4 Alternatives You Can Do If a Four Year College Isn’t For You

Temi Ayetiwa
Published on
May 18, 2021

If these past few months have taught us anything, it’s that life can be incredibly unpredictable. For some, college has been a priority from the minute they entered high school (maybe even before that). For others, they may be stressed about what they’ll do after high school.

College is definitely not for everyone and that’s totally fine. It’s a huge decision and is a financial burden for most people. New York Times stated that in recent years, new “college graduates struggle to find work…[and] student debt has topped $1 trillion”. There is a lot of uncertainty and stress that comes with the decision to go to college. Whether you’re not sure what your plans are after high school or if you’re already set on not going to college, here are some options to consider!

1. Trade school

Trade school (also known as a technical school) is a postsecondary educational institution designed to train students for a specific job in a skilled trade career…[It] offers hands-on training to prepare students for actual work in their chosen field.” Trade schools work great for those that want to go right into a set career that doesn’t require much schooling.

Most trade schools offer a host of programs for those interested in fields like medical assisting, welding, and more. The timing may differ depending on the program but “generally speaking, a skilled trades training program can take anywhere from a few months to a year”.

One of the best things about trade school is that the price is significantly lower than what you would pay going to a public/private institution. The average trade school program costs $33,000.  

2. Bootcamps

The most popular bootcamps are coding bootcamps. ACT released a study that revealed “computer science is rapidly becoming a top career path choice for high school students”, ranking 4th on the list of the most popular STEM majors. Coding bootcamps are learning programs that take place over the duration of several weeks or months. The average coding bootcamp in the US costs around $13,584. But tuition can range from $7,800 to $21,000 overall.

There are other types of bootcamps where students are taught a host of digital skills such as “Full-Stack Web Development, Data Science, Digital Marketing, UX/UI Design, Cybersecurity, and Technical Sales”. With the right type of branding and a resume, a certificate from a bootcamp can get you a job in the programming industry. In fact, research has shown that about 83% of bootcamp alumni report being employed in programming jobs.

3. Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship is a job where you are hired and trained into the position you are set to fill. Apprenticeship programs may “last anywhere from one to six years, depending on the model and occupation”.

After completing your program, you receive accredited certification that is valid throughout the country (or in states that participate in your specific program). There are so many kinds of apprenticeships out there from creative media to engineering.

Here is a link to a great website with tons of apprenticeship careers.

4. Real Estate

“A real estate agent is an industry professional who serves as the facilitator of real estate transactions”. While some real estate agents hold degrees, in order to become a real estate agent going to college is not necessary.

Similar to the idea of trade schools, in order to become a licensed professional you must enroll in a real estate pre licensing course. This course can be completed in 4-6 months, depending on the state and setting (classroom or online). The course is about $300. After taking the course and the exam you get to be considered an official real estate agent!

5. Going to a community college

This is a great way to save money in the long run. Completing general education courses at a community college for two years, then transferring to a four year university can make the process of getting into a great university much easier. One thing to keep track of is which credits will transfer over in the program you are in.

There are also many programs that make transitioning from a community college to a university a seamless process. For example, TAG (Transfer Admission Guarantee) grants students a guaranteed admission to a UC school if they enroll in one of the program's pathways and meet all of the requirements. If you are considering this option, talk to your college advisor or school counselor and look into what classes you need to take for your major.

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