Alternatives to college
I’ve been wondering for a long time whether college is the right decision for my kids. My 3 oldest have graduated our homeschool (so far — 5 more to go) and are currently at college. So that might seem like a weird thing to say.
But sometimes we do things out of tradition and not because they are the smartest thing to do.
Sometimes we don’t do things we should because we’re afraid to discard emotional attachment and base our decisions on plain facts. Or because we are afraid that our loved ones will look askance at us. Or we feel like we have something to prove (like that homeschooling actually works).
And sometimes we choose things for our children because they seem easier than the alternative.
Going straight from high school (or homeschool) to college is one of those ‘easier than the alternative’ decisions. It’s hard to jump directly into the real world of bills and laundry and home maintenance and taxes and vehicle maintenance and careers and more bills. College is kind of a sheltered, pretend, in-between world.
It’s much easier to send our young adults out into the world when the world we are sending them out into is the size of a college campus, with dormitory advisors on each floor, and a finance department that send the bills to us.
I totally get that it’s scary to choose outside of the norm. And that’s part of the reason my oldest 3 are esconced away in a prestigious, private university. Although it’s also partly because the careers they have chosen require professional degrees.
But often the scariest, most abnormal choices we make end up the most rewarding.
That’s why we’re talking today about a few excellent alternatives to college.
9 Alternatives to College for Homeschoolers:
1. Serve as a volunteer.
Maybe the academic rigors of high school has taken a toll, and your teen needs a break in his routine. Volunteering can be fun, relaxing and energizing, especially when it involves your teens interests or hobbies.
Volunteer work isn’t just a way to give back. It also builds character and provides tremendous opportunities for growth. Serving with others will help you learn group dynamics and teamwork, implementing projects can help you develop planning and budgeting skills.
Volunteering can help you explore career options and expand your horizons. Demographics are changing rapidly in our society and volunteering is a great way to enhance cultural awareness as you learn more about different perspectives
Volunteer work can build leadership skills, too, as youth interact with other leaders and are given chances to lead themselves. And sometimes volunteer experiences can help youth discover skills and interests they were previously unaware of.
2. Enter the workforce.
Often, people get stuck in the mindset that a four-year-degree is the only path to a fulfilling career and future. They completely forget that there are alternatives to college that also pay well and can be enjoyable.
Here are a few career ideas that don’t require a college degree, although most of them do require some training:
- Real Estate Agent
- Real Estate Broker
- Dental Assistant
- Dental Hygienist
- Medical Assistant
- Certified Nursing Assistant
- Web Developer
- Nuclear Power Reactor Operators
- Police Officers and Dispatchers
- Commercial Pilots
3. Join a branch of the military.
Homeschoolers used to be required to earn a GED before being allowed into the military, but relatively recent changes have eliminated that requirement. Instead, the military currently requires a homeschool transcript and a homeschool diploma.
There are many practical benefits to joining a branch of the military. In addition to a competitive salary, free health care and practically free cost of living, the military will pay your tuition while in service.
Once your service is complete, you may also be able to have your college expenses covered through the GI Bill. The military also offers retirement with benefits after 20 years of service. We have neighbors who retire from the military and continue to work in civil service, earning a salary there and just banking their military retirement. It’s an option worth some consideration.
4. Start a business.
Homeschool tend to be very entrepreneurially minded. I think it’s a result of a combination of them naturally thinking outside the box (having been educated in an alternative manner) and always being encouraged to follow their own passions and dreams.
You have something useful to contribute to society. Look for ways to make it profitable. I daresay you will learn more from starting a business than you would at college. And the things you’ll learn will be more applicable to real life.
The chance to start your own business has never been better. The internet has made the need to rent a storefront and hire employees obsolete. All you need to start your own business is a laptop and wifi.
Thanks to websites like etsy, ebay and amazon, you don’t even need to know how to code your own storefront/ecommerce site.
5. Find an internships or apprenticeship
I always think of Nat Bowditch when I think of apprenticeships. I think about how much he learned in his apprenticeship as a bookbinder, and how it opened opportunities to him throughout the rest of his life.
Many construction-type careers are still learned in an apprenticeship manner, although apprenticeships today look much different than those in Nat Bowditch’s time. Internships are a great way for young adults to learn about and try different jobs within an industry to help them decide what they really want to do.
You could also look into fellowships. Fellowships are short-term learning opportunities that typically span a shorter duration. Many associations sponsor fellowships to give financial support to budding young professionals in exchange for their work in the field.
6. Attend community college.
I realize that community college is technically college, and we’re supposed to be talking about alternatives to college here. However, community college is an excellent alternative to the traditional universities students typically apply to straight out of high school.
Community college is fantastic bang for your buck, at only about 2/3 the cost of university tuition. It’s also a great way to land a good job, because the programs offered are usually directed toward the needs of the current job market. They offer valuable certifications and associates degrees in addition to traditional 4-year degrees.
Community colleges also offer the option of transferring to a four-year college after receiving your associate degree, for those who want to follow that path. It’s a great way to get a bargain-basement deal on a practical, useful education.
7. Attend a vocational school.
Vocational schools specialize in courses that teach skills that apply to specific careers, such as welding or electrical work. While 4-year universities require students to take a full 60 credits of general education classes, vocational schools allow students to jump straight into their desired program. Students aren’t require to take any classes that aren’t related to the career focus.
8. Create beauty.
Art is hard work. Artists are often portrayed as only working when inspiration strikes, and always being one hundred percent passionate about their creations. It’s really ridiculous.
Just like any other career, art, from dance to music to writing, is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. It takes discipline to get up in the morning and pick up your paintbrush or sit down at the piano.
You don’t always love it and you don’t always crave it and there are even times you’ll hate it. But you keep going because it’s your business and you have bills to pay. Passion is not always pretty and pink and fluffy.
I read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at something. Art is no exception, nor is talent. Those 10,000 don’t need to spent on a college campus. They’ll be much cheaper and probably more efficient spent at home.
When you occasionally need some guidance, hire a private teacher — a mentor — a professional.
When you are good and ready to sell your creations, you need to realize that you are selling something. You own a business that sells a product someone else is willing to pay good money for. You are a business owner in addition to being an artist.
9. Take a gap year.
You don’t have to make a decision about your future right away. A career choice is a big decision.
There are many benefits to taking a gap year after finishing high school. You can’t really take a gap year from life (please don’t spend your gap year in your parent’s basement, gaming!) so you’ll inevitably be learning life skills. Young adults will learn independence, responsibility, how to manage money and the value of a dollar.
There Are Many Interesting Alternatives to College
When push comes to shove, there’s no easy answer for whether you should jump into college or not. That decision should be made through prayer and much careful thought and consideration. The answer will be individual to each person.
But if you do decide to forego college, or just to put it off for a bit, I hope these suggestions will help you realize that you have lots of choices ahead of you and that your future is bright, whatever you decide!
Do you have other ideas for alternatives to college? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!