built, and the actual student teacher interaction and assistance are all rewarding as well. There is also something to be said about the authority that the degree from an actual university still has in a professional workplace and the disparity in income between college graduates and those who only finish high school is still quite high.

Will the new generations of young adults continue to break boundaries and successfully find alternate routes to prosperity?

The choice is yours.

Shontelle Reyna

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6 Alternatives to Traditional College I Wish I Had Known About After High School