Do I have to go to college after high school?

Posted on July 20th, 2020 to Student Success by

The short answer here is no, you do not. Now Read’s Corner is all about advising students how to traverse their way to and through college, but the reality is that college is not the only path to leading a fulfilling life. The current narrative around education is that your only option is college. It’s just not true. The unfortunate outcome of this messaging is the any other paths are stigmatized, because…well…they aren’t college. This narrative creates a hierarchy which values one path over any others. The path you choose depends upon your goals and your situation. Truth be told you can choose any one of these paths and lead a fulfilling life!

Excluding the pursuit of a 4-year undergraduate degree, there are five other potential routes to choose from. These are all great for different reasons, and realistically the reasons that make them great for you are your own. So while I will offer some highlights, consider what your why is as you evaluate which path is the best one for you. We should also acknowledge that not all life decisions are so philosophical or goal oriented. Sometimes we choose a path because it serves our immediate needs. That’s OK! Remember, that whatever choice you make now doesn’t prevent you from changing directions later on. So let’s go through the options and hopefully you can see how one of them fits into your life.


COMMUNITY COLLEGECommunity college is an affordable option that allows for your social, academic, and professional growth.


Should you wish to continue to on an academic path, community college is a great option. Community college is great for a lot of reasons:

      • It offers an affordable education
      • An associates degree takes about two years to complete, as a full-time student
      • It leaves an option open for you to transfer to a four-year insitution
      • If you still need to develop socially, this is a great laboratory to develop your independence
      • Most community colleges offer considerable resources to support you (academic, career, transfer, etc.)

The take-away here is that attending community college is functional, manageable, and affordable. It also allows you to potentially pursue a Bachelor’s Degree immediately or later on. Though, you may find it provides you with all the knowledge and skills you need to pursue your dreams. Either way, it is a GREAT pathway to take!


TECHNICAL SCHOOL/EDUCATIONTechnical school/education gives you the skills and knowledge needed for a variety of skilled-trades!


Another post-secondary (or sometimes this is a secondary school option) is technical school or a technical education. This kind of program is great if you are interested in pursuing a trade like HVAC technician, carpenter, airplane mechanic, and so on. The benefits of a technical school are similar to that of community college, everything from affordability to career readiness. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor there are about 20 skilled trades that are predicted to have substantial income growth over the next 10 years! A technical education will provide you with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to be ready for any entry level position. 


MILITARYServing our country is a considerable sacrifice, and a great post-secondary pathway to take.


A third pathway is enlisting in a branch of the United States military. While enlisting in the military has great benefits, it also has considerable dangers and challenges. It offers excellent job training, provides an income, allows for travel, offers training opportunities, and gives you time to learn about yourself directly in harms way—meaning a potential for serious injury or loss of life. With that in mind, if you are considering the military, I think it’s important to be committed to serving the larger mission. You will be part of a massive team and be expected to put the team and the mission above your personal interests. It is the ultimate definition of what it means to serve.


WORKFORCEThere are a lot of job opportunities available for high school graduates!


There are a handful of reasons why a student may wish to start working immediately after graduation. Whatever the reason, the reality is some students will need to or want to join the workforce immediately upon graduating from high school. There are a lot of jobs where a high school diploma will meet or surpass the “education requirements” required for the job. Don’t believe me? Well Business Insider published an article in 2013 of the highest-paying jobs for anyone with a high-school diploma. 2013 too long ago? Ok, that is a fair criticism. How about this 2017 article from or this 2020 article from U.S. News & World Report. Or better yet, how about this list of jobs from The key takeaway here is that if you are considering working directly after you graduate high school, you have a considerable number of options.


GAP YEARTaking a gap year before starting college offers a great option for self-reflection!


It’s common for students to feel a bit burnt out by the end of high school. If you are feeling like you need some space to figure out how to make the most of your post-secondary experience, then a gap year is a perfect path for you. So what is a gap year? Well…it’s whatever you want or need it to be. Ultimately, it’s a chance for students to re-charge, discover themselves, and/or learn about the world. Does this mean backpacking across Europe? No. Some students travel, participate in service projects, tend to their physical or mental health, and/or work. There are even gap-year programs for anyone with the means to pay for a structured experience. Now you might be thinking, “do colleges allow this?” You will have to ask your individual school…but most schools do. So long as you have paid you deposit, you will likely be in good shape. When you do talk with your college about taking a gap year, be sure to ask about your financial aid package (if you received one) and if they have any rules/policies for taking a gap-year.

As you can see, whether or not you are going to college there is a lot to consider. There are many factors to weigh when you are thinking about your future. Read’s Corner is here to help! Fill out the form below to schedule your free 30 minute consultation!


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