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Non-Traditional Post-Secondary

7 Alternatives to Traditional College Education

5 min readaugust 24, 2021


Additional Pathways Outside of College

College can be a wondrous path to take after graduating high school, but it’s not for everyone. Some careers are better achieved by going in a different direction, and some people simply don’t enjoy the college experience. With that in mind, your career should be something YOU make the call on! 
There are plenty of other options to choose from after finishing high school 🎓. Here are some you may want to explore. 
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1: 🏫 Vocational School 🏫 

Looking for a less academic-based and more hands-on, job-focused 💼 environment to learn in? Technical or trade Schools may be the fit for you as you focus on experiential learning. With career programs in health sciences, manufacturing, protective services, computer sciences, legal services, business, and more, vocational schools have plenty of options. 
Vocational schools offer a quicker avenue for you to get from graduation to your career, as most programs can be completed in one to two years. Compared to the 4 years spent pursuing a typical undergraduate degree, vocational schools definitely have a time ⏰ advantage. 
Skipping the general education requirements offers a much more specialized learning experience and costs less than a traditional college. ⚠️ Word of Caution ⚠️ the specificity of vocational programs does not always give great career flexibility.
Learn more about the meaning of vocational schools with this article.

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2: ✨Apprenticeships ✨

Apprenticeships allow you to get on-the-job training while completing meaningful work. Similar to internships, there is no guarantee that you will receive a full-time work offer after completing the program. You would be conducting more complex work than an intern while still building 🔨 a good relationship with a company.
If you learn better through a hands-on approach and want to explore a specific career, an apprenticeship could be a route to look at. There are plenty of diverse opportunities, so you won’t be limited in terms of field.

3: 🌟 Internships🌟 

Very similar to apprenticeships, internships are an excellent idea to see if you are a good fit for a specific career or company 🏢. With internships, you can complete multiple in a short amount of time, allowing you to explore a multitude of potential jobs without committing to one. 
Getting short internship experiences can be very beneficial when finding a career, as you get to experience the work environment and see first-hand the type of work you may be doing in the future.
Check out this article on unpaid internships and how to cold email professionals to help get these positions.

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4: ⛺Take Job Training Programs or Boot Camps ⛺

These types of opportunities are here to help you learn a variety of skills relating to a specific field in a relatively short period–from a few weeks to a few months. These opportunities allow you to become more marketable on the job market and your future endeavors after high school.
If you are interested in computer science or technology in general, there are many boot camps available for you to take, especially in the coding industry 💻. Taking a few of these boot camps can boost your resume and skills so you’re ready to take on the job market. 

5: 💼 Entry-Level Positions 💼

Rather than going back to school, you may want to jump right into the working world and apply for entry-level positions. Getting a job in an industry that you are passionate about can give you a lot of insight regarding whether it’s a valuable career path for you in the long run. 
You will also be getting to know the company you are working for. It’s a lot more cost-effective than schooling, as you’re making money while gaining skills and discovering your career path.
Some individuals decide to join the military after they graduate high school, and sometimes even end up enrolling in a college program afterward, which could be a good option for you!

6: 🌎 Take a Gap Year 🌎 

Completely unsure of what career path you want to take? You may want to consider taking a gap year and figuring out what you want out of life. There are even pre-college programs that allow you to study abroad for the year between high school and college. You can spend time exploring your passions, observing the world around you, and meeting new people. Some time away from school and your career can give you insight into who you are and where you want to go.
Check out this guide on a how to take a gap year for more details.

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📚 Other Forms of College 📚

If the traditional education track is not for you but you still want some form of college education, consider community college! Who knows if a Bachelor's degree is what you want, maybe taking classes for a year or two at community college and then getting a job is more aligned with your goals. 
You may also want to consider pursuing online courses. If you cannot attend a college program in person and/or need a more cost friendly option, this may be the right course for you. It also allows you the freedom of taking courses anywhere in the world!
Learn more about the different types of college degrees with this guide!

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7: 💙Take Time to Volunteer 💙

If you are passionate about a cause, you may consider taking some time to dedicate yourself to volunteering after graduating high school. Volunteering gives you marketable skills and a unique background for when you decide to get back into the workforce. 
You get the chance to give back to the world 🌎 while exploring something you truly care about. There are numerous different volunteer opportunities across the globe (as well as locally) that you can dedicate yourself to.
Although there tends to be an emphasis on going directly into college after high school, there are many different opportunities worth exploring after finishing high school, so it is necessary to weigh your choices. Finding your career path isn’t always straightforward. Be bold 🌟 and do what is best for you.
If you’re in search of a resource to help you inform your career decisions, check out Forage, the go-to platform for career discovery, learning, and recruiting, straight from employers. 
Author: Erica Burns, Forage Content Writing Intern
  • Erica Burns is a senior at Temple University studying English and political science and is currently a Content Writer Intern with the Forage. She is passionate about writing, all types of literature and politics, specifically environmental and human rights. 
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