High school is not the end of the educational path for most American students. Yet, the traditional path to a four-year school may not be for everyone, either.

Just as there are multiple options available to studentsand school leavers in the UK, there are several options that should also be considered by American students when trying to decide on the best next steps after high school graduation. 

University Studies

This is the traditional route for many people. High school, then university, then career. And it's a great plan for lots of students. If you want to enter a career that requires a four-year degree (or more) then this is obviously the path you will want to take. 

Keep an open mind about where you attend. Even if you have always dreamed about going to a particular school, you should consider alternative options. Look at school size, residential or commuter options, and costs to find the school that is a good fit for you.

Technical and Community Colleges

The community college has made a strong comeback in recent years. Viewed as a stepping stone to make a four-year degree more affordable for many families, or as a way to be better prepared for advanced university studies, it is a viable alternative that is worth consideration. 

Although many fields will require a bachelor's degree, there are others that you can fully prepare for in two years at a technical school. You can train for several entry-level careers in health care and education at the community college level.  

Trade Schools

From welding to medical billing, there are plenty of trades that are taught in short-term programs. If you want to enter the workforce sooner rather than later, consider attending a trade school that can teach you the skills you need to succeed in your chosen field. 

They can also help if you need to pass an exam before you can practice in your desired career, like a real estate license NY or certified medical coder. Make sure you understand all of the licensing requirements for your chosen career upfront so you don't face any surprises once you decide on a program. 

Apprenticeships and Entering the Workforce

Whether for financial reasons or to match your personal goals, entering the workforce directly after high school is a real option and can be a rewarding choice. Jobs that you can learn as you work are plentiful if you are willing to work your way up the ranks. 


Military Service

If you thrive in a structured environment, the military may be an excellent option for you. IT could be even better if you thrive on action, although that definitely is not a requirement. Enlisting in a branch of the military can be a career decision or simply a way to help pay for a college education later on. 

Meet with recruiters who can tell you about the various entry methods. High school JROTC programs can give you a taste of what is in store while preparing you for success. Many colleges and universities also offer standard ROTC programs that prepare you to enter the military as an officer. You might even consider applying to one of the country's elite military training academies. 

You should be prepared for hard work and physical exertion if you enter the military. However, it also gives you an opportunity to define yourself, frow, and possibly see the world while making a difference for others. 

Gap Year

Not every chance to make a difference and serve requires enlisting in the military. For students who aren't quite ready to commit to a college, or who aren't sure about what direction their life is headed next, a gap year offers a chance to try new things and experience life. Research opportunities to serve through groups like the Peace Corps to make the most out of your gap year experience. 

If you decide on this break, make sure you follow through on plans once the time is up. Applying for a deferred enrollment at your preferred school can help keep you on track.

Not everyone is best suited for a university degree, and there are plenty of opportunities for enrichment outside of that avenue. Find the program that fits your personality and goals, and make your own path in the world. After all, that is what being an adult is all about. 

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